The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
Zoë Birkbeck writes for goalWA.net as part of our new internship program that connects us with young writers, photographers and videographers to give them experience covering soccer online in the state of Washington. Zoe is highly active in the sport. The Roosevelt High School (Seattle) senior is a player (goalkeeper), coach and assistant referee.
Today we get an inside look at the start of the Roosevelt High School (Seattle) Roughriders 2012 soccer season.
by Zoë Birkbeck
Since August 20th, my summer has been over. While the rest of my friends are still enjoying the beaches and ice cream I, along with the other prospective players, are enduring probably the most hated part of the high school season; pre-season. This deadly period starts up to two weeks before classes actually start. All school sports have their prep period, and while most of those involved describe it similarly to death itself, it is by far the most important part of the season. Ranging from team bonding events, to early morning conditioning, the pre-season period is actually quite similar to the regular season. It consists of games, practices, and immensely sore muscles.
If it’s so similar, one might ask, why even call it pre-season? Why should it even exist? Well, what many people don’t understand is that the pre-season period helps bring the team together, and prepares them for the most intense part of the season through different experiences and events.
STEP 1: TRYOUTS
If you have never experienced the gut-wrenching, heart-dropping feeling I get the first day of any tryouts, then believe me, you’re not missing out at all. It’s the first Monday during summer that you’ve gotten up before noon, and they expect you to be able to do physical activity? Not even that, but they expect you to do it successfully? Two words: as if.
After finally pulling yourself out of bed, and maybe eating breakfast, you drive yourself to the field in an almost zombie-like daze. Maybe you might have forgotten something; your shin guards, your brain, all of it doesn’t really matter. It’s expected on the first day. You see all your friends, which is great at first, until you wake up and actually start thinking about the circumstances you’re in. Suddenly you realize that all these “friends” around you are actually 23 possible threats to that final spot on varsity that is YOURS.
Then come the dreaded What If’s? Those questions that seem to hound you for the rest of the day. What if I play badly? What if the coach doesn’t like my t-shirt? What if that short and fat goalkeeper over there is a better forward than me? Of course, this is all total nonsense, since you haven’t had time to even warm up yet, but that doesn’t stop you from thinking it.
For us lucky few seniors who automatically get on varsity, we are faced with different types of stress and fear. Our goal for tryouts: show the juniors that we’re better, and believe me, that can get pretty darn intense. Either way, depending on the school you go to, these events last about two to three days. Then, once you’ve been put on your teams, practices start up.
STEP 2: PRACTICES
Now that you’ve survived the mentally draining days of training, they decide to scar you physically as well. Every player must have ten practice days logged in before they are eligible to play, and with Varsity/JV games fast approaching, you find yourself slowly running out of time. Roosevelt High School, which happens to be my stomping ground, plays in KingCo 4A, one of the toughest divisions in Washington. With three teams this year, and a continually growing soccer program, the players and the coaching staff take pre-season pretty seriously.
Monday through Friday during pre-season and tryouts, we have morning conditions from 8-9:15am, and then afternoon trainings from 3-5pm. even with all of this, we find it impossible to get ten practice days, thanks to Labor Day and a Furlough day, which forbids us to practice. What does this mean? Weekend practices of course. Great, there goes the rest of my summer, especially if you happened to miss a practice. Then you’re stuck getting up at 8 AM on Saturdays and Labor Day. Through all this, you begin to start to really understand the true meaning of heavy legs. Sleep begins to become essential, and the amount of food you eat increases ten-fold. You also begin to make friends though.
You no longer fear that someone will steal your spot, and all of a sudden you can actually pass a ball to fee because you know what kind of run your teammate is going to make. Gradual and continual improvement is the result of pre-season hell, and while very few survive (actually everybody usually does, it has been a slow but steady warmup for the start of our pre-season games.
STEP 3: PRESEASON GAME #1
It was freezing, chilly as you might put it, and the sun had finally disappeared into the night. We had crossed over the bridge not a few minutes before, and we were already at the field. As we stepped out of the bus, we were hit immediately by the wind; one of the few unlucky reasons for having 7:30 PM games. JV was already playing, and as we walked down the stairs into the stadium, we could feel, without looking, the eyes of the Mercer Island fans boring into us. I always get nervous before my first game of the season. Mainly due to the fact that I am a goalkeeper, I always like putting pressure on myself. I never would have guessed that as I walked down the stairs, I would see Kasey Keller sitting in the stands staring at me. All of a sudden it seemed as if the stairs had melted and I suddenly realized I was more nervous than I had ever been.
Sounds slightly dark and ominous, yet this was how I remember our first pre-season game. Others might remember it differently than I, but at that moment, I was terrified. Unlike just about all of the others in the squad, this was a new team for me. I didn’t play last year, or the year before, so truthfully had no idea how our team played in regular games. We were playing Mercer Island away, and I was beyond nervous. I was so scared, I didn’t even care when the commentator pronounced my last name wrong.
Nothing mattered; all I can remember is how nervous I was and how everything in the world around the stadium seemed to melt and disappear. I don’t think even I fully understand how freaked out I was, and for no real reason at all. I had spent the last two weeks preparing myself for this, and I should have had confidence. We were a team, no matter who was new. We had worked hard during pre-season, and we had come ready to fight. Soccer though, is sometimes quite similar to life, and choices are made, and things that shouldn’t happen do.
STEP 4: MOVING FORWARD
We ended up losing that game, 2-1, after having the one goal lead. We didn’t lose because we were the lesser team, or because we didn’t want it enough. Quite the contrary; we played hard, were the better (if not same) team. Why they won? Because they were better than us for about fifteen minutes. We didn’t play well for about fifteen minutes, Mercer Island scored two goals, and therefore we lost. It felt terrible. We knew that we should have won the game. We knew that we could have done better. The truth was etched on everybody’s faces as we sat on the turf; silent, not even bothering to take off our gear. Our coach, Chris Holland, talked to us; told us what we already knew.
We were a good team; we’re smart, athletic, and even though we didn’t feel like it, he knew we could challenge and do well in the KingCo 4A division.
After the game, I left with my mom, who had come and watched the game. We didn’t talk. It wouldn’t have been a good idea if we had. I was mad, sad, upset, and angry; for so many different reasons. I thought about the game during the drive home, and I realized that I wasn’t upset because we lost. I was upset because we should have won and there was nothing I could do to change the result. Tomorrow, I would wake up, and we will still have lost 2-1. I would go to training after school and we still will have lost. It’s a given; and life goes on.
We had lost our only game, and we had learned a lot from the experience. We, as a team, now understood that passion is not enough. You must be strong, use your skill, and play passionately in order to be successful as a team. If we don’t do all of those things, we won’t be going very far together at all.
As a team, we look to the future, we forget about the past. The things we have done, and the mistakes we have made before no longer matter. They have shaped us, we have learned from them, and now we look to the future, for pre-season is only the beginning.
Editor’s Note: Roosevelt won their second match 4:1 over Lakeside on September 8th. 2012 RHS season schedule.