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Amanda Bill Mrs.

Rand English 1103 8 September 2013 The Heart of a Champion What does it mean to have the heart of a champion? When do the blood, sweat, and tears in the form of sprints, jogs, and weights become miniscule to the privilege of walking on the field, court, rink, or diamond one more time? When does fatigue and stress take a toll not only on ones soul and body, but also on ones character and selfidentity? These arent the questions that are taught in youth summer camps, practices, or showcases trust me, I would know; I had been to hundreds of camps, practices, and tournaments and had never had such topics discussed with me. Soccer is a very tactical and technical game, and nowhere in rule books and training manuals will you find drills and training to strengthen heart, determination, and character. I had played soccer in nearly a hundred high school games and didnt understand the answers to these questions, but I could tell you almost every rule of soccer and every tricky method to avoid these rules. I had this idea that soccer was strictly procedural and methodical, that the whitelined field was just one-hundred yards of soft green grass, until the game was outside of my grasp, until the end hit me like a brick wall. It was then that I understood that the field was a whole world of hindrances, of obstacles smiling at you as they waited to stop you; the field was adversity that could only be fought with love, heart, determination, and preparation. Playing soccer, or any sport for that matter, is not a way to build character,

but rather to showcase character. From the wise words of John Wooden says, Sports do not build character. They reveal it. On a hot Saturday in May at my high schools beautifully kept soccer field my home for four years - my character was revealed for my teammates, parents, fans, and spectators to blatantly see. The matchup was perfect: the T.C. Roberson Rams, ranked sixth in the state, matched against us, the ninth-ranked Sun Valley Spartans, in the second round of the playoffs. With our opponents traveling from the mountains, the game was ours to lose on our home field. Focus and nervousness started in the morning, as the only thing I could think about was my soccer field my home and the threat of losing that field forever. From the second I took the field for warm-ups, there was electricity in the air, and not just from the beaming light rays illuminating the field. Spartan Stadium was packed with more people than I had ever seen in my four years of varsity soccer, which was to be expected for a game of such importance. The beats of rap songs were blasting through the speakers lyrics were not allowed due to county policy and the sounds vibrated the field as we jogged around the field and stretched out our adrenaline-filled bodies. I was the goalie, so my warm up consisted of a wide variety of easy and well-placed shots to get my feet and hands in sync with one another while the other girls passed, dribbled, and shot the ball to get some quick touches before game time. Captains were called, hands were shaken, and we won the coin toss, choosing kick off to begin the game. Starting lineups for each team were announced for the crowd to hear as the student section for Sun Valley rose to their feet and cheered for their friends, classmates, and peers eleven players from each team that had practiced, ran, lost sleep, cried, and celebrated as much as the next player. The national anthem played, and my adrenaline kicked in as it always

did. I bounced on my feet, and the reality that this game may be my last of competitive sports set into my brain and terrified me scared me so much that I vowed to not let a goal go in the back of my net. This fear and adrenaline a lethal mix carried my feet and fueled my movements from that point on, as my mind, sense, and body simply responded to the commands this mix barked out for the next one hundred and twenty minutes of soccer. I usually love being an underdog; underdogs have no pressure to win because they arent expected to win. So why did I feel pressure in every muscle and bone in my body, weighing me down like a sack of bricks? When youre the goalie, pressure comes with position. You are the last hope, and you alone can make or break the game. You either lose the game or win the game, there is no in between; a good game is a win and a bad game is a loss. With the screech of a whistle and the screaming of Hancocks hooligans our student section, the first half started, as the ball was booted down the field and quickly shot back up the field. Such a play would be very common throughout the first half, as both teams had multiple scoring opportunities that fell short. Our forwards were hitting everything but the back of the net, ringing two shots of the crossbar and a couple more off Robersons solid goalie. Roberson had some quality efforts on goal, but my fear and adrenaline drove me to my best game of the season. I had fives saves - three routine and two memorable; I dove in front of a girl and got the ball cracking as we say in soccer and leapt over two girls to grab a ball for the second save. Despite all the opportunities, the score remained tied at zero at the end of the first half. This is your game to take and win, ladies, this is your game, Coach Hancock yelled at us during halftime, reminding us seniors that we go home with another game to play or go home

with our high school careers ended and finished at the hands of eleven hungrier and more-deserving rams. Coaches are there to encourage and motivate their teams, but as I looked around at all the faces of my team, I knew losing wasnt an option, not for the twenty faces I had worked all season for and with. I took the field for the second half, prayers were said and fingers were crossed; the desired result could be defined in one word, and the way to this result was another simple word: score. The second half started with more electricity than the first; fans and players were becoming restless, the adrenaline was boiling, the fear was building, and the realization that a winner and loser was to be born hit every player harder than ever before. Skill proved to be a wash for both teams; now the game relied on who wanted it more and who wanted to live for another practice. From kickoff, we controlled play for the first twenty minutes of the half, containing the Rams to their half of the field. A couple corners and a few astray shots left the Rams on a lopsided shot count but even on the scoreboard. Twenty minutes left and the game seemed to be cupped in our hands like a delicate egg, a prized possession. But with twenty minutes left, a misplayed ball by our star defender, and a drive down the field, the momentum shifted so quickly that a jolt rocketed around the stadium. See thats the funny thing about sports: in the matter of seconds, momentum can shift and games can change their path. As an athlete, some games you either live or die by the shift. I could see this change of momentum happening, and all I could hope was that we could hang on and defend our home.