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Personal Identity Evolution: Hanging Up My Soccer Cleats

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I have mentioned before on this blog the role sports played in my personal identity youth, and upbringing as a whole. When my young life was enduring stress, sporting events were a welcomed outlet. They are were also a wonderful vehicle of bonding for my Brother and I. We were athletes. He was a baseball player. And I, soccer. Our weekdays were busy with practices, while our weekends filled with anticipation over that next big game.
personal identity, personal identity project, cultural identity, personal growth

Changes in Personal Identity

I loved watching my Brother play. I close my eyes, and can recall how I would yell at the batter standing in front of my Brother’s crouched stance. “Batter, batter, batter, SWWWWING batter!”, hoping with all my might that the ball would land safely in my Brother’s cather’s mitt. Ahh, afternoons at the baseball field. Those were the good ol’ days.
My parents put me in AYSO soccer at about eight or nine years old. I had some natural abilities, which helped my self esteem, and fell in love with the sport almost immediately. I played maybe two seasons in AYSO before trying out for competitive club teams. I made the cut on one team, but after a year with them, made the decision to change clubs because a woman coach had left such an impression on me. She was a girl. And kind. And I needed that. I played on this team throughout all my years of high school, until the year I started college. Through a heart wrenching knee surgery and recovery. Through drama and cliches and boyfriends. Soccer was a huge part of my life. As an adult, while living in Cali, I continued to play and experienced the same thrill when stepping out onto the field. What a beautiful sport.
Before I moved to Vegas, my Best Friend Nicole and I started a club team of our own. A Girls Under 16 Bronze team with a small club in the area. I was younger then, and I loved coaching. The girls on our team valued our time together, worked hard for us and always tried their best. They were {are!} amazing young ladies, and I am proud to have coached them. Years later, I continue coaching at a small, private school here in Vegas for the last three seasons. But my tenure there is coming to an end.
The sport I loved has given me so much to be thankful for. My Best Friend Jessica, who my child calls Tia, is right next to me in this team picture. We had no way of knowing at the time how our hearts would never stray further than the width of the gap between our shoulders. I love that girl to the end of the earth and back. Soccer gave me that.
personal identity, personal identity project, cultural identity, personal growth
But even with all the wonderful people and moments soccer has brought to my life; even after all the lessons I have learned on and off the field that make up the person I am today, all good things come to an end. Looking back, this post about maintaining a balance in life, written at the start of the current soccer season, should have been my red flag. It’s time to hang up my soccer cleats.
Today is our last game of the season, concluding our last week of practice.  Today will also be the last time I step onto a soccer field, feet adorned with cleats, to coach or play the sport. After two knee surgeries, I am putting soccer away on my shelf of distant memories, of old identities that made a Vanessa of years before. But that is not the Vanessa of now.
Alina is still too young, but I am excited to one day share with her my old love of the sport. As her Daddy is excited to share his career and love of professional basketball. No doubt our child{ren} will be exposed to competitive sports, and the life it creates. For my kids, I will gladly put my cleats back now. But, until then, so long old friend…
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