One of the most enduring memories of my time spent in high school is losing in the playoffs my junior year of soccer.
My junior soccer season was a train wreck of a season. We won only a few games and lost more than I would have hoped.
I remember vividly dribbling at midfield, being dispossessed of the ball and watching the other team score behind me. I don’t remember the score of that game, or even who we were playing, but I remember that the go ahead goal was the direct result of me losing the ball.
There are probably a lot of people out there who would beat themselves up over giving away a game. It happens all the time in any number of sports, giving the go ahead run in baseball, missing free throws in basketball, missing a tackle or field goal in football. But, for me it was a lesson – don’t dribble out of the back. It was a lesson I had been taught verbally hundreds of times, but didn’t really learn until I gave up the goal.
My high school soccer team was a group of perennial losers who were able to grind out and win games. We were never the most talented group of people, strongest, technically skilled or fasted athletes on the field. But, for what we lacked in skill we gained in work ethic and the drive to win.
We grew together through adversity, clashing against titans weekly. I don’t maintain contact with a lot of people from my high school, but I still remain close to those individuals who were on the wrong side of so many 16-0 defeats.
I would even go so far as to say that winning a state championship with a team doesn’t bring you together like losing every game in the regular season. There is something about losing that brings out the best or the worst in people. While many might quit when the going gets tough, my team practiced together, worked together and enjoyed the company of one another.
By the time we were back my senior season we were ready to win. We even made it to our subsection finals that year, where we lost 2-1 to an undefeated Hillcrest team (who would later have to forfeit all of their games due to recruiting violations).
The lessons I learned losing on the soccer field have stuck with me as I grew older and began writing more and playing soccer less. I will certainly make mistakes and miss deadlines. I will fumble socially and talk awkwardly to strangers. But, through those errors I will grow in character and ability. I invite the opportunity to succeed through failure.