Santiago: The Student Athlete Perspective

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I fell in love with the game of soccer around my freshman year of high school, and it quickly began to define me. After I first touched a soccer ball, it became more than just a sport. Soccer became both an everyday thought and a time to prepare my body for something bigger than me.

In the beginning, I lived for every practice, every game and loved the countless hours of being in the sun while putting my body on the line. I had desire to play and to always try to improve, because I wanted to be as good of a player as possible.  

Before I knew it, I was playing in college at the D1 level with people who loved the game as much as me, if not more. Before entering college, I was always told that, “your time in college will be the best years of your life, so be sure to cherish your time there.” I sometimes look back, and realize I do not cherish the game like I did when I first touched a soccer ball.

I found myself wanting to give up on the one thing that brightened my entire life, but never understood why until recently. I would try to find someone or something to blame when it came to the lack of passion that I began to develop towards the sport. Whether it was coaches, teammates, or even school, the lack of passion was bigger than all of that and it came from myself.

The beginning of my freshman year in college was amazing for me. I was scoring goals, completing passes and, most importantly, making a name for myself. Everything changed in the fifth game of the season, when I broke my ankle in four different places. I had three reconstructive ankle surgeries that set me out for a little over a year. On top of that, I was in a pessimistic environment that negatively affected me. After recovering from surgery and rehab, things began to look up, but I remained unable to find the good in anything.

After my surgeries, my first time touching a soccer ball was a mess. From that point on, I started to feed negative energy to myself. I would tell myself, “you aren’t what you used to be” and “you will never get back to what you were”. It began to affect both my playing style and my daily life. The negative energy affected the person I needed to be in the classroom, on the field and to my friends and family. I had become my own worst enemy because I was too busy trying to blame everyone else.

I was about to walk away from my first love and never look back this past year. While writing this, I am getting a little emotional because I never thought I would be capable of wanting to quit. When I told my coach, he pulled me aside, looked me in my eyes and said, “Elishah, I know you can overcome this feeling, because you have overcome so much in just three years of playing soccer in college.” When I saw him getting emotional over this, I knew my job with soccer was not done; I could never give up on something that had impacted my life for so long.  I convinced myself that I needed to live freely and push myself through the doubt instead of letting it lead me.

As soon as I started to tell myself I was capable of being what I used to be, it started to show. Starting this pre-season, I started playing about five minutes a game. Five minutes quickly turned to ten minutes, which became 30 minutes, then 55 minutes; now I am a starter for the 2018 roster. Although my passion for the game fell through, soccer taught me that resilience, mental strength and confidence plays a humongous role in who you will be.

My time with this sport is quickly coming to an end. While this is unavoidable, I know it has done so much for me. I will always have a bond with soccer, as it allowed me to grow in so many ways. I would never change any of the past for the world.