When I was in 6th grade I tried out for my town’s recreational indoor soccer team. We were kind of ahead of the soccer curve in 1980. Soccer was not a popular sport. Somehow I found out about tryouts and went. I made the team, if there was a making the team, and my illustrious soccer career began.
Eventually, over the next few years, I made the town’s travel team as well. We went to Virginia, New York and ended up in either the semi-finals or finals one year for the state championship. I made friends with the other jockettes and had something to focus on for those years other than the usual teenage girl stuff. I was never all that girlie anyway, come to think of it.
I stopped playing in my sophomore year of high school—Boys, authority ISSUES, smoking all got in the way.
To the authority issues. Picturing my 13-year-old self giving my male coach the finger because he was trying to, well, coach me, makes me cringe and giggle at the same time. I was so angry at men. “Don’t tell me what to do,” was kind of my motto. That and “fuck off.” I needed that anger in order to kind of get through the day, but soccer saved me from that anger in a way also, at least for the time I was on the field. I had an outlet. I could kick the crap out of the lithe and privileged pretty blond forwards and halfbacks—getting some aggression out, sometimes actually hurting someone—while also winning a point for the poor, fatherless kids in the world like me. Hey, if I was hurting someone else, I couldn’t feel any pain myself. Just adrenaline.
My coaches and the other parents must have seen that I needed this sport. I was good too, if a little unrefined. I reveled in parents from the opposing team shouting from the sidelines, “Get Greta!” I was famous. I knew I was kicking ass because they wanted to stop me. I had power. My friend Susie and I, both fullbacks, would try to take out as many other players as we could. She must have had some anger to release as well. After the game, we would callously tally up the injuries we had caused, with a broken or sprained leg being the ultimate score. Yellow and red cards were badges of honor.
We also got into some trouble together, drinking her dad’s not-completely-brewed beer. Got yelled at for that one. We stole some beer from one of our host family’s one year and got caught. Okay, so subtlety was not our strong point. I think we might have been caught smoking cigarettes too at another tournament. We stole hood ornaments off of the expensive cars in town. Another point for the less privileged. Brawn, not brains, I guess. We lost touch after I stopped playing, but I thought of Susie and our exploits over the years.
I got into more trouble over the years. A lot more serious than stealing a crappy-tasting beer (hey, I didn’t know it had to brew for a certain period of time! It was just there!). I have missed soccer this whole time and have been able to play a couple of times with friends who just threw together games. When I was in my 20s, I joined a women’s league, but blew it off for one reason or another. Probably a man/boy. I’ve searched for another one for the past couple of years but haven’t been able to find many 40+ women willing to throw down for an hour and a half. Plenty of men’s leagues and under 30 leagues for women. Not sure I could hang with women half my age-ish.
The problem is, I’ve lost my edge. I’ve dealt with a lot of my anger. This might come as a surprise to people who have met me after 35. Oh boy, was I rough around the edges before. Someone called me a “diamond in the rough” once. I’m still not sure that was really a compliment. So, with less anger, could I really do well again? I’m scared now too. Of the ball hitting me in the face, of losing my (expensive) teeth, of, well, sucking.
But I think I have to try anyway. That is my goal this month. Find a soccer team to play on. I’m not Mia Hamm, so I can’t hang with the boys, but maybe with the 30-year-old women?