Soccer isn’t the right sport for everyone. It’s heavily team-based, which doesn’t appeal to some athletes. It involves using your feet a lot more than your hands, something many of my friends would cringe at the thought of. But I wish I could lace everyone up in my cleats, just for a moment​,​ and let them feel the joy and relief that I felt last weekend when I finally put the ball in the net for the first time this season.

Last spring I was a force of nature on the field: I notched a hat trick—three goals in one game—and numerous other goals, and tied a teammate for varsity top scorer. I played fun, scrappy, happy-go-lucky soccer, popping in crosses and assisting my teammates whenever I could, relying on my size and stamina to make things happen on the field.

This year I am stronger and speedier, made powerful by months of weightlifting and physical therapy. I am much more intense, and it shows in the way I scream for the ball whenever I see an opportunity, in the way I am the first to complete our burpees and hill sprints even if I have to stumble off to find my inhaler afterwards. It shows in the three clinical touches I took to bury the ball in the goal on Saturday: one to control it out of the air, one to evade a defender, and one to send it skidding past the keeper from 20 yards away. I didn’t even wait to watch the ball go in. I knew it would. I had already turned around and started jogging back to the center of the field, hiding a smile, hungry for another. ♦