So here we are, part way through August, and the 2003/2004 soccer season looms about two weeks away. I don’t know about you, but my reaction when our team manager called me for training was, “Christ no…can’t the summer be an extra month longer?”
Yes, joy, joy, joy. Run, run, run. Then run again. Gotta shed that extra 10/15/20 pounds hanging around my waist, just so I can try to keep up with all the young hot-shots that never seem to get out of shape. Need to go train in the 30-degree heat, instead of heading to the lake for a dip with the kids, or the mountains for an epic ride. Need to start dialing back the weekend excursions to Whistler, Cypress, or Seymour. Need to say “no” to that one last beer. Need to start having hot baths every morning, just to loosen up stiff joints and muscles. Need to start stacking up on Advil.
Why do we do it? Better, why do I do it? For the past five or six seasons I have been telling myself, “This is the last one.” Especially when April rolls around, I have surely convinced myself, “That was the last one.”
Then as sure as time, every August I say, “One more.”
For what? My wife serves up a constant reminder to me every summer: I play at an amateur level. It doesn’t matter what division we all play in - whether it's Premier or 4th division, we are all amateurs. Some of us just happen to be better than others, while some of us are struggling to stick with the Langley Premier squad.
A select few in these parts have actually had a chance to play professionally at some level, but for the most part, we are chasing dreams of hoisting amateur Cups. Our pinnacle will barely register a blip on the worldwide soccer radar screen
This is the challenge for yours truly, the everyday mucker.
I have a friend that, it seems, every story revolves around the last time he was playing in the BCs / Nationals/ Canada Games. “This one time, at band camp…” Enough already! Some of us have simpler dreams of winning the Pakenham Cup, all right?
We are obsessed with our game. We train hard, play harder, and still manage to work a regular job or go to school five days a week. A lot of us have started our families, and sacrifice our time with them for this obsession. There aren’t many other amateur sports where athletes commit a lifetime to the passion and pursuit of a game that doesn’t even rank professionally in their country. Note to self: cuff Dad across the head the next time you see him for enrolling me in soccer, not hockey.
Then I think about the first game of the year - the anticipation to get the season rolling, the crisp new uniforms, the polished boots, and the pristine fields. The adrenaline rush. I also think about the training. After September 21st, we will be running all of our sessions in the evenings, after dinner, in the dark. You can see your breath around this time of the year. The air starts to smell like Halloween, and it’s crisp. Beers taste even better in the room with the boys after a hard run training session. Getting home, and falling into a dead sleep.
Nothing beats an early morning game in the fall and winter. I like getting to the park first, when the dew is still on the grass. It’s like cutting fresh powder on a mountain…carving the first run. Getting ready in the room, knocking the balls around during warm up, the pre-game chat, and finally the sound we’ve been waiting all week to hear: the referee’s first whistle that kicks us off.
We wait all week for that moment…game day kick-off. We’ve either had a great week (if we won the previous week) or a miserable week (if we lost the previous week…I was really miserable last year), but the feeling is the same for everyone once that whistle blows: we’re home, where we belong. For the next 90 minutes, nothing else in the world matters. During those 90 minutes, we’ll experience joy, sorrow, exuberation, exhaustion, and pain. We give it everything on the field with our brothers, working towards a common goal, against an opposition that is equally determined to achieve the same goal. Weather we win, lose, or draw on the day, it’s the complete 90 minutes that gives us our fix. Good times.
This is why I keep coming back. It’s a love / hate relationship. I hate the time commitment, the fact it takes me away from other endeavors, the time away from my kids, the injuries (I don’t refer to it as rehab anymore, just “injury management”), the daily morning hot baths, and the ulcers caused by consuming too many Advils. I love the camaraderie, and most of all, the 90 minutes. It’s the last two that keep me coming back.
Two more weeks. I can’t wait…