Still Kicking

I never asked for ten steps before I took my free kick.

I never waited for the full ten steps when the ref granted it to me without my asking.

High school soccer…. It was another lifetime ago. The pre-wrap headbands, the electric tape to hold my shin guards in place, the maddest and happiest extremes of the life that I knew at the time… what a season.

They say you can take the girl out of the game, but you can’t take the game out of the girl.

I’ve played maybe five games since my self-declared retirement, and in that time after some achy muscles that I forgot even existed, I have changed that adage a bit.

“You can take the girl out of the game… but you sure as hell better not ever try to put her back in it.”

The high school soccer version of me is a LONG stroke away from the person that I am today.

I mean, let’s be honest… the high school soccer version of me was an absolute train wreck of angst and aggression.

However, there is at least one aspect of this girl, one characteristic, one life lesson from my 22 seasons of playing the world’s favorite sport, that I know followed me long past these years of blisters and bruises.

I never ask for the ten steps.

I never take my kick on my adversary’s timing.

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You all know what I’m talking about, right? Technically, when you’ve been fouled and you’re setting up for a free kick, the other team has to be ten steps away from you. It’s the rules.

However, it’s pretty common practice for this fun little charade to happen where someone from the other team, that honorary girl, usually the one who fouled in the first place, will post up right smack in front of you. She’s daring you to ask for the ten you are owed, and then she will kill precious time on the clock to get there. Most likely her team is ahead, and that time is a lot more precious to you than to her.

This strategy annoys the living mess out of me.

I think it is so disrespectful. It is the ultimate move of an absolute control freak. It is the soccer equivalent to gaslighting.

I get the strategy behind it. I understand that she was probably trained to do this because I’ve had coaches to tell me to do the exact same thing.

But I didn’t like it then in the game of soccer, and I sure don’t like it now in the game of life.

After all, sister-chick fouled me. I was the one wronged here. And my reward was supposed to be the opportunity to control of the next play, at least to control of the beginning of it, right? And here she comes, posting up all in my bubble controlling the next ten seconds in the game.

No.

Absolutely not.

So, out of this principle, I would never ask for the ten. Most of the time, you don’t need it.

Most of the time, you have someone open, even with the path directly in front of you blocked. Most of the time, that extra ten steps you grant the other team, actually puts you in a worse situation. It loads the defense. It robs you of any chance you had for the upper-hand.

Most of the time, if all else fails, I have found this girl daring to stand right in front of me, to be a perfectly adequate spring board, and the added benefit to that situation is the fact that the nice hexagonal imprint you leave on her typically stops her from ever standing in front of you again.

The point is, there is always an option other than granting them the ten seconds of undeserved control. And I always choose one of these other options.

__

Soccer taught me a lot about life. It taught me a lot about the psychology of both myself and others.

But more than anything, it taught me the importance of controlling the next ten seconds, the next move in life after you’ve been wronged. It taught me the importance of taking back the control of the game from your most direct adversary, the person who tripped you up and then had the audacity to stand in the way of your justice kick.

It taught me that there is a difference between offering grace and handing over control. It taught me that when someone wrongs you and then stands there to block your efforts toward moving the game forward again, that there is no remorse for the foul, only a grab for more control.

It taught me that the person who does you wrong does not deserve the satisfaction of staring you down while you wait for them to take one slow, daring, backward step after another. They don’t deserve the control of your next move. They don’t deserve the control of the clock ticking down the game, the life, that you’re trying so hard to win.

If you’ve been wronged, you don’t owe the person who wronged you the next move, the next seconds of your life. You don’t owe them stake in the next conversation, the opportunity to convince you of why they fouled you or how they justify the blatant wrong-doing.

You don’t owe them the opportunity to punish you for their foul.

You don’t owe them any upper-hand.

You don’t owe them a damn thing.

Beautiful girl, lace up those cleats.

Tie them so tight that no trip, no push, no foul can unravel you.

Set up your kick.

Show them that you’re not giving them ten steps.

Take that forward motion.

Show them that you’re not giving them another second of your game.

Rear back.

Show them that their best effort, their dirtiest play, their snarkiest plan to run down the clock has landed dead in its tracks.

Plunge toward that ball.

Show her.

Show them all- that You’re. Still. Kicking.


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