Perhaps I didn’t take advantage of everything that on-campus housing had to offer, but something that I did appreciate about freshman-year programming was the availability of quarterly intramural sports. I viewed this opportunity as the perfect outlet for so many displaced athletes — there were those who joined just to stay in shape, those who wanted to spend more time with hall mates and then those who truly loved and lived the game.
For the most part, I played housing intramurals just to have fun and run around — I figured that I might as well participate, especially since the cost of IMs was already embedded in my housing fee. However, I eagerly looked forward to winter quarter, because that’s when field soccer season started.
From the age of 5 to my senior year of high school, I played recreational soccer, learning and growing up within an environment that I quickly fell in love with. I never played for my high school team, but I didn’t feel like I needed to. I was still participating in competitive tournaments in different cities with a familiar group of girls, and we were bonded on the pure love for our sport.
However, upon entering college, my soccer career came to a deadening halt. I was never interested in playing on a serious level, but I instantly missed the sport that had become such a big part of my life. The winter of my freshman year, then, became the possible cure for the void that my soccer-less fall quarter had left.
But this cure, unfortunately, didn’t come to fruition, because our season was canceled due to the rain-soaked fields. My hall mates and I encouraged one another that there would always be next year, and though this idea provided a slight consolation, I wondered if it would matter anyway. I realized that it wasn’t just the sport that I missed, but the camaraderie and the feeling of growing up with a team, a feeling that I knew I couldn’t find from just a one-season high. With a reluctant heart I shunted soccer off as a childhood pastime, and not something that would continue into my college career.
I was caught off-guard then, when a guy from my church fellowship approached me during spring quarter with the simple statement: “So, I heard you play soccer.” Apparently he and a group of people that I barely knew were trying to put together a coed team for spring speed soccer (this weirdly convoluted version of indoor soccer), and they needed another female player. Without question, I agreed immediately — suddenly out of the blue, here was my shot. Maybe soccer wasn’t just a “childhood pastime,” but a pastime that needed to be revamped into something new.
The first step onto the backcourt of the ARC was strange and slightly unnerving, but playing with my new team was instantly exhilarating. Though I didn’t know them too well at the time, there was something resonant about the encouragement that I received and the teamwork that we started to build. And to be honest, speed soccer wasn’t much of a sport — two foam balls, rapid-fire madness — but I will never forget that quarter where I found myself back on a team.
The following year, we decided to play fall soccer. Though some of the seniors had graduated and a couple of freshmen were added, it was really special to be back with the same team that I was learning to be comfortable with. For sure, we were as ragtag as you can get, but there was something to be said about the continuity of it all and the chance to teach, learn and grow as a whole.
Every season, we kept on coming back, and though we may not have started out as much of a threat to the rest of the league, I think the consistency of our players and our willingness to work with one another paid off: our championship win in the fall of the following year was the sweetest reward for how much effort we put into our team and the dynamic that we had then solidified. We were definitely a comprisal of very different people, but it didn’t seem to matter when we played together: we knew that there were two 20-minute halves where we could step out of our week and on to common ground.
Looking back on my four years of college, intramural soccer will truly remain one of my shining memories. I love my sport, but the love that existed on my team is what made it truly an experience. We may not have been the reigning champs, but in our cleats and mismatched shirts, we lived. If nothing else, and through everything else, we knew that there was one night of the week where we would congregate in the chilly ARC air, and though stumbling over that chewed up field, we loved it nonetheless.