Artist Statement:

The inspiration behind my writing is my father, a man who always has a solution and knows what’s ultimately best for me. I wanted to write about our relationship when it came to something we both are passionate about, soccer. Not only was my dad my biggest fan, but he was also my coach in the sense of never letting me give up on my goals. I wanted to show my appreciation of him for always encouraging me to become a better individual whether it was on or off the soccer pitch. I believe without his knowledge and support I wouldn’t be the person I am today; one who tries to make the most out of everything and not always sweating the small stuff.

Soccer…Dad?

Amy Determan

“You can always take off, but you can’t add on,” says my dad as he pours coffee into his thermos. I know he’s right, he’s always right. So I run back upstairs still tired. I rummage through my dresser drawers forgetting my sister is still asleep in the next room. I hear her roll over sighing with annoyance. “Where the hell is my black turtleneck?” I think to myself. We’re going to be late to the game; dad will be more upset than me. I’ll be too busy thinking about how cold it’s going to be while I’m running around like a maniac or how hard the ball will feel as it grazes my rough bare knees, or worse, smacks my cold, hard head.

I find the turtleneck wrinkled in a corner of my bottom left drawer. It smells like woodchips as I throw it on, messing up my hair. I catch a glance of myself in the tall mirror as I head towards downstairs. I feel like an old lady; do high school girls even wear turtlenecks anymore? I run downstairs, this time waking my mom up. “Good luck,” she mumbles as she rolls over, hoping to go back to sleep. She’ll probably get up as soon as we set foot out the door. I reach the bottom of the stairs and throw on my yellow gold jersey with a hideous black collar; number twelve displayed perfectly between my shoulder blades on my back. Dad’s ready. I’m ready. It’s game day. This is one of our rituals. I make sure my shin guards are in my bag and grab my water bottle dad packed me.


“Ready?” he asks with an excited grin.


“Yeah,” I say. We head for the van which has my team the “Olympians” sticker on the back right corner. It’s a flame that mimics the Olympic torch; and has my favorite number with it, number twelve. Walking to the van, I know deep down my dad enjoys soccer Sundays more than I do. Bless his soul.


It’s the middle of November, and everything is grey, even at 7 am. Dad has already scraped off the frozen dew and warmed up the van. He’s considerate in more ways than one. I throw my soccer bag in the back seat, hoping that I remembered some gloves; today seems colder than other days. I buckle my seat belt, and so does my dad. He puts the van in drive and we head out for St. Charles, Missouri, for yet another soccer Sunday.

 

I’m not sure what makes me remember this day any more so than any other soccer Sunday. Maybe it was because the sky seemed greyer and the ground seemed harder. The pattern plays over in my head; I know it like the back of my hands. Trying to go to bed early because, face it, when your sixteen years old, waking up at the crack of dawn to go run around in 30 degree weather just wasn’t very appealing. Especially when you were you were safely snuggled in your warm bed. But you get up anyways, because it’s your duty. You’re part of a team, and I wouldn’t just let my team down, I’d let the old man down as well.

 

The drive over, I can feel my eyelids getting heavier and heavier, and I hope my father doesn’t notice. Maybe we should put in the AC/DC cassette tape my dad recorded years ago and rock out before the game. Listening to “Back in Black” would probably give me an energy boost, well, maybe. But instead, we’re listening to the radio, what station doesn’t really matter because it’s a Sunday morning. Mostly it’s just a bunch of “America’s Top 40” with Casey Kasem, or talk radio. I’m not paying attention, and neither is my dad.

 

We cross the Mighty Mississippi and I know we have about fifteen or so minutes until we arrive to the field.

“God it looks cold out; I’m going to be freezing,” I think to myself. Dad even knows it’s going to be miserable out. He brought his wool coat, and his navy blue stocking cap, and of course his huge black gloves. I wish I could play in sweats and wear a warm fuzzy coat, but it wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

 

“Do you know what field you’re on?” My dad asks.

 

“No, I didn’t bother checking,” I reply. I figured my dad would know, but regardless, all he had to do was start driving towards the hideous yellow jerseys, and we’d find the field. Plus, I’m sure we were the only freaks that were up at 8 AM to play soccer on an overcast cold day in November. I see my coach and team members cars parked, and realized we wouldn’t find the yellow jerseys because everyone looks like an Eskimo all bundled up. I was almost dreading stepping foot onto the rough solid ground; grass was supposed to be soft, the field was supposed to be green, not brown. Just another ritual of soccer Sundays, crummy weather.

***

“You’ll always have that one opportunity…” says my dad as I get into the red minivan. I’m no longer cold; as a matter of fact, there’s sweat dripping down my face, and my legs are sweaty. I put on my black sweat pants over my shorts and with the black turtleneck still on, I look like I’m about to rob a bank. He’s still talking about the “one opportunity” I had to either make the perfect pass, play, or goal, but I’m not really listening. I’ve heard it all before. “Should have done this or you could have done that…” Whatever happened to the “you worked your ass off kiddo?” –Wait, he just said it.

 

“Yeah, I tried but if…” And then it’s my turn to talk about one of my teammate’s one time opportunity; time to blame someone else not receiving the perfect pass I made for a one time opportunity goal. It’s not like I’m trying to make excuses for myself, I know I could have done better, but that’s how you learn and know better next time. You need to make the error and mistake to make sure you’ll capitalize on the next one time opportunity.

 

“Well you guys looked good out there,” he would know. My father has never missed one of my games, and never would. He’d listen to the Rams or Illini football game either on his goofy looking headphones, or catch the score on the drive home. My dad was my biggest fan; he would put everything else on hold, for me. And he enjoyed every sprint, every move, and every defensive tackle I made. He was proud of me. And I was proud of him.

 

My sister and I were very active children; always playing outside, rollerblading, bike riding, playing catch. We both played recreational soccer at Bel-Clair Soccer League. My team was sponsored by my mom’s friend Dean, and I didn’t know anyone. My sister Jessica’s team was probably sponsored by some other local business and my father assisted in coaching her team. My father, assistant coaching a soccer team, he never played soccer in his life. Fast pitch softball –now THAT that was a different story. My old man knew a thing or two when it came to competition on the diamond. But on the soccer field, that was my domain. My team was filled with small blonde girls at the age of 9, and my sister’s team was of junior high girls, who looked like giants. I continued to play soccer, but my sister called it quits and focused on softball. Was it my father’s assistant coaching skills that made her lose interest? It’s a possibility.

But I kept playing. I was asked to join a “select” team, and I felt like the next Mia Hamm. My dad and mom we’re happy for me, I could tell. They encouraged me to participate, and I did; all the way through high school, playing year round. Soccer was my life or a huge part of it at least. And with soccer Sunday’s and soccer practice, and soccer try outs, it meant time with my father.

 

“Pass it with the inside of your foot,” I remember my dad telling me.

 

“I know dad,” I’d respond. How was my old man, who never played soccer in his life, coaching me and telling me how to play the game? Better yet, the basic technique of the game, passing? I didn’t get it, but I listened. I’d pass back with the inside of my foot. Right foot. Then left foot. Maybe from watching soccer on T.V. or from taking my sister and I to the Kiel Center to watch the St. Louis Ambush. Or maybe he just was learning himself, knowing what makes a good pass. After all, neither of us were pros by any means, and it was just good practice.

 

It’s late August and it’s getting dark outside; we’re outside kicking the soccer ball around, not in our backyard. We went around our fence to the lot next door that once held a house, but it burned down before I was born.

 

Unattended to grass as well as weeds grew and covered up most of the yard. My dad and I found a place past the weeds and sticks that was flat; there we would kick the ball back and forth. One on one practice with my dad. We would stay out there pretty late during the summer, practicing the long passes, making sure my footing was improving. I was only 12 or so, but I wanted to be the best, and the best meant practice, which of course meant time with my father

 

“Keep using that left foot, plant your right foot next the ball and follow through,” he’d urge.

 

“I know dad,” I’d respond, almost annoyed. I knew he was just trying to help me become a better player overall, but sometimes; it was hard balancing the father from the coach.

***

“There’s something about competition; I love the thrill of it,” says my father over the phone one night when I called him up to discuss Soccer Sundays.

 

“But did you ever feel like you were living vicariously through me?” I ask timidly. It seemed so harsh accusing my father of something of the sort; he’s been there for everything; the goals, the assists, the injuries. And here I am, making an accusation that my old man wanted to be me and experience it all to himself.

 

“No. Absolutely not,” he says. I feel really low for making my old man admit that. I should have known, but I just wanted to know why my father pushed me so hard.

 

“It’s healthy, and it teaches you something I can’t; prepares you for life.”

 

And it struck me.

 

Almost everything my father has told me, sticks with me in the back of my mind. I may not remember all the theories I learned in Com 111 my sophomore year or college, nor would I ever think I really need too. And I may not remember all the basic math equations (except for geometric triangles and angles; for some bizarre reason I remember if A = 5 and B =4, than C must =3). But, “you can always take off, but you can’t add on,” or “you’ll always have the one opportunity…” and even “competition… prepares you for life” are day to day things that affect me more than formulas, equations, or “theory” memorization ever could.

I hardly leave the house without carrying more than I need. A sweater, or long sleeve shirt, I’ll take it along because I know that I can always take off, but I can never add on. I wake up in the mornings knowing that today could be my one opportunity that may change something. Maybe I will ace my grammar test, or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll make the commitment to attend grad school, or maybe I’ll wait a bit. But the power is within my hands, so I’ll always try my hardest to do what is best for me. And when it comes to competition, I’m always striving to be better, and willing for improvement. I’ve learned how to work as a team, how to become a leader. I’ve learned the discipline through the cold early mornings and the humid practices that lasted for what seemed like days.

 

Soccer Sundays may not have always been fun days, but they were the days I developed important characteristics. And I would have never been able to do it if I didn’t have the help from my old man, pushing me every step, kick, and sprint along the way.


Euphemism Campus Box 5555 Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790