If I’ve told your child to “play hard and have fun,” it might sound cliché, but it comes with great sincerity. As the grass turns that familiar shade of neon green and the smell of spring hits me like a bouquet of flowers when I step outside, patients start showing up at Belli and Streit Orthodontics in their sports gear and uniforms. I love hearing about the upcoming game, the never-ending tournament, and the rivalries between teams. In retrospect, I realize the time really did go by far too quickly. A recent group text among old teammates to discuss a 20-year-old team photo brings back the “the good ‘ole days” vibe. Grass stains, cleats, stinky “lucky socks”, and shin guards will always be welcomed in our office, as well as my home, as that was a season of life that I deeply miss.
I almost didn’t play soccer my senior year of high school. My best friend and I had already been voted by our teammates as the incoming captains, which made my decision even more difficult. I could hardly bear the thought of approaching my soccer coach, a vascular surgeon for whom I had played during my freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons, to tell him that his captain had quit. For me to look into the eyes of my best friend and tell her the same would be even worse. To this day I still remember as I sat at the dinner table with my parents (my two older sisters were away at college) and my mom said to me, “Think about this very carefully. There may never be another time in your life when a stadium of fans will cheer your name.”
She was right. I played that last and final year, with no regrets. We made it to the Division 1 state semi-finals before losing 1-0 to Troy High School in Metro Detroit. Almost 20 years later, I still remember the details of that last game.
So, to the players and the parents: This might be your first season, or maybe it’s sadly your last, but play hard and have fun. I’d love to go back just for a few minutes to the screaming stadium of fans. But since that time is gone, I’ll keep the memories close to my heart and live vicariously through those who are right in the thick of it, showing up for their appointments in their grass-stained uniforms.