When I say I preferred to work alone, I don’t mean it in a selfish way.
Growing up, I was always quiet and struggled with opening up and making new friends. While so many other kids my age hung out together during their free time, I buried myself in school assignments and unnecessary extra credit work; academic achievement was the only friend I needed.
One of the only activities I did outside of school to have fun was playing soccer. I’ve been playing soccer since as early as kindergarten, so the sport has seamlessly been woven into my life from the beginning. At the time, I didn’t exactly feel passionate about the sport — soccer was just a normal activity that I didn’t mind incorporating into my daily routine.
Earlier this school year, I decided to play soccer for Berkeley High. I didn’t expect to bond with my new teammates on the school team, since I’d never put making friends as one of my top priorities. All I focused on initially was returning to my club season as a more skilled and confident player.
However, the more I was around my school teammates at practice, the more I started to open up. We began gathering together everyday after school as soon as the end of school bell rang– developing after school traditions like walking to K’s Coffeehouse for bagels, bundling together on the bleachers to watch JV soccer games, or on cold rainy days, going to our “secret” hangout/study zone by the stairs in M1. As we accompanied each other with bagels, laughs, and wacky 0.5 pictures, I grew from calling my teammates friends to calling each of them my family.
This tight bond translated to our performance on the field — we not only had an impressive win rate, but most importantly, we consistently played well and gave full effort, all while having fun. Anytime one of us was feeling down, there were nineteen players left on the team to lift that one player up. This support system that we built led us to collectively develop the understanding that the success of our team lay in the hands of each and every one of us.
With each game, I gained confidence and experimented with skill moves that I’d never executed before. Even when I failed, I received oohs and ahhs from my teammates both on and off the bench, and that support elevated my confidence. This immense passion and love for the sport I’d been playing all my life grew tremendously because I was surrounded by such an amazing team.
Through playing soccer at BHS, I’ve learned to work hard without sacrificing my relationships with peers. While I still strongly value my academics, I’ve finally begun to realize that prioritizing my academic achievements won’t bring me happiness without having friends by my side. Additionally, when I take the time to bond with others, we not only have fun, but we also reach success.
In the end, I returned to my club season as not just a more skilled and confident player, but also a better learner, supporter, leader, and person towards others and myself.