Some of my best sports memories come from my four years of high school soccer. I was one of the only kids that actually looked forward to the end of summer. Ever year I could not wait until August fifteenth. You could feel the excitement build in the air all summer long. Build up to the start of another soccer season. We never won a state title or a conference championship. We never even had a winning season, but I still will never forget those long days of practice and the trill of competition out on the old grass field that lay just behind my high school.
The field its self was not much to look at. We did not have a huge stadium like most school. There was no huge loft of bleachers or towing lights around the field. There was no fancy scorers box or intercom system or even a sprinkler system. You would not see a huge score board with a Pepsi or Coke logo on like at other schools. We did not even a concession stand. All you would see is the bare essentials.
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The field it’s self was one hundred and twenty yards long and a little wider then a football field. It was covered in short green grass most of the time, that’s if it had gotten enough rain.. The field was outlined in white paint. On the field there was a half field line, two eighteen yard boxes and two six yard boxes painted in the same white paint.. The lines were made by hand, so some parts were not completely strait. At each end stood an eight by twenty foot goal. The posts of the goal were square and painted white. On these was strung a bright orange net. Tied to the post with black plastic straps. The grass in the goals was usually longer than the rest of the grass. In front of each goal there was a patch of dirt where the grass no longer grew. At each corner of the field there was a red and yellow checkered flag to mark the corner kicks.
Around the outside of the field ran the school’s state of the line top quality track. It was about eight inches wide and made of dirt. I’m not sure if this was really a track or just a spot where the grass will not grow do to all the running of the soccer team over the years. Never the less this what every one in the school refereed to as our track. Behind the goal on the west end of the field you would find what used to be the long jump and sand pit. It was only remanent by a small patch of sand and a few pieces of asphalt. Behind the goal on the east end of the field stands the tattered remains of the shock put cage. Along the north sideline was a big blue trash can. Just a little way behind the trash can was the shade tree we sat under before every practice. Two benches could be found on each half of the field along the south sideline. There was a small wooden desk at half field for the score keeps to sit. A short ways behind the scores table was a set of green and gold painted metal blechers.
The season would always start August 15 at 5:30p.m. This was always the hot part of the year. Every one on the team would all show up and sit under the small shade tree on the far side of the field. We would sit and talk about ours summer and the up coming school year. Then “she” would come walking up. All five foot and one hundred pounds of her. She was in her early sixties, with light blond hair and skin that had aged from years in sun. She would arrive in her full Nike outfit and sunglasses. Whistle in one hand and stop watch in the other. Of course when I refer to “she” I’m talking about our soccer coach, Mrs .McCool. She is the only old woman that I knew that could strike fear into a group of teenage males. It was Coach McCool’s belief that a soccer player should not need a substitute. (Which could not have been true do to the number of one goal games we lost late in the second half.) So with one puff of her whistle “Hell” would begin.
“Hell” was the three weeks prior to the start of the actual season. These practices were made up of two parts. Conditioning which made up 75% of practice and skills which accounted for the other 25%. We would start practice by gathering in a circle and stretchering. Then we would do sit ups and legs throws. If Coach thought that you were not getting enough work out on your leg throws, then she would stand on your ads and push down on your legs until your guts left like they were going to pop. After this we would start our running. The first thing we ran was the mile. This was followed by indians, high knees, and grape vines. Then it was on to sprint sprint jog. Next we would run up and down the bleachers. After running up the bleachers then we would do taps on them. Once taps were done it was on to slides, shot guns, and partner carry.
Last but not lest was the dreaded suicide. For the suicide we had to run from one end line to the other and back, then to the eighteen yard line on the far side of the field and back , followed by running to half field and back, and finally to the other eighteen and back. This drill had to be done in under two minutes or you had to do the whole thing over again. If you ever stopped any time during the runs then you got the privilege to start all over again.
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