Hi fellow athletes or anyone who needs an extra push,
I am writing this right now with four final exams coming up and a crapload of homework, but I felt the urge to get this off my chest. Kevin Moon actually inspired me to write this. He sees many young athletes going through the same thing I did. I want to encourage young athletes and motivate them to keep going. My soccer years have not been easy. As much as I love the sport, there were many tough times through the process of it all.
I have been playing soccer for quite some time. Sixteen years now to be exact. My love for soccer has been consistent, which is such an amazing blessing. The ability to play at the collegiate level with a healthy body and the eagerness to learn more and more every day is amazing and I am so thankful for that. However, my soccer journey has not been easy to say the least.
In my youth, starting at the age of five, I played on a little recreational team that my dad coached. It probably was one of the best times of my life as weird as that may sound. My dad has been my idol through all of my soccer career and motivates me to be the best player I can be. When soccer started getting into the competitive level with A and B teams, I started to see a change. I was first on Elite [a club that merged into Shadow/Spokane Sounders] when it came to be at a competitive level, and although I didn’t know it at the time, I was put on the B team. I honestly didn’t even realize that being on the B team meant that the A team consisted of better players. I just played my little heart out and gained some pretty incredible friends and teammates.
Moving onto the age of twelve, I started to notice that I was not on the better team. Better team meaning more physical, better with their technical footwork, and more confident on the field. Tryouts came along, I did my best and gave it my all. I knew my technique in certain areas needed to improve – they still can – but I worked hard in that tryout. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the phone call. It was all I could think about. I was so excited to see what team I made. A couple days later a coach called my dad and explained to him that I made the C team. To be honest, I was in tears when I heard this news. I didn’t think I deserved this and was so angry with myself, asking, “What could I have done differently?” I made the decision to stay at the club. Even though I was confused and hurt I continued to be on the C team. As upset as I was at the time, I learned that being on the C team was for the better. I grew so close to my teammates and we were one of the best C teams in the state of Washington. I worked by butt off every practice, every game. There were many moments where I would go home crying because I felt that I wasn’t good enough. I questioned if I should continue to play the sport I love.
The following year, tryouts happened again. The amount of nerves I had the night before was astronomical. I felt butterflies in my stomach the moment we pulled out of my driveway on the way to tryouts. I tried my best and worked so hard. The whole time during tryouts, I was comparing myself to other girls. Am I better than her? Is she better than me? After tryouts had ended, I wanted to cry again. I was second guessing myself again. Did I do enough? Three days go by, my dad had finally got a call from the coach. I had made the B team. The amount of excitement I had may have been a little extreme, but I was so happy. It made me appreciate the work I had done to move from the B team to the C team, I mean I worked by butt off to make it on that B team. Russ Carder and Mike Oliver were my coaches on the C team, and after I had made the B team, it made me appreciate them so much more. They continued to push me through the hard times, and also become a better player every practice and game.
I missed my friends on the C team. I had made such strong friendships and grew so close to them. I could tell that the B team was more competitive, which I found so exciting. One of my best friends on the C team also made it on the B team, and it made me feel a lot more comfortable with transitioning. I began working on my touches a lot more and juggled more frequently while on the B team. I noticed that my touch on the ball still wasn’t as good as some of the other players, so I continued to work on my touches. My B team coach made practice fun while also creating a fine line between when work needed to be done. I remember one practice, I may have been a little too goofy with my best friend Emma and I soon found out that was not a good time to be goofy. It was a good reality check to realize when it’s time to focus and when it’s a good time to act silly. I realized that the B team also came with more responsibilities and even more hard work, on and off the field. At my younger ages, I was really shy and not very outgoing. At first, it was tough for me to make friends. I didn’t really know anyone other than Emma. However, a couple months in, and I became close with my teammates quickly.
At the time, I didn’t really think about being good enough for the A team. I liked where I was at. I loved my coach and I was afraid of change then. I did continue to work hard and I was always on time to every practice and every game. On time, meaning about an hour early to everything (I am blaming this on my dad). I came to practice excited and loved playing with amazing teammates. I believe it was about halfway through the season on the B team, and my coach thought I deserved a chance on the A team. When my coach had called my dad and let him know that I had the option to move up to the A team, I had very mixed emotions. You would think I would have been ecstatic. Finally, a chance to show that my hard work had paid off. But I loved the team I was on. Being on the A team was my dream as a young athlete, who could pass this up? I was sad to leave my best friends, but I knew it was going to better me as a soccer player. I took the leap. It took me a while to warm up to the teammates on the A team, longer than it took with any other team. I think I was so nervous to be myself and mess up.
Later on, the club changed the teams to the year you were born. This was one of the best things that ever happened to me. My time on the ‘01 team was incredible and I will never forget the experiences we went through. Kevin Moon was the ‘01 coach. He is one of the main reasons why I love this sport so much. He showed our team how to have Grit, how to Grind and how to reach our Goals. We called it the three G’s. Our team won the State Championship three years in a row, won the Surf Cup, and many other tournaments. It was truly a blessing to be on a team where there was absolutely no drama and everyone was so close. There were no little cliques or groups. Everyone was comfortable with each other and I think this is what made us such a strong team. We fought for one another. My best friends to this day were a part of that team. It was an unforgettable experience and I miss playing with them everyday. Three of them are currently at Seattle Pacific, and one of them is all the way in Pennsylvania at Mercyhurst, all still playing soccer. They will be my bridesmaids one day when I get married. I currently attend Northwest Nazarene University where I continued my soccer career. I am also going through the nursing program which I absolutely love, as hard as it is. I think my experiences through sports have pushed me in more ways, even if I don’t know it.
There is this great quote by Karen Salmonsoan and it really portrays the message I am trying to explain. “Sometimes when something doesn’t work out as you wanted, there’s something better coming your way. Although it’s difficult to believe in ‘something better’ from where you stand. Sometimes ‘redirection’ is a helpful ‘intervention,’ leading you away from problems you could not predict. And towards benefits you could not imagine. Sometimes ‘mistakes’ lead you to lessons learned. And growth gained. All of which will help you to become more. And get more than you might have become and gotten otherwise.”
Trust the process, and put faith in the Lord. Continue to work hard. Continue to have fun with the sport you play. Most importantly, continue to love yourself through it. As crazy as it may sound, nothing in this world is handed to you. You have to put the work in and go out and get it yourself. It is not an easy thing to do, but anyone can do it if they set their mind to it. My journey from the C team to the A team was not easy and I had to grind every day, even if it was being nice to myself one day because I thought I wasn’t good enough.
I will end with this. Love the sport, and have fun while you are playing. I will be a senior next year in college and I can’t even begin to express how fast my time went. When you see success from hard work, it fundamentally changes you as a person. It stops the complaining and the excuses and replaces them with determination and grit. It helps pave the road to a life filled with success. All the struggles you deal with now will return in one form or another in the future. Gain your lifelong friends and be as optimistic as you can be. God has a plan for each and every one of us, and he will love us every step of the way. Lean on him.
Kailyn LaBrosse (or Kai)
P.S. GO Spokane Sounders!!