It’s the Joy, the Pain and the Roar of the Crowd

The whistle blows, double overtime is about to start, second round of sudden death. You’re exhausted but you know that you just need to give it your all a little while longer. The field looks bigger when there are only 7 of you. You’re wide open, receive a perfect pass, beat the defender and slam the ball into the back of the goal. You smile, jump high in the air and can’t wait to run over to where you know all of your teammates will be eagerly awaiting your arrival. The celebration is about to begin.

However, instead of playing for the gold at the Olympics, it was your final intramural game, winner gets a t-shirt that usually doesn’t fit. Your teammates have mismatched tees on- Nike isn’t sponsoring this and ESPN definitely isn’t covering your game winning goal but something inside drives you to compete to the best of your ability. It’s your love of the game- no one can take that away from you.

You will never have this feeling again, the rush of receiving a ball you never thought you could catch – your heart won’t beat with that type of adrenaline that comes with flying out on a corner after the final whistle blows. Nothing will feel like scoring that game winning goal taking your team into post season. For all of those who have loved and left our sports behind- this is for you.

I see you running your heart out on the field, your braid bobbing, your face all kinds of determined to win. You love to play and compete, and each game gives you a reason to stick with it and learn more. That’s your competitive heart—the desire to be the best. I have two important words for you.

Keep going.

The end comes quickly- I hate to sound like your mom’s weird friend but these days will go by fast. I miss the feeling of walking onto the turf, playing under the lights, hearing your name ring throughout the stadium, the genuine applause when your team takes home the win. I can remember it like it was yesterday- the rush of the wind as I stood on the field, adjusting my turfs and spandex, getting ready for that first whistle. I can hear the muffled mouth-guard shouts, the cheers, the voices surrounding me, pushing me forward. I remember the way the sun felt on my shoulders, the first major play I made, the jolt in my arms as I made contact with the ball as it floated perfectly to my teammate, my sister. It takes place now almost in slow-motion, coming to the realization that it’s all in the past.

Though it feels like you’ve been playing your whole life, and that you will keep playing forever, this is it. It isn’t bad, it’s beautiful. The memories, the games, the pain, the tears, the exhaustion, the fights, the friendships—they’re all meaningful.

Remember the rush you get as the ball hits the backboard, the ache in your body as your push yourself for just a few more minutes and flying as high as your wings will take you after a well fought victory. When you’re passing, receiving, hitting you’re unstoppable. You were never the best, the fastest, the most skilled but you loved this sport- it was a part of you. You won’t forget those days and the relationships you made with those girls you called teammates because at the end of it all they made you into the person you are today.

I never will forget how my stick feels in my hands- it’s like an extension of my body. I know it better then I know myself. The feeling when you step onto that pitch, you will look at the lights, memorize the way they glow on the faces of the crowd who are cheering for you, believing in you. It’s catching those familiar voices saying “that’s my girl!” there will never been another feeling like stepping off that turf and playing a flawless game.

My days are done now. I have played, I have practiced, I have pushed myself physically and mentally beyond my limits, I have succeeded, and I have failed. I gave everything I had to a game that could not be mine forever, but I don’t regret a single second.

Play with confidence. Play with heart. And don’t ever forget that these days will soon come to an end. So give it your all because these feelings don’t last forever.