My prized possession was and still is my first soccer ball, which is currently in a box at my house buried underneath god knows what. Funny because that is exactly how I was reunited with it last year after re visiting my house in California for the first time in three years. I was 7 years old living in Ojai, California at the time and my father and I decided it would be fun to sign up for the local AYSO league. For those who don’t know what AYSO is, it’s basically the local travel league full of kids ranging from those who want to have fun to those who dream of playing at the Old Traffords of the world.
I had signed up for the spring season but had absolutely zero equipment, nor did I know what I would need;the only thing I knew about soccer was you needed to kick the ball in the goal and Dad used to play it. I didn’t know how or when I would get all my equipment, although that isn’t the biggest concern in a 7 year olds mind. However, my birthday had just passed and there was still one unopened gift from my Aunt Amanda.
I was quite content to leave it unopened and continue playing with all my other gifts but my mom assured me that it would be worth the five seconds of effort. Reluctantly I peeled back the two layers of wrapping paper and immediately I felt a smile crawl onto my face. Looking back now I can’t help thinking how silly I must have looked getting so excited over a $5 soccer ball that can be found at any sporting goods store.
Fast forward to the start of the AYSO season, my family arrives at Montessori Elementary School with 10 minutes to spare before registration. I saw a couple of friends from school and engaged in some small talk hoping to distract my body from the butterflies in my stomach. The nerves were to be expected as there is always an additional pressure with your dad as your coach, especially after everything he had accomplished in his career.
Although I can’t remember the name of my team, however, I do remember our purple T-shirts and the amount of pride I felt when I pulled it over my head. I pulled my ball out of my bag and began doing things I had seen the guys on TV doing, but after miserable attempts at dribbling, juggling, and shooting, my confidence had taken a hit for the worst.
Still, there was no time to sulk as the referee had blown the whistle and the game was about to begin. I can’t tell you everything that happened in the game but all I remember is yelling, crying, kicking, and clustering. Oddly enough, I was hooked, and to this day I remain thankful to my Dad for pushing me into soccer, and most importantly my Aunt Amanda for giving me my first soccer ball.