It is a mild, March afternoon as I sat in my last class of the day. My English teacher quieted us down, preparing us for an announcement. “Yesterday, Patrick, a member of our school, was killed in a skiing accident,” she said. My stomach churned as if it had just been pulverized by an enemies’ fist, and even the simplest of words escaped my suddenly dry mouth. I walked out the room feeling nothingness.
“You don’t work hard for praise and adoration; you work hard because that’s who you are.” These words were spoken by Patrick weeks before his passing to his troubled sister of whom he was close to. Patrick was not only a friend to me, but also a teammate. In remembrance of him, our soccer team installed a boulder inside our stadium bearing his words. Because of the boulder, our season motto for the year: “Rock Solid.” To be “Rock Solid”, you have to work hard at everything. You have to play for the man next you. You have to fall down eight times and get up nine. And that’s exactly what Patrick did.
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All my life, I have been a born center-midfielder. I receive passes from the defense and send them to the forwards. I am the messenger. The communicator. The playmaker. Bearing the red captains band on my left arm, I know it is my job to achieve wins.
The game is tied at one, and the air is so still, each leaf changes colors as autumn takes its turn. I pass left. I pass right. I do a move around a defender that took me weeks to perfect. I squeeze the ball between another two defenders up to my forward, not believing in my own ability to make the pass. With a quick turn and hit, my forward scores the game-winning goal, and the thundering crowd reacts.
I sprint over and congratulate my forward. As the fans talk about the miraculous goal, no one knows what I did to set him up for the score. But I know. The assist: the most underrated play in soccer. And in life. Everyone remembers who scored the goal, the touchdown, or the basket, but no one ever remembers the assist. But without my hard work, my determination, my patience, my control, and my pass, we don’t win. But that is why I love what I do. “I don’t work hard for praise and adoration; I work hard because that’s who I am.”
Soccer is a simple game. The objective is to get the ball in the opposing team’s goal. But how I get it there is beautiful. My goal in life is to be successful and make something of myself. How I achieve that goal is what defines me. So as I walk on to the field before every game, I touch the rock, say hello to Patrick, and know he is gritting his teeth for our win.