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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Forging bonds through a beautiful game

For+Graczyk%2C+a+proud+Chiccopeean%2C+soccer+was+a+passion+from+a+young+age
For Graczyk, a proud Chiccopeean, soccer was a passion from a young age

I was six years old the first time my coach let me play center forward in a game. I passed the ball to the girl on my right, she passed it back to me, and I went to kick it to the corner of the field as we had been taught. I kicked the ball fast and high and directly into the face of the girl in front of me. Her nose bled through the first half, and that was the last time I played as a forward. 
I started playing soccer when I was four years old, like other suburban kids—there really isn’t much else to do. My dad, Ron, coached my older brothers’ basketball and soccer teams, whose practices I attended since my mom worked the second shift at our local post office. I loved going to those practices and I told my dad I wanted to play soccer after he had let me scrimmage with my brother’s team.
I played the first two years on a team that lost nearly every game before my dad took over coaching. He had played every sport from football, baseball, hockey, basketball, and even handball, but never soccer. He had only started learning about soccer so he could coach my brother, but says it was easy to pick up because “really, any sport is just defense and scoring.” He explains, “In [nearly] every sport, you have to protect your own goal and get control of the ball [or puck], and then maintain that control on the other side of the field.” 
Within the first year of coaching my team, we finally began to win games. My dad remembers a mother of one of my teammates being ecstatic because we had managed to win four games that season. He was the only one who wasn’t impressed by this, and pushed our team to continue improving. The two of us had the same mindset that there was no point in playing soccer if you weren’t trying to win every single game, and that’s what we ended up doing.
As the years went on, the players who lost interest in soccer quit, and by the time I was eleven I was playing with the same team of girls every season. Having a strong bond between my team helped me grow as an individual, which was something my dad noticed. “Being on a team made you more outgoing and positive,” he said. ”It gave you more confidence.”
I would agree that I was my most confident while on a soccer field. I was a defender my whole life, with the occasional switch to mid-field and striker here and there. Despite his obviously biased opinion, my dad insists that I was always one of his best defenders. “You were the best at passing. You gave passes that could easily be controlled, instead of just dumping the ball at the opposite end of the field.”
From all my years of playing soccer, I learned that to play well and win, your team has to have a strong bond and the same level of motivation. My last two years of playing before high school, our team was undefeated in our division. Those were my favorite seasons not only because we won every game, but also because we were all having fun together and everyone tried their hardest to not let the team down.
Unfortunately, some of my teammates and I lost our love of playing after joining our high school team. We made it through sophomore year before we gave up soccer for part time jobs after school instead. It was tough to give up the game because of how embedded it was into my life and my routine, but it lost its fun and ultimately its purpose. 
My long-time friend and former teammate Jacky agrees, adding, “Once high school soccer began everything changed. Instead of being united as a team, we were divided as each player tried to be the best, to make it higher in the rankings.” Jacky, me, and two of my other teammates, Megan and Alex,  took up coaching a girl’s 9-10 year-old team our junior year of high school. That was the only season I coached because none of us had realized how much work you have to put into the team. I had a lot more sympathy for my dad after the season ended, since he had put up with all of our attitudes and whining for several years.
Now I am a sophomore here at UMass Boston majoring in English with an interest in creative writing. Soccer was a constant in my life, but so were reading and writing, which I’ve now been able to put more of a focus on. Despite how I grew up, I don’t consider myself to be athletic. I’ll still occasionally go for runs to clear my head, which was the best part of playing soccer for me.   
I made some of my closest friends playing soccer, who to this day still call my dad “Coach Ron.” We still go out to kick a ball when we can, and I still watch as many matches as I can because I don’t think I could ever completely give it up. I’ll never forget the rowdy parents cheering from the sidelines, the falls resulting in broken bones, the adrenaline you feel while running onto the field, how it feels to win a game. A lot of parents sign their kids up to play soccer just to get them out of the house, but being a part of a team can teach you so much and help you grow.