“I kicked the ball up the field for my friend, John. He received it. Then, a player on the other team came running, slammed right into me, and everything turned dark. “
I kicked the ball up the field for my friend, John. He received it. Then, a player on the other team came running, slammed right into me, and everything turned dark. When I woke up, everything was fuzzy, and I could see figures and sounds. Finally I could see, and I had a cast on my leg.
I said, “What happened?”
My mom said, “You were hit really hard. You broke your leg, and you got a serious concussion. You can’t play soccer for the rest of the year.”
“But, Mom, I am going to be behind on everything! I am going to lose my skill!”
“I am sorry, honey, but you are in a cast, and the doctor said that you can not play. Your coach and team know, and they are very disappointed.”
“The best thing to do is stay healthy and fit to make your recovery easier,” said the doctor.
One year later, things went fine. I mostly stayed at home because I had a wheelchair, and I did not get out much. I turned eleven. One day, my mom went out to get the mail when one of the envelopes had my name on it. Usually, I do not get mail. I wheeled over to my desk, grabbed my envelope opener, and opened it. It was a letter from the Red Bull Academy team.
It read, Congrats Tanner! You made the team! Practices will be on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Blah blah blah blah blah signature.
I rolled over, with excitement, to my mom and screamed, “I made the Red Bull team!”
That night dinner felt good, and I slept well. The next day, I actually got out of the cast. It felt good to not be on crutches or sitting down in a wheelchair. I got to exercising. I made a chart with different kinds of exercises for the whole week. For example, on Monday, I would be doing six inches of leg lifts for five minutes, then lunges and pushups, then planks. After that, high knees and, finally, butt kicks. I also did a lot of other exercises.
I ate healthy too. For breakfast, I would have three scrambled eggs, some fruit, and an orange juice. For lunch, some chicken, salad, and water. Finally, for dinner, some fish, salad, and vegetables. And for dessert, a big glass of milk. With all the exercise and healthy food, I was ready in a week and a half. In that time, I worked harder than I ever thought I would. Man, I broke a sweat.
That night, my mom walked into my room with a concerned expression.
“I’m worried that it is too early to start playing soccer again,” she said. “You got your cast off a week and a half ago.”
“But, Mom, I really worked hard for that spot. Remember the tryout? It was before I broke my leg. I was playing soccer for hours each day in our backyard, working on juggling, shooting, passing against the wood fence, and receiving. I worked really hard for this spot on the team. I cannot pass up this opportunity!”
The next day was my first practice. I met the coaches at the field. They were very nice. They were named Coach Ryan and Coach Nick. Right when I got there, I could hear a lot of kids screaming for the ball and talking to their coaches. During practice, I was a little rusty. Playing at home, there is no one watching and you could be yourself. At practice, you have a defense, and coaches are watching you. But overall, practice was great. I guess my mom was right.
In the locker room after practice, I thought it was time to tell the coaches I was in a cast.
I said, “Coach Nick? Coach Ryan? Come here.”
“Yeah, what’s up?” Coach Ryan asked.
“I have something to say,” I said. “I broke my leg last season, and I got my cast off a week and a half ago. I just want to tell you because I may not be playing as well as I was at tryouts last year.”
Coach Nick said, “Oh yeah, man. I will tell you what drills are too intense for you, and which are fine to do. I broke my leg once as a kid, and I know how you feel.”
Then, I saw my mom’s car, and we went home. That night, I read my book and wondered how my first game was going to go. Was I going to score two or three goals?
“Knock knock. Lights out,” Mom said.
The next day was free because I did not have practice. I slept in till 10:30am because I was tired from practice. When I walked downstairs, my dad was making eggs, and my mom was on her phone.
She said, “Great news, Tanner. Your first game is on Saturday, and Coach says you will be starting.”
I started to jump for joy, “Yes! I can’t wait till Saturday!”
After that whole scene, I had my breakfast: eggs with some fruit and milk. Then, I went with my dad to the park and ripped shots on him to practice for Saturday. Because I play center, attacking mid, I have to take shots from far away, so I practiced that then penalty kicks. After that, free kicks. Then it started to get late, so we went home.
For dinner, I had tilapia, vegetables, and water. That night, I read and fell asleep quickly. The next morning, I woke and had breakfast, which was the same thing I always have.
At practice, I went over to coach. He had another kid with him.
I asked, “Who is that?”
Coach said, “He is competing for your spot.”
Then everything paused in my mind, and everything turned dark. My soccer career was going well until this kid came into my life. Now, I had competition.
I put out my hand and said, “Hi, my name is Tanner. Yours?”
“Hi, I am Tommy.”
“May the best man win,” I said.
Then Tommy walked away.
Coach Ryan said, “I love a little competition.”
I just rolled my eyes. In practice that day, I watched Tommy. He just moved here from Florida. He was a very talented soccer player. Righty, it seemed like very strong foot. Let’s just put this down: I did not stalk him. I just watched him when he was not looking. As for me, I played very well. I think we were neck and neck.
After practice, I asked Coach Nick, “Who is going to start on Saturday?”
He said, “Tommy will. You will hop in not long after.”
I paused again, and my heart fell into pieces. I was really mad. My face started to turn red, but I remained calm.
Honk honk! That was my mom.
“Bye, Coach Nick,” I said, ran over to the car, and hopped in.
I told my mom and dad all about Tommy at dinner. They did not seem that happy either. I didn’t sleep well.
On Saturday, I got to the field. It was a new turf field in Sonville. It was nice and smooth. I saw the coaches.
They said at the same time, “Ready for the big game?”
I said, “I am ready. I am pumped.”
Coach Nick said, “Good.”
Before the game, practice was good. We warmed up for an hour, working on passing, shooting, and receiving. We did each for fifteen minutes, then stretched for another fifteen minutes. After that, we got in our uniforms. They were red, with RDS and three stars above it. My number was 24, and the name Caldwell was on the back because my name is Tanner Caldwell. The team we were playing was called Springtown Lions. They didn’t sound that good.
I was on the bench the start of the game. I was on the first seat because I was going to be the first sub. We started with the ball, and our striker, Pedro, passed it back to Tommy, who made a great pass to Pedro, who made a straight run upfield.
“A volley goal, RDS!” the announcer screamed.
After that goal, I had to get into my mode. The only thing I was listening for was, “Tanner, you’re up.”
That happened at halftime in the locker room.
Coach Nick said, “Tanner, you’re up for Tommy.”
I nodded my head. T’was time to prove myself, that I can play at this high of a level. I jogged onto the field. Everyone was cheering.
Springtown had the ball first. They passed it back. I sprinted, tackled the ball and hit a scissor, juked out one, juked out two, long curved shot right into the pocket corner. We scored!
I did my signature celebration, which is a roundoff then a backflip. My heart was racing. Everything was smooth sailing for that half until the ninetieth minute. Everyone in the crowd was jumping for joy and smiling because we were winning 6-2.
I made a pass to Pedro when a big player came in, studded up, and slide-tackled me. I slammed my head on the ground. Everything went gloomy. I stopped moving. The crowd was dead silent.
I could only hear my mom shriek and run onto the field. My heart got slower. I could hear a ringing noise and my heartbeat. My mom told me that the medics came in an ambulance. They carried me off the field on a yellow stretcher. They loaded me up, and drove off the field. When I finally woke up, I was in the hospital room, the numbers 334 staring from a wall. I could see my mom.
I asked, “What happened to me?”
“Honey, you broke your leg again and got a serious concussion. That game right there just ended your soccer career. I told you to not go out onto that field, and what did you do? Go out onto the field. Just admit that you were not ready.”
“You were right. I was not ready.”
That day was the worst day ever.
Ten years later, and I am now a soccer announcer. If I couldn’t not play soccer, I wanted to do something in soccer. So now, I am an announcer. I had been telling my story of my soccer life back when I was young, and it had touched a lot of lives. That is what made me famous. It also inspired people to play soccer.
Right now, I am at the FIFA World Cup in Madrid. Between the rivals, USA and Mexico, I cheered for USA! USA! USA! Alright, I got to go to work.
I slide my headphones on, roll over to the announcer booth, and see a little kid there. He looks about 10 years old. He has a cast on his left leg, and he is in a wheelchair.
“Hi, how are you?” I asked.
“Good. I just want to say that you inspired me to feel happy when I broke my leg. I was not happy at all, but when I heard your story. It helped me. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I know how you feel. I had a broken leg, and I kept pushing through. So that means never give up.”
Then he starts to roll away in his wheelchair.
We start in five, four, three, two, one.
“Hi, my name is Tanner Caldwell, and I bring to you the 2027 World Cup! Brought to you by Fox.”