Archive for April, 2004

Column 12 – Part 2

Striving for a love of every detail of life continued……

Dreams never die

The childhood dream surged back into my mind, and I knew the next step was playing in college. At the University of Michigan I made the team as a walk on my freshman year, and believe it or not, played all through college as well. But again, because I stayed so close to home to go to school, I was still able to use my mom to help me pick out the best spikes to wear.

After college, because of my stamina, intensity, and accuracy in my shots, I had drawn interest from professional teams and I signed with a new professional team in Indianapolis. It was all falling into place. The first thing on my mind was, “I need a pair of shoes to play professional soccer and these worn old pair won’t cut it.”

The first new pair of shoes I bought for pros out of college was with the money I was planning to use to eat that week. I didn’t know for myself exactly what the most important aspect of the shoes was, and I didn’t have extra cash to toss around. Plus, time was money and the first game was the next day, so I was not able to sit on my decision and think things through rationally.

I found a pair of shoes that seemed like they “would do”. The sale price was perfect, but they were far from my dream shoe. When I tried them on they seemed a little tight, with little room to breath. But since they were selling out inventory and they only had select sizes, I decided to get them.

Although they helped me play the game, this new pair of shoes didn’t let me utilize all my skills. They were stiff and I developed blisters on my heels so I couldn’t pivot as quickly. My output suffered as a result, but, I worked through them, because it was my decision to buy them and I had to take what I had and make the best of it. In my mind I started to set my standards much higher to prevent a repeat the next time.

Eventually, nine months later, I figured it was time for a new pair. I didn’t throw the first pair out because I could still use them, besides, I didn’t have the money to be so wasteful.

Learning from my mistakes, or so I thought

Time to take another dip in the shoe pool. I went a couple months ahead of time to start looking before I knew the old ones would wear out. I had a little more money and a few less bills, so there wasn’t as much pressure. But the first season of pro soccer was spent mostly on the bench after my lack luster performance, and I knew that this could be my last year if I didn’t get a good pair.

I found lots of different shoes that were on sale, but I rarely bothered to waste my time, instead looking at the ones that fit me. I needed room to move around and lots of padding to stay comfortable throughout the season. I looked for awhile, gave some shoes a test run, and finally chose a pair that although not a dream, were definitely better then the first pair.

These weren’t on sale, which was fine. Sometimes the quality reflects the price and sometimes it doesn’t. I wore the shoes for two months, and then one day during the game, right at a crucial moment, the shoe exploded. It just fell apart, the sole came off, the left side tore open, and all I had left was a foot that looked like a peeled banana. Only later I found that with a little more time in research would I have learned that the shoe had a history of being unreliable at best.

I had to go back to the store very suddenly. I hadn’t planned on going back for a long time, and this was extremely jarring for me. I thought I had made the right decision last time. I hadn’t settled, but I didn’t hold out for the dream shoe when it might not exist, and even more importantly, when I didn’t know exactly what it was that I wanted. But still, I thought I had picked a good shoe, and I felt scared about my judgment.

Why is it happening to everyone else but me?

To complicate things, it seemed all of my teammates from college were so successful on the other teams they played for. They had played for a couple of years straight with the same shoes, or had successive pairs of shoes that were great. I felt left out, like my life was worth less than theirs, and although I knew I was just as good if not better because my playing skills were so much more diverse, I had nothing to show for it.

Strange enough, at a store the same day that I had my on field explosion, I found a pair of shoes I really liked. Immediately, I walked away, waiting as I researched a little more. I called the manufacturer to find the history of the shoe, the idea behind the design, and the materials that were in it. I asked others who wore the shoe; I went to the plant to see them made. I wanted to make sure that I made the best decision about one of the most important things in my life.

I wasn’t going to settle anymore, I was emotionally tired. Even though I needed to have a good pair to play, it came down to the fact that I felt I had exhausted my research, and now all that was left was to trust that my decision was right and the shoes would last.

From what I can tell so far, from what my parents have taught me, they are a perfect fit. I can maneuver anywhere I need; they have an inch so my feet could grow forever and still have enough room. They aren’t tight so I can move but at the same time hold me tight enough to give me the best possible performance I could ask for.

Now that I have them, I think I appreciate them that much more because I had two other pairs of terrible shoes. I didn’t make the right decision out of the gate, but I did learn, and maybe that was my destiny. Granted, it has only been seven weeks now since I have had the shoes, and it is too early to really judge if they will last for a long time, and if they will continue to be great or if that is just because they are new.

To pause from looking behind my back..

All I know is that when I get home from the game, and I see the amazing things I did, I well up and want nothing more to cry. Everyday on my car ride home from practice I thank God. I smile from ear to ear, to know what it is like for my friends, what it is like to perform as best as I can, and to know what it is like to be happy all the time and wake up in the morning wanting to live life.

Settling was a bigger mistake then I could have ever dreamed. I had nothing to compare to know what good really is. The key is to not make a rash decision if the opportunity has been given you to choose. Sometimes you have no choice, you have to take the cheapest pair, but my parents gave me the opportunity to have better and therefore perform better.

The duh factor.

I reality, I stopped playing soccer in the seventh grade. Most of you know me well enough now through these columns to know that I write in the most extreme of situations. I have written about sadness, pain, anxiety of the future, and introspection. This may be the first time I am writing about true and utter happiness, and I ask that you pray for me so that it lasts, and that it really isn’t too good to be true to finally have it happening to me.

I know God, and I am not stupid. I don’t understand why I had two bad pairs of shoes that didn’t fit before my new great pair of shoes. But I will not be angry with what was, but elated over what can be. With arms wide open, opportunity has been given to me and once again I remember that God truly is great and he will bless his children.


Column 12 – Part 1

Sometimes it comes in spurts!

Four weeks ago I thought I was going to write a column for the first time in a long while, and then figured I might not have something to say for a number of months. Turns out it was just the next week that I feel the voice stirring, and now, we are here…

Striving for a love of every detail of life

If you have ever watched a Simpson’s episode, I believe that my writing is very similar in structure. With that said and most of your not having a clue what I am talking about, let’s move on.

I was in the third grade and that is the first time I remember the amazing experience of wearing a pair of sweatpants. Their lack of resistance to outside air that makes your crotch feel like a wind tunnel. The little cotton pieces from a brand new pair that sticks in places that was formerly reserved only for sand, and then there’s the elastic, who doesn’t love elastic?

It had been another swarmy day at the two room school house in the country, where I received my pre-adolescent education. Just like any other day, I was watching the clock, but not because I was waiting to leave. My stomach felt like it was full of those striped tree worms, slithering anxiously all about.

The bus ride home was long, and I prayed that my mom had forgotten. But there she was, sitting in our onyx colored Buick that now had a dusting of oregano colored rust around the wheel wells and quarter panels. She had fruit snacks and crackers packed into the glove compartment because I wasn’t going to be eating dinner for awhile. The crackers tasted like chalk and the fruit snacks like an old truck tire. You’d think that I was going to have open heart surgery for how nervous I was. But oh no, it was much worse. For the first time in my life, I was going to play soccer and I was scared to death.

My parents had a sense of humor.

My parents had a compulsive affinity for signing my sister and me up for myriads of different activities. Kicking and screaming, I was convinced that anything my parents said was cool was obviously not, so you might say I was a little resistant to new experiences. Usually the conversation would go something like, “But I don’t want to do stupid ballet. Ballet is for girls….and I’m I boy!” Ok, so maybe not that last part, but they would always come back with, “You need to try new things, besides…. You don’t know what you want.”

After about five whole minutes of soccer practice, I realized that not only was soccer cool, but I knew that this is what I wanted to be when I grew up, a super leaguer soccer player. I mean, I’d been playing it for an hour and I loved it. What would it be like to play soccer all day, then come home and hang out with Raphael and Master Splinter and have pizza every night? (Dreams of sublime happiness are also a little strange at that age.)

I learned early on that one of the great things about soccer that there is not a lot of gear that is required to play. Shin guards, some shorts, a
soccer ball, and shoes. However, shoes were more crucial in soccer than any other piece of gear in any other sport. You were always on your feet, andnot having your footing possibly meant disaster, cost goals, lost games, or even worse could injure your body that would end your playing days for good.

My mom would take me (when I was still on their dollar) to get spikes, from my first pair to the many replacements. I learned early on how to
pick a quality shoe and how to know if they would last. Because she had lived with a family of three other under-sportsed girls, she had to define her own standard of quality in athletic shoes. But in the same right, I gave her plenty of practice for how many pairs of shoes I went through. It was usually by the end of a month of soccer, my shoes looked like Bill Murray, a lot older than they actually are and a ton of holes. I went through them like toilet paper and the store clerks practically knew us by name.

The shoe picking process

So not only did we get new shoes often, but my feet were freakishly big (at ten years old I would taunt my dad with my noticeably bigger canoes) Basically, I had a heck of a time finding shoes, but we still ran through this quality testing process;

1. Check the little tag on the tongue of the shoe, and make sure that they were real leather and not something fake. She believed leather lasted longer, but as time went on, we found that I still wore through them just as quick and all new shoes were synthetic.

2. Try the shoes on, both shoes. That meant taking them out of the box, threading the laces, and tying them up. Needless to say, there were a lot of lucky people who didn’t have to tie anything.

3. Stand up and my mom would press the toe to see how close I was to the end to make sure that I would have some room to grow.

4. Walk up and down the aisles, to see if the shoes would slide up and down my heels. I would squat to see if they would come off, and just do some small typical movements to see if I noticed any other glaring problems.

But in all of those times I went never once did I make the decision; instead, I put autopilot on. “My mom liked this” I told myself, and she would do it all for me. But this may have been a mistake. Having your parents make your decisions takes away from your life experience in good judgment. Little did I know that my disregard for my brand of shoes was a more important experience than I thought.

I continued to play right until I was in sixth grade and we moved from the Podunk town of St. Johns MI to Grand Haven MI. The move was a great plan God had for us. The Grand Haven team was immensely good and soccer is very competitive there.

I tried out and got to play on Strikers, the competitive traveling soccer team, and even then all of my free time I would practice my skill. I would come home and juggle, my best getting up to like a 119.

Three years later I was at that secondary age level and I can remember practicing all night the day before tryouts. Tryouts lasted all week, and I knew that this would be the first of a couple huge turning points in my life and what I was really meant to do. If I made the team in freshman year, it would be that much easier then trying to come on later and oust someone.

The end of the week brought the announcement of the team roster and the beginning of the next week started my life as a Grand Haven high school soccer player. I was so happy and continued to be for the next four years that I played through high school.

Continue to Part 2…..