To say I grew up playing soccer is an understatement. It was my first passion, and for years, I spent most of my "free" time playing soccer. When I wasn't at practice or playing a game, I was outside playing in my backyard. In my mind, I could not get enough of it, and lucky for me, I had some talent, which helped fuel my interest. I was a sucker for competition, so the better the team or the competitor, the happier I was.
My dad, who grew up playing soccer in Mexico, coached me and the teams I played with for the first 8 or 9 years. Shortly before I entered high school, I got involved in the Olympic Development Program (ODP), which is the feeder program used to identify and develop olympic hopefuls. Try-outs are held on district, state, regional, and national levels. To try-out at any level other than district, you have to make the team for the preceding level. I never really cared much about recognition, so the draw of making the cut in and of itself was not enough to keep my interest. However, I did know that I wanted to play in college, and I knew this might be a great way to get noticed for a Division I soccer program.
Up until this point, I had played for some fairly good teams in Dayton, but we never competed well against larger club teams from Cincinnati and Columbus. Overall, the talent in Dayton was just not as well-developed. At ODP tryouts, the girls that played for these larger Cincy & Columbus teams were shoe-ins. Being one of the few Dayton oddballs that made the state team several years in a row, I got to know some of the better players from the Cincinnati and Columbus areas. Although I did not realize it at the time, it was this "networking" that brought my name to the attention of a Cincinnati team, looking to recruit new players. That team was Cincinnati Chiquita (Yes, we were sponsored by Chiquita Brands International). I was invited to play an indoor season with them so we could "try each other out", and if we both agreed we were a good match, I would be invited to join the team for the regular (Spring/Summer) season.
When I joined Chiquita, I had never played for a team that was really competitive on a state-wide level. I had played with other good players, but there were always enough complacent players on the team that didn't take the sport seriously enough to make the team highly competitive. When I played for Chiquita, it was the only team where I truly felt we were all working toward the same objective, and we were willing to put forth the effort to make it happen.
In the years I played with Chiquita, we won several State Cup titles, competed in our Regional Cup twice, and had an impressive winning record. More importantly, I loved playing for this team because I didn't feel like an overachiever for working hard. We just expected it from one another, and we were successful in making each other better players.
In retrospect, I have never played for or coached a team with better team chemistry. We traveled quite a bit together to compete in tournaments, so I have a lot of great memories about our trips and our tournaments. When I graduated high school and knew our playing years together were over, I was sad to see it end.
Fast forward 12 or 13 years, and here I am with 3 little ones and one more on the way. Out of the blue, I got an email from one of my Chiquita teammates saying that she wanted to organize a team reunion. She found most of us on Facebook, and most people were available for a reunion on August 8th. We planned to bring our families and meet at a park in Cincinnati, so I organized a small babysitting support group to help me with the kids - to take them with me, that is. Unfortunately, James had a bachelor party to attend, so he was not available, which means I needed more hands than usual. My parents were happy to come along, and I invited Maria to come since she loves to hang out with the kids.
Being super pregnant, I was a little worried about how I would manage with the heat and keeping up with the kids, even with help. Nonetheless, I was anxious to see everyone, so I braved the heat and made the trip. It was, of course, the hottest day we've had all summer, and the kids were mostly high maintenance. Truman wanted to throw mulch on himself and anything else he saw. Jameson wanted to climb the 10 foot playground equipment and told me he "threw up" in an undisclosed location that I never found. He also made 2 back-to-back trips to the bathroom, and thankfully, my mom volunteered to take him on trip #2. Miss Amelia was on her best behavior but was more than ready to go when we finally decided it was time to take everyone home.
Despite all the commotion going on with the kids, I had a great time catching up with everyone. It was fun to see how everyone's lives had changed and meet husbands and children. I'm not gonna lie though - it made me feel old. Most of our soccer days are long over (although I'm sure there's a few diehards), so I felt like I was acknowledging having closed that chapter of my life. I don't think I've ever really admitted that to myself until right now, but I think I knew it long ago. Sure, I may go back to playing again in some old women's league, but I won't pretend it's anything like it was competing in my teenage and college years.
Here's a few pictures that offer a glimpse into my high school & college years competing in soccer.
Pack on about 50 lbs, some swelling in the feet and hands and a huge pregnant belly and that's what I look like in the current chapter of my life. I miss being a competitive athlete, but I would not trade in this chapter of my life for any chapter of my past. I love being a wife & mom and hanging with my kiddos. There's always time for athletic competition and vanity later. In the next chapter, I'll be training for my Tae Kwon Do black belt and taking James up on that marathon training. After all, I have done a little running in my past.