Wednesday, January 2, 2013


The last time I played in my high school's Women's Varsity Soccer vs. Alumnae game it was ten years ago.  Legend has it I told one of my best friends, who played in that game in December 2002 and on many teams with me back in the 80s, that I was feeling "kind of funny" and maybe I should "go buy a pregnancy test." 

Somehow, Big Sis survived that game, which I recall being a little rough and rendering me barely walkable the next day.  Nonetheless, I was safely pregnant.  We don't remember the score of that game, but we remember that I emerged with a bun in the oven. 

Big Sis and Little Sis came out to watch me play today, ten years later, in my next soccer game (I should really stick to one game per decade, because that pattern is working for me, apparently, unlike my legs).  I went into today's game with excitement (I'd been out of town or oblivious for the last nine games and today was an opportunity to play again!), reassurance (I'd heard there are usually So Many former players available that playing time could be negotiated; I planned on subbing out after five minutes), and trepidation (my knee, injured from a mere Recreation League Coaching Clinic, has only recently started feeling better--would playing in this game be worth wrecking it for good?). 

I showed up at the field on time, donning our high school's (lucky) gym shorts, running shoes, and my daughter's soccer socks and shin guards.  And for an excruciatingly Long Time, I was the only alumna there, as students/teenagers/current players swarmed.  I asked them all how their holidays were going, but inwardly I was panicking. 

Oh heck, I thought.  What if I have to play The Whole Game?  I had not planned on this. 

So I was definitely one of the alums counting the arriving alums on her fingers (dangerously close to start time, we were only up to 5).  I was not, however, one of the alums rolling a goal toward the fifty-yard-line in an attempt to shorten the field (though I could be overheard agreeing this was the Widest and Longest Field EVER), nor attempting to add an extra extra current player to our team (only 10 alumnae showed up, so we had to borrow a Varsity player) to make 12 , which is never the number of players on a soccer team (that I know of). 

FYI:  They made us roll the goal back and return one of the kidnapped ringers.  

We played three 20-minute "periods" (which is never the length of a soccer game.  That I know of).  But which was 20 minutes longer than many old and young players wanted to play.

In the end: 

We beat those youngsters (and when I say Youngsters, let's be clear:  at the end of the game I asked my fellow alums who was next oldest after me and one of my teammates pointed to another alum and said, "I think we're both 22?").

We did a round of penalty kicks after, which preyed on one of my very worst fears, manifesting in a recurring nightmare of me vs. goalie in which I clutch and miss the shot, every time.  But this time, I scored!  (I suspect the goalie, a current student, might have gone easy on me...she didn't seem to move at all...)

We laughed a lot:  About counting the time remaining in each period.  About catching our breath.  About running into each other (I think I was in about 95% of the body-on-body incidents).  About unexpectedly winning (we did have some incredible collegiate players--and a current Varsity player--on our team, though...). About hurting in every possible place.  About negotiable calls:  we had no referee, so I took the opportunity when a ball rolled out of bounds and my team yelled "Goal kick!" as an opposing player claimed, "Corner!" to pull vice principal and yell at our opponent, "Referral!"

I left with a geometric soccer-ball imprint on my right thigh, earned when an airborne ball hit me hard on the leg.

I played soccer again!  So fun!  I was one of the teammates hoping for the third 20-minute period, even though I was exhausted.  It could be my last soccer game, ever, I figured.  Let's go!

I was starstruck:  I told the players from both sides that I could say from now on that I'd competed with and against incredible high school and collegiate players, including NCAA champs.  Yeah!

I was proud of myself:  I wish for myself some daring adventures in 2013 that challenge my comfort zone.  Today's soccer game was emblematic:  I am uncomfortable (I've already popped Advil and soaked in the jacuzzi), but triumphant.  I don't know if I played well (informal feedback suggests I was "running around a lot"), but I know that I got out there and played among current students, ran harder than I thought I could, had more fun than I thought I would, and bonded with a team like I remember doing in high school and college.

I hope I inspired both my daughters and the women who played to come on out, even when they're fortysomething, and represent. 

I told my father tonight, "I hope it's not the coolest thing I do for myself in 2013, but it just might be..."

He pointed out, "It's a heck of a way to start."


No comments: