So Much Can Be Felt In A Single Picture.
By Jen Karson-Strauss
So much can be felt in a single picture. A moment. A day.
That was the case for me this weekend as my daughter, Payton, had her opening day of soccer. I started playing when I was 4 ½, and the game became a huge part of my life. It still is, honestly. My daughter was going to be the youngest on her new team. She had heard Mommy talk plenty about soccer and had been practicing passing the ball in the backyard but being on a real team was going to hit different.
There’s something to be said about the buildup of game day. Yes, even for a 2-year-old. Getting on those little, flashy cleats (courtesy of my former college soccer coach). The oversized jersey and shorts. Hair tied up high in a ponytail. The rush out the door, hoping not to forget her ball or water. The anticipation. Will she like it? What if she hates the sport her mommy loves? Oh, and I volunteered to coach, too. Would I be able to focus on my daughter while wrangling nine other kids?
After talking about this day with Payton for months, it was finally here, and regardless of how it was going to go, it was the beginning … her beginning … and I couldn’t be more excited.
As we arrived at the fields, my own soccer memories came flooding back. I recalled pulling up in a dirt parking lot. My dad paced the sideline with his camera, which never stopped recording the chaotic action. My mom, wrapped up with my little brother, coffee in hand, just happy to be there and cheer, “Power kick it, Jenny!”
Soccer is the sport I chose to spend much of my life playing. I sacrificed so much to do it at a high level. I loved it. Eventually, though, there were times when that love flickered, and playing the sport felt more like a job. There was so much pressure. But those early days? The days when you didn’t know anything other than running around and having fun with your friends? The days when the rush of being on the field was everything because you heard mom and dad proudly cheering (and even got a treat afterward from the coveted snack bar)? The days when scoring a hat trick was the norm? Those were the days.
As Payton got onto the field and admittedly was timid at first, she eventually got into it. She ran around as fast as she could. She kicked the ball every chance she got. She ran into my arms after she scored a goal. She squealed in excitement on multiple occasions, a memory that will be positively plastered in my memory for years to come.
As we left the field, accompanied by my 2-month-old son and my best friend, who I played college soccer with at Pepperdine, we looked back at the fields and were reminded of that childhood, early soccer bliss. Those were the days, we thought. And as I talked about missing the euphoric feeling of life being so simple as a young soccer player – when you didn’t have pressure or any expectations at all – I was reminded that instead of being melancholy, I actually should be full of renewed anticipation and excitement – how lucky am I that I get to experience it all again? I get to live the soccer life another time but through a different set of eyes.
Whether Payton loves soccer and continues to play for years or whether she decides it’s not the sport for her, either outcome is ok because I had today. I got to re-experience so much unbridled joy through my daughter – and honestly, it was even better than the best of my own soccer days.
These are the days.
Jen Karson-Strauss is a former Division I soccer player who spent her career playing in Southern California for Real So Cal and, later, Pepperdine University. She currently is a Director and Producer for ESPN’s documentary show E60 and is a proud mother to two — Payton (2) and Jaxson (10 weeks).