Hard Work Pays Off


Getting injured really sucks.


In my junior year, I was expected to be on top of my game this past soccer season, but at the beginning of the soccer season, I was injured with a calf strain that kept me out of soccer for a month. The doctor that I went to officially ruled me out for 2-4 weeks, automatically ruling me out for a month of the season.  


I was out for the first month which resulted in not playing for around six to seven games. The calf injury occurred as I went in for a tackle, landed awkwardly in the dirt, and was kicked right in the middle of my calf. All I remembered was the excruciating pain down my right calf and even to this day, I still remember how much agony I felt before I fell on the steps in order to get in my house.


Injuries are part of any sport and athletes should do their best in order to prevent them from happening during the season. But, the most aggravating disadvantage of the injury was the timing. I got hurt in the last summer workout right before the season started, so I felt that everything that I worked towards was suddenly gone because of this one injury.


I felt so disappointed and did not take my time seriously during my recovery. Rehabbing was nothing like playing an actual soccer game, and I actually started to feel myself lose pace of the game. Attending practice was actually hard for me, as I watched my teammates working to get better with every passing hour –something that I couldn’t do.


All I could do was sit there and watch as I iced my calf up against the seat of the bleacher. Games made me feel even worse as I sat out on the sideline thinking about the “what if’s” and all of the “why’s” of my life, as if asking these hypothetical questions would actually make me feel better about myself. It just seemed at the time that everything that I worked for was out the window, because I missed such a big portion of the season.


As the weeks went by, my calf started to loosen up and started to feel significantly better throughout the third week of my recovering process. I started to take rehab a bit more seriously as I forced myself to jog, jump rope, and lift throughout the course of the week. This commitment forced me to make choices in order for me to stay focused on the goal of staying healthy, even after I fully recovered from the calf injury.


Finally,, I got cleared to play as we were playing in the first round of our Vocation Technical Schools game. I was only playing for a certain amount of minutes and I came in when there were about 5 to 10 minutes left in the game as we were winning by a pretty big margin.


At the time, I played the wing, a position which requires a ton of running and endurance. However, after being out for so long without doing anything to increase my stamina, I had a hard time keeping up with the pace of the game. I played a decent game considering how long I was out for and continued to work on my stamina as the season went on.


From then on, with each game, I gained more and more playing time and improved with every practice. It felt great to be back and I started to enjoy myself. When I returned to being a regular player, I realized how lucky I was to play in every game – a previous thought that I always kept to myself.


Although I was back to playing again, I was still dissatisfied as I recorded no goals throughout the whole entire season. But at the same time, how could I have gone against the fact that I was ruled out for a month, leaving me with no practice and stamina?I got so frustrated each game that I couldn’t get a goal, but looking back, I now realize that I was a bit naive.


However, when I started to understand my role on the team, I started to accept the fact that I wasn’t on the team to score all of the goals. Of course, I took my chances, but when I was converted to play from the wing to the center defensive midfield position, I took pride in other aspects of the game. Instead of dribbling through defenders, I had to take longer shots outside of the 18-yard box. Instead of outpacing the opponents, I had to find the right pass at the right time in order to set up my teammates. I had to win every loose ball, whether that meant that I had to get a header in the air, or if I had to chase a striker down the field just to get the ball back.


The team started to create a nice winning streak as the team’s chemistry improved with every game. Towards the end of the season, we played in the Bergen County Tournament and played against the Ramsey Rams in the first round. It was our first test to play with the best in the county, but after double overtime and a penalty shootout, we lost despite enduring a game that lasted for almost two and a half hours.


You can tell that the team morale was down since we didn’t play our best soccer after that county game. However, we were faced with our next trial as were already seeded in the state tournament. At this time, I started to feel like myself again, as I got up and down the field much easier than I did before. During this time period, the only thing that we had in mind was the state’s game that was going to be held at BCA throughout the day.


I still remember the day so vividly as I had to leave class early in order to warm up for the game that was scheduled to start at around 1 o’clock. After warm ups, the game finally started against Mount Olive, the seventh seed in the tournament. It was amazing to see the support that we received throughout the day. The game was on Halloween, so students in their costumes filed into the stands that ultimately created the student section. It was quite a sight.


However, just as we were getting into the groove of the game, Mount Olive scored within the first five minutes. Giving up the first goal was tough, but we continued to play and after twenty long minutes, we got a foul in Mount Olive’s penalty box, resulting in a penalty kick. With the first real chance of the game, Dan Ryvkin, a junior midfielder, slotted a shot in the bottom left corner and tied the game at one a piece.

The goal definitely brought the crowd back in the game and continued to play a huge factor for the remainder for the first half. Baby powder was thrown in the air and the student section went wild after every tackle. It was clear that after the first goal, the game progressively got more intriguing and fun to watch.  


The second half did not disappoint as more students and faculty members crowded the bleachers. People surrounded the soccer field, and the chants from the student section proved to be the highlight for the team, as the “I Believe” chants were roaring in the background. It was amazing that even on a cold, fall day on Halloween that people were willing to support the us. It was probably the most school spirit I have ever seen from BCA.


In the second half, the Knights received a free kick just in front of the midfield line. Sam Lee, a senior defender, lobbed an excellent ball in the penalty box and found Dan Ryvkin’s head as Ryvkin put away his second goal of the game. The goal put us up 2 to 1 and ignited the crowd once again as Mount Olive found themselves a goal down. However, with around 15 minutes left in the game, Mount Olive climbed back as they scored a shot beyond the 18-yard box to tie the game at 2 a piece.


In this point of the game, it was really difficult to get into a groove, so for a good ten minutes, I felt as if we were being toyed with as Mount Olive had the ball on our half for a good portion of the the final minutes.


But finally, we had a breakaway chance off of a throw-in as I received the ball in the middle. I saw Ryvkin making a run towards the backline and I played a ball to him, and ran to the left side, expecting a pass back for a shot. Once I let go of the ball, I immediately made my run and got the ball back. As planned, I hit the ball with my left foot and from there, everything was in slow-motion. The ball seemed to just float into the left side of the goal, so I couldn’t really believe what I saw.


The next thing I remember was that I was bombarded by my teammates and how ecstatic the crowd got. I was so hyped and filled with adrenaline, because at that point I’m pretty sure we just won the game. There’s no feeling like scoring a goal, but scoring a goal in a game that meant so much for us, was a really special moment.


However, once we thought were done, the referees actually took away the goal. At this moment, I couldn’t believe it. All of the excitement, all of the hard work that we went through, was gone due to a decision made by a referee. Apparently, there was a foul once the ball was passed to me, so they took away the goal that would have won the game.


Instead of a goal, we were given a free kick from outside the 18 yard box. We took the free kick, but a defender from Mount Olive deflected the ball out of bounds. Even at this point, I was still shocked and stunned, so it was hard for me to focus on the game. But, Kamil Drazek, a junior defender, threw the ball in the box, and at this point, I saw my opportunity.


The ball came in so high and far that the Mount Olive goalie punched the ball out to the edge of the box, which happened to be where I was. I jumped to the bouncing ball in the 18 yard box, and hit the ball low and hard into the goal. The ball seemingly went in slowly, but this time, I knew that I got the goal.


The “second goal” that I had felt so much sweeter than the first shot that I took, as I knew for sure that no one was going to take away the goal. That moment for sure was so bizarre, because at one moment we were going insane, realized that the goal didn’t count, got disappointed, and then scored again, bringing the crowd and the team alive again. Words can’t describe the feeling that I felt as I sensed revenge by scoring again. The one and only goal that I scored this past season ended up stealing the win as we won by the score of 3-2.


That one game and the morale of the type of season that I had shows that hard work and persistence will never let you down. I couldn’t even play in the first month of the season, but working hard to get back at full strength was such an important lesson that I had to go through. Although it was difficult, as I couldn’t produce as much as I wanted to for the team, I feel that this season taught me so much about myself. Working for what I wanted to achieve was definitely the most challenging part, and although it took me a couple tries, the reward for persistence is always worth it.