Some call it just a hobby or a waste of time. Others refer to it using phrases my editor won’t let me write here. Well, all of ya’ll listen here. For most of us, that hobby, that waste of time, retrospect is so much a part of who we are we subconsciously adopt the title of “soccer player” because it simply is all we know.
My parents told me a story once. It involved baby Cori barefoot in her diaper, taking a soccer ball bigger than the size of her head, and dribbling it across a soccer field during halftime. They told me I wasn’t fully satisfied with myself, until I dribbled the
ball across the entire field, making sure it went into the back of the net—which then was followed by a quick smirk and look over the shoulder, just to make sure those who mattered most not only saw, but were proud of what I had done. This sport may have attracted my eyes while my mind was still developing and my thoughts incomprehensible, but this sport caught my heart with its lasting impact and indomitable spirit. I have given 20 years of my being to soccer, and many ask why; so, this one’s for you.
I play soccer because it gives me humility. My college soccer career first began at a NCAA Division I program Cal State University, Northridge. Much like many other recruited athletes deriving from elite club teams, expectations are extremely high for their first year as a collegiate athlete. For many of us, this is it. This is what we worked so hard for. The numerous amount of club team tryouts we’ve been to, tournament trips we’ve made, hours of practices, high school seasons, you name it, we did it, all to play ball in college. It wasn’t until my very first day of practice in the 116-degree San Fernando Valley weather, that I experienced my first utterly clashing moment of raw humility. I began a new warm-up for practice, with a new team of around 45 girls, with a new coaching staff of four men, in a new cotton grey training top, black Nike shorts, and white Nike socks. Quickly after warm-up, we began our first drill. Within five minutes and a combination of nerves, lack of focus and confusion, I found myself nose to nose with the head coach screaming unconceivable things at me at the top of his lungs. In my peripheral, a
flying hat, whipping whistle, and boomerang clipboard were quick to follow. In that moment, and without any type of physical contact, I felt actual pain. I had never been in a situation where I didn’t quite understand the reasoning behind the outcome. And at this point in my life, I unknowingly carried a naïve egotistical attitude that evidently reflected upon those around me, yet blinded me. Assuming it couldn’t get any worse than that experience was just a self-pity defense mechanism on my part. The next two seasons, I sat more than half of all the games combined. I was tested, pushed, intimidated, and oppressed.
One practice, I ran 56 continuous laps in 110-degree weather, with no water or breaks, around our field to engrave self-discipline physically in my body. These experiences among many others, proved to me how much trust I had in my own commitment to never give up in my desire to achieve things I was told were unachievable. I also learned to understand that I can only control what is controllable, and how crucial the vulnerability of allowing humility is.
That’s why I play.
I play soccer because it gives me strength. Halfway through my sophomore year in college, I received devastating news. My father received a fatal diagnosis for an extremely rare lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, called mesothelioma. After the initial diagnosis, I spent almost every weekend of the next nine months commuting the two hour drive from Northridge to San Diego, in attempt to somehow catch up on the last 19 years of my life that I so blindly took for granted with my dad. Throughout this time in my life, soccer served as more than just an outlet. It helped me harvest my anger, frustration, and confusion. It gave me a positive way to cope and handle with the uncontrollable cruelties of life. It gave me an escape to a reality that I didn’t know how to handle. Soccer was the initial step towards properly grieving after eventually losing my father.
That’s why I play.
I play soccer because it gives me hope. When I lost my dad, I lost myself. Not long after his death, I warped into a never-ending spiral of what seemed to be an extremely controlling and unavoidable depression. Within that next year of my life, I walked
away from the sport I loved, I left behind the ones that loved me, and sought refuge in things that could only provide me temporary satisfaction and happiness. I surrounded myself with what I thought was best for me, and made selfish decisions because of this, which dug myself so deep into an abyss, that I never believed I would see the light of day ever again. That was until one day my phone rang, with a voice on the end of it that would forever change my life. I was far from home, far from my true self, and even further away from happiness. I sought out an extreme amount of time in solitude during these months, and one of my favorite things to do alone, was take my Wal-Mart soccer ball to the nearby park, and juggle and dribble. The unexplainable peace doing something as simple as just getting touches on the ball one day hit me harder than ever.
That was the same day my phone rang with a number on it that I didn’t recognize. Within that three-minute phone call, God performed a miracle. Point Loma’s head coach, Tim Hall, was that miracle. Tim was checking up on me, whom he hadn’t heard from for the last three or so years, and wanted to see how I was doing academically, spiritually, and athletically. I had explained to him that due to the lack of athletics in my life, I was able to shift my overly competitive nature into the classroom excelling academically. And needless to say, being one of the many who avoid at all costs having to talk about the not so pleasant aspects of one’s well-being, Tim somehow still knew I needed healing. Within one month from that phone call, I visited Point Loma Nazarene University. Within two months from that visit, I was accepted into PLNU, and honorably given the opportunity to play on the Point Loma women’s soccer team.
That’s why I play.
I play soccer because it gives me gratitude. I always played soccer for friends, family members, teammates, or myself. It’s ironic how this all works; you never truly understand something’s worth or importance until it is taken away from you. I’ve had multiple things taken away from me in my life, one being soccer. Losing anything of pure significance to you will shake you up, and change the way you view life. It will change the way you look at situations, the way you make decisions, and who you choose to have closest to you. It will change you. And by the grace of God, it can heal you and renew you. Breaking up and getting back together with my 20 year long relationship with that leather cotton polyester covered rubber ball, has blessed me with the exquisiteness of gratitude.
Without all the experiences I endured through soccer, I would have a huge inability to find appreciation even in the simplest forms.
That’s why I play.
I play soccer because it gives me purpose. One thing I have always gravitated towards in my life is never stopping my pursuit to somehow impact and influence every single person I come across. Due
to eligibility issues my first season and semester transferring to PLNU, I was unable to play/compete in any regular season matches. This limited my ability to impact this team in the ways that I had envisioned. But what I believe was that God had a different purpose for me within this team. After that season—with extreme meekness and shock—I was graciously bestowed the title of captain for this team. I had never stepped foot alongside my sisters on our battlefield, feeling like I didn’t even deserve any of these girls’ respect. And yet something my teammates and coaches saw in me spoke differently. I carried this with me throughout the next two seasons I got to participate in for this team. I realized that my goal wasn’t to impact this team on the field; God put it on in my heart to do everything in my power to impact these young ladies off the field. This meant learning about sacrifice, empathy, unconditional love, selflessness, my weaknesses and strengths, and ultimately my purpose. Without encountering this through soccer, I would have never understood a purpose far greater than the one I imagined myself. I am the type of person who strongly cautions others opinions about anything, and would rather vitally pursue to experience something on my own, to then formulate an opinion about it.
Soccer gave me the opportunity to experience so much on my own. And through it all I tried, I failed, I learned, I helped, I listened, I grew; I found my purpose.
That’s why I play.
I played soccer because it gave me humility, strength, hope, gratitude, and purpose. But most graciously, soccer gave me life. What soccer was for me, takes on multiple different forms within each of our lives. The thing I hope for the most that comes from hearing my story through soccer is encouragement. Life won’t always be fair, and things won’t always make sense. But with the encouragement to see where life can lead you—if you are devoted to always seek the light in darkness—you will be unstoppable.
That’s why I play.