Why I wish I’d played more than one sport as a kid

About once a year a sharp pang of regret hits me. It’s most likely to strike on one of two occasions: in the winter after a big snowfall or out on the lake at a summer cottage.

The two situations are vastly different, yet both stir up similar feelings of regret, embarrassment, and frustration. So, what’s the common thread?

Both the snowfall and the lake represent scenarios in which I feel incompetent. Both represent activities I’m unable to participate in. I blame this on soccer, the sport I played with a singular focus since I was a little girl.

Growing up, I started running as soon as I could stand. I’d spend summer nights doing laps in the crescent until the neighbours began to stare. Some friendly onlookers suggested gymnastics, while others recommended dance, but I was only interested in running fast.

Enter the soccer ball at age three—I was hooked. I lived in my uniform, damaged more fence posts than I’d like to admit, and refused to do anything else.

My parents, on the other hand, were wise beyond their years and suggested other activities with each season that passed.

I reluctantly wore a tutu for a day, played baseball for a summer, and was back to soccer full-time by age eight. It was my whole world and no one could convince me otherwise. I was stubborn, my parents were supportive, and I’m thankful for that.

Now, as an adult, I blame soccer for activities that I can’t do as easily as my friends can, or at all.

Skiing, for example, is just one of many winter sports that I regretfully decline when the offer comes my way. Perhaps it’s an easy excuse, but playing soccer year-round as a kid prevented me from developing movement skills on ice and snow.

And in the summer, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not a strong swimmer. Let’s just say that I’ve always considered myself more of a “land mammal.” Summers for me have always meant soccer, with weekends spent on fields and at tournaments, not at cottages.

Despite these pangs of regret in adulthood, soccer has given me much more than it’s taken away. It’s given me the immeasurable gift of friendship.

If you were to scroll through my phone contacts and ask me how I know each person, nine times out of ten my answer would be, “From soccer.”

The sport has given me the opportunity to travel and learn. From an early age, I could navigate Ontario exclusively based on field locations. I later paired my love of the game with a university education.

Soccer has taught me what it truly means to be part of a team. I learned that teams start on the field and if you’re lucky, continue well after the season is over. Being part of a team for so long has benefited my professional career and made me into the person I am today.

Soccer developed my physical literacy and gave me the confidence to try new activities, even when the skills didn’t appear to translate at first glance (I’m looking at you, hockey!). 

It has given me a foundation of movement skills to continue being active into adulthood, as well as a healthy perspective on life and longevity. I’ve even attempted dance again, which I’m positive would not be possible without the self-competence I’ve gained from soccer.

So the next time a seasonal change or new situation makes me want to blame the sport I’ve always loved, I’ll think of the little girl who ran around the crescent full speed at anything that came her way.

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