I briefly touched on the following in my previous post, but looking back over my time, I never had the same coach for more than two years for one reason or another. Do I look at that as a bad thing? Definitely not. Each time had its ups and downs, but who doesn’t? After leaving Lincoln, I played on four teams, and had four different coaches. You have to what’s best for you, right?
When I came back to Omaha, after tryouts, I ended up on the team that I had played on prior to joining the team in Lincoln. The same coach, and for the most part it was the same girls, too. It was a little comforting, after leaving to return to an old team with people I already knew.
I would take my past experiences as chances to learn, and that’s exactly what happened with this team. It wasn’t a bad experience; it was a step down from the level I had been playing at the year before. While I was still enjoying myself, there were still some struggles.
As to be expected, the friendships I had made a few years prior were no longer the same. We still knew each other, but obviously had lost some of what we had. However, we were still teammates after all and that didn’t change anything. I had a couple of teammates from my team in Lincoln that followed us to Omaha and play on the same team. At the time, I glad that they had. It was nice having some old teammates still playing with you. At times, though, I had wished they had never switched with me. I guess looking back everything worked out how it was supposed to, and it’s water under the bridge now.
That year was a challenge, as it was to be expected. I was coming in to a team that had been playing together for two years already. The coaching was different, and we eventually ended up not seeing eye-to-eye. This one was of the struggles that I had to overcome. He was an assistant coach at UNO in Omaha, so the team would sometimes go to games together to watch and see what our future could potentially be.
We ended up playing against my old team a couple of times that season. There was one girl in particular that I didn’t really get along with at the time we played together, and it was even more pronounced playing against each other. It always made me laugh when she would always go out of her way to try and one-up me.
While we weren’t the best team out there, we certainly weren’t the worst. We still had fun travelling to tournaments and playing in state cup every spring. One thing I distinctly remember from playing at that age is my parents would tell us they would buy us a Blizzard from Dairy Queen if we scored. We soon grew out of that tradition in the next few years; all four of us ended up on defense or in the midfield so the chances of us scoring slimmed over the course of those few years anyway.
Though I wish I had more to say (or even remembered more) about my time on this team, it lasted a year before the necessary decision was made to move on again. By the time tryouts rolled around, we were ready to move on. The team I was trying out for was somewhat famous in the soccer world (but then again, which team wasn’t). They had had a couple of coaching changes in the past couple of years, and they had had a lot of ups and downs in those couple of years as well.
To say I was nervous was an understatement. As with any team, they were already close and had chemistry on the field. I was excited to find that I had made the top team, and the girls on the team were awesome and welcoming. Though I was unsure at the beginning, I could tell this could be my final team for the rest of my club playing days. The coaching staff was great along with the trainers, and for the most part everyone got along with each other.
While my time with this team was only two years, those two years were some of the best. I’m sure my parents would agree the training and challenges I got were great for my development as a player. The first year on the team was also the first year we played in the Midwest Regional League (MRL). We would be travelling every weekend to different cities in the Midwest (though a lot of the time we ended up in Overland Park, KS). We would play 2-3 games a weekend against other teams looking for that same challenge.
Every time we would be gone for a weekend, whether it be league games or a tournament, we would all get together on Friday night and just hang out. Typically, the whole team and the parents would go out and get dinner together on Saturday night. Ribs was always a favorite among everyone, and typically what we all got to eat.
There were always a lot of jokes and having fun, and times that we would have team get togethers to just hang out. Whether it be going on a run together, or having a pool party, we were there for each other on and off the field. The chemistry we had as a team almost rivaled what I had with the first team I played for in Lincoln.
I do look back at times thinking about the practices, the training, the travelling, the games. All of it. This was one of the better times in my career playing soccer. There was a lot of dedication and high expectations, but it made me better for it.
Right around the end of my second year, there was a lot of news that hit us at once. The main note of interest was we would be merging with another club in Omaha; the club that I had been a part of just a few years back. The way it was not so subtly described to me was “they have the money and we have the indoor space”. While that made sense, it was the first of a few mergers to happen in the years to follow.
While I still found myself on the top team of the new club, and playing with current and old teammates, it was nowhere near the same. There was a juggling around of coaches as they tried to find someone with the necessary experience who good take an already good group of players to the next level. This was especially difficult as the coach we had for the past two years was no longer coaching; the club was even looking across the river for coaches in some of the Iowa leagues (thankfully Council Bluffs did not make that list).
Now I would never say that I hated any part my time playing, or that one year was the worst out of them all, but if I did this would probably be it. The coach they found seemed to have the experience needed and seemed to understand what we were looking for. We were all impressed and had a good feeling for the season to come. I even remember saying almost that exactly when talking to my parents the night after he had introduced himself to the team.
I don’t remember much from that season, as it was short as it was, and I only played on that particular team for a year. It was a mashup between my two older teams, and it almost felt like I got lost in the shuffle. There were some practices that he followed that were hard to get behind. There was typically a person or two every game who would be there on the bench but would not be suited up to play; a clear indication that maybe he didn’t know exactly what he was doing. I even had one of my old coaches come up to me after a game asking why I wasn’t playing and had no good answer to give because I didn’t even have the first clue.
That year was a struggle for me at least; it seemed to work out well for others. After that season was over and we were nearing tryouts again, we had talked on the idea about trying out for the team a year older than me (which would create a problem when I reached my senior year).
My mom received a call the night after tryouts from one of the coaches if another team from my age group. I didn’t understand what exactly had happened, but essentially my coach from the previous year tried to cut me out of the age group all together because he had heard I was trying out for the older team. This coach told my mom he would take me on his team if we would be open to that.
We accepted this as our option, having never gone through the tryout process for the older team in the first place. Under the best circumstances, this was probably the best move we could have made.
It was hard transferring to yet another team, even though it was through the same club. But it didn’t take all too long to get right back in my comfort zone and have fun.
I have never not liked the girls I played with, and this was no exception. I was back to having fun as well as making new friends with my teammates. I had been playing against this team ever since we were about 10 years old; it seemed to be the same team still with a few additions along the way.
We were back to playing in the Nebraska state league, though the travelling aspect didn’t change much. We still travelled to tournaments, and event went to places I had never been before. One of my favorites was Memphis, TN. Though we were there for soccer, and to be honest I don’t remember much of how the games went, the food was the best part. I would have to think you’re crazy if you go somewhere like Memphis and don’t get barbecue. It was some of the best I have had. My mom and I even joked about having some sent home (the restaurant we went to had the option to deliver anywhere in the country!).
Another cool place we travelled to was Vegas. Again, we were there to play soccer, and we were all too young to do much else anyway. There a few memorable moments from that trip. A bench clearing fight happened in one of our first games; that is a moment I will never forget. Walking the strip for the first time with my mom and my sister. Visiting the Nike outlet; of course I came out with a couple pairs of shorts and a new pair of shoes. The most memorable part was my sister coming with and being invited to play with us.
My coach had invited my sister to train with us a lot of the times during the winter. One of my teammates eventually started to call us Thing 1 and Thing 2. My sister’s coach was also a trainer and coach for my team, so that worked out pretty well.
He was really relatable, and always had our best interests in mind. There was one game I remember in particular that makes me laugh now looking back. We were playing against my old team, and one of the girls and I went up for a header. Instead of getting the ball, we both knocked heads at full force. We were both down at that instant. In hindsight, I probably should have left the game. I remember my mom coming around to our side of the field, and I remember my coach said something to me that made me laugh. My mom still has to remind me what he had said; ironically, I don’t remember what it was!
Looking back over all the years of playing club soccer, I am pretty thankful that, aside from getting tendonitis in my ankle in 4th grade, that was the worst injury I sustained.
There are plenty more memories flashing through my head as I’m writing, and I wish I had a way to write them into words. They would be a lot of little stories that probably wouldn’t make much sense. I even have memories now from my Lincoln team that weren’t included in my previous post.
However, if I managed to write down every last memory, it is likely this would twice as long; this is already the longest I have written so far and I haven’t even touched on my high school team yet. But that is still to come! There is plenty here for now.