Throughout the season I was there to will on my team through my words and my actions and our 1996 county championship game was no different. It was a rainy day, and the turf was heavy. Our opponents were strong and had beaten us earlier in the season. The first half of the game was a battle. Players were working hard for each other, and no one was willing to give an inch. Just before halftime our opponents scored, and my teammates were downhearted. The halftime whistle blew, and we headed to the locker room. Inside I looked around and said, “What’s wrong with you guys? We still have another half to go, and we can beat these guys. Come on; this is our time to shine. We worked too hard to just give up now.” After a couple of seconds one of my teammates looked up and said, “The big fella is right. We can win this. We played them off the park, and they got a lucky goal.” I chimed in again and said, “If you believe you can do it and we will do it. Give yourselves the chance to be heroes on this day.” We went out for the second half and got a goal.
However, as I went to clear a ball from a penalty box, an opponent stamped on my foot. I knew something was wrong and crawled off the field. Our trainer looked at my foot and said that I had broken my toe. We had used all of our substitutes, so if I came off the field I would leave my team a man down. I looked at the trainer and said tape it up so that I could get out on the field to play. As I walked on the field the trainer told me that I could hurt myself even more, and I looked around and said, “I am needed on the field. If I go off, the team will lose confidence, and they could fold. I can’t let that happen. I won’t let it happen.” I continued to play in pain, and the game finished in a draw leading to extra time.
Playing through the pain, I kept going and tried to keep a brave face on for my team. All the players knew I was hurting, and they knew that I was not willing to give up on them. As we pushed on, the game finished 1-1 and we went to penalties. I was dreading having to take one so I said that I should go before the goalkeepers take theirs. Penalty after penalty went in until our opponents took their 10th penalty. Their player stepped up and hit the bar, making it 9-8 on penalties.
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