Play soccer while you still can

November 16, 2017 — by Victor Liu

Lie encourages his younger self to appreciate soccer and continue playing 

Dear Younger Self,

You’re spending your Saturday morning on one of your teammate’s living room couches instead of a plastic Chinese classroom folding chair, and today’s probably the only day you’ll enjoy out of the entire season.

You’ve spent the previous night pining over the number 7, and you want it for one reason: you’ll be 7 years old for the remainder of the season as you languish over 2-hour practices and suffer losses (which luckily, you don’t care about yet) in the sweltering sun against other unfortunate boys whose parents signed them up for AYSO. You tell yourself that at least you get to partially miss Chinese school for laps around the Redwood Middle School dirt field.

You don’t get No. 7. The kid who gets 7 says that’s what Ronaldo wears, but you don’t recall Ronald McDonald having a number on his back. You’ll have to settle for No. 6 because that’s how old you were last season.

You will hate soccer. After the seventh consecutive loss into the season, you’ll find out that you actually prefer studying for Chinese tests over sore ankles and losses so bad that the opposing team takes pity by passing the ball amongst themselves while you and your team fruitlessly chase it. You begin to care more about the losses — your coach’s pep talks and picking the ball out of the net get boring, and you think some variety in the team’s record would be nice.

The waning months of fifth grade are remarkable. Sure, you’ll be making your historic transition from fifth to sixth grade, but more importantly, the end of the school year marks your retirement from a five-season AYSO career, and you won’t miss it one bit. At that point, not even wearing No. 7 would have made soccer enjoyable or worth it.  

Three years will pass between fifth grade and eighth grade before you, like Landon Donovan, will come out of your retirement; however, unlike Donovan, you were never really any good. And no, the AYSO consolation trophies you received don’t say anything about your skills as a soccer player.

It’s a mystery as to why you choose to return to soccer. Maybe a combination of playing FIFA and a watching highlight reels taught you that there was more to the sport than dribbling the ball around plastic cones and waiting for water breaks in between sprints. You’ll learn that you want to play games for the fun of it and you’ll also find out who Cristiano Ronaldo is. Apparently he’s named after Ronald Reagan, not Ronald McDonald.

It’ll be your last year in middle school, and you decide that you’ll remember the school year by being a member of the soccer team. You’re more concerned about even making the team than having enough playing time.

Miraculously, you find your way onto the roster after two grueling tryouts. Well, technically no one will get cut from the team, but you can relish in your ability to not be the only exception. You’re given No. 19, and it’s not because you’re a 19-year-old eighth grader. But hey, even Lionel Messi wore 19 for two seasons. All legends start from the bottom rung of the ladder; only this time, you’re on a ladder you actually want to climb.

You’ll spend most of the season playing left-bench, but you’re not complaining either. You will probably get less than an hour of play time by the end of the season, but you’ve learned how to enjoy soccer, something you right now, a 7-year-old kid who still goes to bed at 9 p.m., will not be able to wrap your head around.

So, as I’m closing off this letter to you, I want to tell you to play FIFA and spend your time on YouTube watching those soccer highlight reels instead of Annoying Orange parodies. Maybe then you’ll be able appreciate soccer while you still can.


Older Self

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