So I am going to share one of my favourite stories from my soccer days. I’ll explain why its relevant later.
It was May, 2001 and I was graduating from Yale.
As per the norm, once exams were finished all the seniors headed down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for one last week of fun before graduation and the real world awaited us.
I boarded a motor home, with 10 of my buddies for the long drive from Connecticut to South Carolina. As a side note, I promptly faked being asleep every time we switched drivers, because I was petrified of maneuvering a motor home full of ten of my rowdy friends. However, while all my friends were getting ready for a full week in the South Carolina sun, I had booked a ticket back to Vancouver 3 days later to go home to go to a few days of practice with the Whitecaps (who may have been called the Breakers then, I can’t remember), to make sure that I had my soccer for the summer organized, and ensure that I was on the team.
I left a lot of fun behind in South Carolina 3 days after arriving, and headed home to Vancouver to practice/tryout. After a few sessions, I got a sense of where I stood in the group, and felt that I had a chance of starting on the team and was excitedly looking forward to a summer home in Vancouver after spending the summers of my college years on various soccer adventures in the US and abroad.
At the end of the last practice, the coach said something to me, that took me aback, and had me questioning incredulously if I had even made the roster of 26. I shook it off in my head; from a playing standpoint, there was no doubt in my mind that I was in the starting 11, or if not, at the very least in the mix fighting for a spot.
However, it was my first lesson, that there are never any certainties with soccer, (and in life), and sometimes things happen that are just not fair, and completely outside of our control.
I got back to Connecticut, and instead of focusing on my impending graduation, I was trying desperately to get in touch with the coach of the Vancouver team to find out if indeed I had made it.
At first I wrote him an email, thanking him for allowing me to come and try out and asking him, as I had a plane ticket booked home the following week, if he’d be kind enough to let me know ASAP if I was in his plans for the summer. No response.
After a couple more emails, and no response, the night before my graduation, I called and left a message to him on the phone. I explained I had a plane ticket home 2 days later, but if I was not on the team, I would really appreciate knowing, because I wouldn’t be coming home if that was the case.
The morning of my graduation I received an email that went something like:
Dear Ciara. I’m very sorry to get back to you so late, and probably with the news that you don’t want to hear. We had a lot of players try out this year, and it was a very tough decision, but you didn’t make the team. Good luck with your summer, Dave.
I was deflated, angry, upset…a range of emotions. Mostly I was annoyed that I had spent the time and money to come home, when it felt obvious he already had in his mind who he wanted on his roster of 26. I also was angry at how inconsiderate I felt his actions were in dragging the whole situation out, as after a couple of phone calls, I learned that the W League rosters I had been invited on in Connecticut, were now full, as the season was about to start.
I sat through my Yale graduation trying to figure out how I was going to spent my summer and get the training I needed to prepare me for my 5th year at the University of Connecticut, an extra year of eligibility that I had, from an MCL injury I had sustained my senior year at Yale.
To make a long story short, I decided within a couple of days that instead of coming home to Vancouver, I would move up to UConn, spend the summer training with a couple of my future UConn teammates and tag along with them to their W League team in Boston. The last I saw of my parents and brother that summer, was in a UHaul convoy as we moved my stuff from Yale to UConn.
I felt awkward and out of place initially in Boston; somewhat intimidated by the slate of top college players and international players, and stuck out like a sore thumb, as the only one without a practice uniform. As the summer went on, I was happy, getting into my routine of working out in the morning with the strength coaches at UConn, lying out on the lake by our house mid day and then hopping in the car every evening for the 4 hour round trip to Boston, jamming the whole way there and back to the new Tim McGraw album, which we had promptly memorized, about 2 weeks into our summer.
One day mid-summer, after injuries and drop outs had hit our roster, the Boston coach asked me if I would be interested in being officially rostered. I got my practice uniform, a number and finally felt like a part of the team, instead of the rejected tag-a-long.
The Final 4 for the W League came around, and we made it, along with Vancouver, and headed down to Virginia Beach. My Boston team knew the whole story of how I had been unceremoniously cut from Vancouver. So when we were in the restaurant the night before the semi-finals, they all appreciated when the Vancouver coach sat down next to us, and then double took halfway through the meal when he saw me in Boston’s colours at the next table.
In a picture perfect ending to the story, we hammered Vancouver 5-1 in the final, and I got on for the final 20 minutes. Shaking hands after the game with the coach who had cut me from a team that I wanted so badly to be on, I felt proud of myself that instead of accepting a closed door, that I went and found an open one, one that ended up being better than I could have dreamed of. That summer in Connecticut is still where I find some of my best memories in soccer.
I told myself that summer, that if I was ever a coach, that I would treat people with respect. Not only because you never know when and where you’ll see those people again, but when people throw their heart and soul into something, they deserve at the very least that basic respect and proper communication.
As with most hard things that have happened to me through the soccer field, and on a larger scale in life, it’s just another reminder to me, that you can’t control what happens sometimes. However, when you get those setbacks, how you react is everything.
And at the end of the day, if you can turn every disappointment into something that you look back on, and be grateful that it happened to you, then really there is nothing in life to be worried about.
I’ll see that 2001 Vancouver coach tomorrow, as he is the head coach of Victoria.
Crazy how much I’ve learned in my soccer journey in the ten years since that summer.
You can find me on twitter @ciaramccormack