By Caroline Kostecky
I slipped on my David Beckham soccer jersey, threw my hair up in a messy ponytail and quickly tied my cleats. I needed to be there right away. I wasn't late, I just already felt like I was missing it, the field, the goal, everything.
I met my friend halfway, (not even talking), we sped to the fields, we were both anxious to play. Kids all of ages were there, some younger, others older. ...
We're all different, play differently. Most of us aren’t even friends, but that’s what brings us closer.
In soccer, it doesn’t matter who’s who. We don’t care if we have pinnies or not, even goals don’t matter. Sometimes you just have to improvise because you don’t always have everything you need.
If you don’t have a goal, use two shoes as posts instead. All you need for soccer are players and a ball. The more the merrier.
Sometimes, groups of people show up, other times, very few. But that's the game; you can’t expect things to happen, you just play through it.
Here is where I belong. It's my home. The sport isn’t something I do for exercise, I play for the joy of it.
Goals are what everyone loves. Sometimes, I score a couple of goals, other times very few. But it doesn’t matter, because I'm playing, and that's the best gift. We aren’t sad when the other team scores, because it's just for fun, and here nothing else matters.
Here, it's about making mistakes, and learning to grow from them. When the younger kids get frustrated, it's our job (as the older kids) to help them, and give them pointers. I practice my skills that I’m not comfortable doing in games. I try them out here. Soccer is different. When I play I get the best feeling in my stomach, because this is where I belong and I am comfortable.
This isn’t like a game on my travel team, or a hard soccer practice, this is pick-up … where we can try out new things, and laugh and sing while we're playing. It's where all who show up have to be comfortable, or there's no point in playing.
Sometimes, we don’t have enough players, but it’s OK, because we can still play. While we play, we become closer, like a real team. We switch around players when one team is dominating so that it's fair.
This is where I can try out new things, and help others along the way as well, because this is pick-up soccer, not some physical, rough game.
It's just for fun. But it's the best, because here, on the field, is where I belong, and I can do anything.
(Caroline Kostecky is a 13-year-old who plays her pick-up soccer in Fair Haven, N.J. She also plays for New Jersey club PDA’s Arsenal.)
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