Soccer For President

"OK Sasha. Focus. Focus on the ball. Here it comes. Don't duck. Keep your eyes on the ball. Keep it together. OH GOD HERE IT COMES HERE IT COMES OH GOD OH GOD...

...the ball is gone."

In a single 70 minute period you will experience the full spectrum of human emotion. You will want to quit. You will want to punch someone. You will want to vomit. You will feel proud. You will feel embarrassed. You will experience immense focus. You will feel afraid. You'll want to high five. You'll question yourself. You'll sweat. You'll have fun! All while being unsure if at any moment you will pop a lung, becoming an explosion of human confetti on the field. A game as psychologically and physically demanding as soccer will test you. If you're super tough and aren't at war with your own brain, you probably aren't going to relate to this and will think I'm crazy, and that's okay. I have a feeling that a lot of the girls I play against fall into that category, because they scare the shit out of me.

I am playing soccer again for the first time in ten years, and I am terrible. I don't score goals, I duck when the ball comes at me, I hold the ball for too long, I pass to the other team, I make illegal throw-ins thinking I'm being "tricky". I apologize INCESSANTLY when I as much as touch another player. I am a fast sprinter, I try hard, and occasionally my old soccer days shine through and I pull some fancy footwork...but it usually ends with me giving it away to the other team. For those few seconds though, I am magnificent.

It is helpful to play on a team that loses every game. That alleviates a lot of pressure. Having a couple of good friends play with me has made it more enjoyable. It feels good to be a part of a team. It is fascinating to come back to something after such a long hiatus, and to see the ways in which I have changed and the ways in which I am exactly the same. I still have a really hard time focusing on the goal because I'm too busy stressing about the particulars or get distracted ("Is she mad at me? I can't believe you ducked, AGAIN. I am thirsty.")  I still am a frighteningly non-strategic person (I'm pretty sure I went 8 years of playing soccer without ever knowing what a 4-4-2 was). Sprinting is a lot harder than it used to be. Instead of being offended when I get called off the field,  I am crying with relief. I'm more interested in the game than I used to be. I love soccer. It is ruthless. Not so different from life.

You hear it often: Doing something outside of your comfort zone makes you stronger. Overcome fear. Try something new. But maybe no one has said it this way: being bad at something is good for you, and doing something that makes you question your self-worth and feel like you're going to die is, in my humble opinion, a very worthwhile way to spend your time.