More By Me

The Exception to Being Exceptional

via Daily Prompt: Exceptional

I want to tell you a story of a girl I once knew. She was exceptional is many aspects of her life yet she struggled somewhat with something inside herself. She played soccer at my local high school.  Her name was Lacy.  She had a smile about her that could warm a room.  She wasn’t popular in the traditional sense of ‘popular girls,’ but she had a presence about her that everyone loved and even some hated.  She was exceptional on the soccer field too.  She was captain on the school team but was also captain on her club team as well.  She seemed to love being out on the field.  As I watched her practice, I could see the natural talent she had for the sport. You could tell how focused and dedicated she was by the way she carried herself on the field.  But something changed everything about the charismatic soccer player.

It was fourth game of her senior season.  A warm breeze whipped through the spring evening air.  The game had just started, about 16 minutes into the game. The crowd seemed cheerful and the girls’ seemed focused.  They were playing a rival team but weren’t worried.  This rival team was not a threat to this year’s team.  For the last few years, our girls had beaten this team each time they faced each other. Our girls played with such trust with each other that it was like they were telepathically speaking to each other.  Lacy had the ball, running it down the field. Anna came up on the right side.  A fast defender came at Lacy.  Lacy whipped by the first defender before another approached. Realizing Anna was open, Lacy slid-tackled a pass to Anna, a typical move Lacy was fairly good at in crunch situations on the field.  Lacy and the 2nd defender collided and Anna received the ball. I will never know how Lacy does that move to this day but that’s what makes her such a extraordinary midfielder. But suddenly there was a shrill that chilled the stadium.  Lacy was still down on the field.  Anna kicked the ball out of bounds and Lacy screams out in pain.  We all know now it is Lacy who is in pain and it might be too serious.  Lacy was a rough player but even when she went down, she was always able to get back up.  She was tough and that is what the team liked about her. She could take a hit but she was also good at giving them too.

Silence fell over the crowd.  The coaches ran out onto the field to check on Lacy.  You could hear Lacy screaming at the defender she just collided with.  Lacy began to stand up but fell violently back to the ground and screamed again in pain.  Oh no! She broke something.  You could tell the rest of her team realized it too.  This was her senior year and she had soccer scholarship offers to accept. If something is broken, will the offers still be on the table? What is she going to do? Maybe it’s not broken…maybe it is just a serious sprang but she can still play in a few weeks…

Then the sound of ambulance in the distance, came closer. It is something serious. The ambulance came right up on the field, right beside where Lacy was lying on the ground.  They took her away to the hospital.  The game went on. You could see how disturbed the team was for the rest of the game.  They just weren’t used to seeing their captain hurt like that. Lacy always got up after any collision on  the field she had.  The team won the game but they all left the field quickly.  They wanted to see how their teammate was doing.

It turns out Lacy had broken her tibia. Snapped it in half during that collision.  She was now wondering the halls in crutches.  She has gotten a hot pink cast the started at her toes and ended at her upper thigh.  With a smile, she said she wanted to be seen from a great distance with the cast on.  She would be out for at least 3 months in a cast.  I could see the disappointment in Lacy’s face every time I saw her in the halls.  She still went to practices after school. I even saw her on the field, kicking the ball with her left foot while using her crutches to balance herself.  She laughed and said it was a good time to strengthen her left foot.

She had injured her right leg so she wasn’t able to drive herself but you could see that her independence she once had now lost, was slowly eating away at her soul.  I began to see less and less of Lacy at social conventions that she used to participate in regularly.  I even began to notice Lacy’s smile she once wore everyday slowly turned to a blank stare.  I could tell she missed being on the field.  The team did include her as best they could but it wasn’t the same. Lacy just wanted to be able to stand on two legs and kick a soccer ball, with two legs.  The next few weeks, Lacy struggled with herself and her temporarily handicap.

Four weeks later, Lacy was able to get the huge hot pink cast off.  Good news, but a smaller cast was put on.  It was like a boot. She told everyone she picked the new color of Carolina Blue because that was the college she hoped to go play soccer for. It was improvement.  It meant that Lacy was healing fast. She was no longer confined to the crutches.  But oddly enough, I could not see the excitement in Lacy. I hoped she had not given up.  It was only a couple of months of rest but soccer was Lacy’s whole life.  Her name and the word soccer where always in the same sentence. So I cant imagine what she was feeling but I definitely hope she isn’t feeling defeat.  She has so much to look forward to and she has her whole future ahead of her.

Senior night was tonight.  Lacy was still in a cast.  It was the small one but she still couldn’t play. There is always a ceremony before the game.  Each senior is escorted by their sweetheart or family member, if they are currently single.  Lacy was clearly feeling bummed that she could not play her senior night.  Her teammates wanted to cheer her up and decided that they would walk her across the field during the ceremony. Twenty two girls walked their best friend and teammate across the field where they bond every weekend.  I could tell that made Lacy happy, even if was just for a moment.  After the ceremony, it was time to start the game.  The team had one more surprise for Lacy.  They had arranged a way for her to kickoff the game. The referee and opposing team had agreed to allow it. For those who don’t know what a kickoff is; Once signaled from the referee, a player kicks the ball from center field. All players must remain on their team’s half of the field during the kickoff. No one can enter the 10 yard radius circle surrounding the center mark, which is exactly the center of the field. The ball is in play as soon as the player’s foot touches it. It doesn’t have to go any particular distance but the ball must go forward. Once kicked or tapped forward, another player on the kicking team can touch it. The player who kicks off cannot touch the ball again until another player, either same team or opposing, has touched it. Thus kicking off the game. The team wanted Lacy to kickoff her senior game.  She got to kick the ball to Brooke, one of her best friends, to start the game. Brooke kicked the ball out of bounds allowing Lacy to be able to hobble of the field. Lacy was in tears, but joyful tears. Brooke hugged her and went back onto the field.  They won the game and played excellent for senior night.  Lacy stayed on the sidelines cheering on her team.  Lacy loved her teammates so much and missed being able to be a part of them. But tonight, her team got to show her that she is still just as important to them even if she isn’t currently on the active roster.

Lacy wore the small cast for 4 weeks before being released from the doctor.  Finally, Lacy was free from her cast.  She came late to practice that day.  When she got out of the car, it looked like she still had a cast on.  Her leg was that pale in comparison to the rest of her leg.  She had lost some of her muscle in calve but with a little work, she would regain it.  She ran down to the field and I held my breath as she came down that giant hill that separated the field and parking lot.  I could tell she was ready to get back to playing.  Her teammates crowded her and practice had came to a brief halt.  It was good to see her back on the field.  Even Lacy seemed to be beaming.

So Lacy finished her senior year cast free.  She also had accepted a full scholarship to college.  Her new coach knew about her injury and is willing to work with her over the summer.  Lacy is kind of hesitant about her slid tackling move but I think she will get over her fear quick.  She is a strong individual and her will power is remarkable.  She graduated in 2001 as an exceptional soccer player.  She had a rough senior year but she made it through it.

There is an exception to this story. Fast forward 16 years. This exceptional soccer player is now blogging about women’s health and fitness. I did go to college and played soccer. I had the best time of my life and made some unforgettable memories along the way. When I broke my leg, I thought my life was ending at that moment. But I never completely gave up. Always believe in yourself and never give up. Life does not make exceptions but you can be the exception to being exceptional.

Dedicated to my soccer team. Love you guys



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