with guest blogger Izi Chinchay
Growing up, soccer was not just a sport for me— it was a way of life. I started playing at a young age and quickly fell in love with the game. However, as the years passed and I became more competitive, my passion sometimes morphed into an insatiable hunger for success. Success was synonymous with scoring goals. I remember feeling like such a failure if I didn’t score enough goals in a match. But life had other plans. Two ACL tears and a major quad tear forced me to confront the thought that I had never considered before: who was I without soccer? Each injury was a painful reminder that my identity was not solely defined by my athletic prowess. Today, I stand not only as a player who faced these challenges head-on but also as a coach who has learned the importance of nurturing well-rounded individuals. Through my own journey, I have witnessed the struggles that young athletes face, and it is crucial for parents and coaches to foster identities beyond the field.
The Devastating Detachment
When I experienced my first ACL tear, it felt like my world crumbled around me. I was pulled away from the sport that had given me joy, camaraderie, and a sense of purpose. During the recovery process, I struggled with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. My identity had become so entwined with soccer that without it, I felt like nothing. As I went through rehabilitation, I realized that I needed to find an identity beyond the confines of the soccer field.
The Road to Rediscovery
My journey of self-discovery was far from easy and it took many years (in fact I’m still in it lol) however, I truly believe it has allowed me to have a much greater impact in the world; I explored other possibilities and other interests, coaching being one of them. Slowly, I began to see that I was not just a soccer player. I was a complex individual with passions, talents, and dreams that extended beyond sports. This newfound perspective enabled me to heal not only physically but emotionally as well.
Empathy as a Coach
As a coach now, my own experiences guide my approach. I see echoes of my former self in some of the young athletes I work with: the pressure to score, the fear of failure, and the struggle to find an identity beyond being a soccer player. I empathize with them deeply because I have been in their shoes.
The Pressure to Get a Scholarship
As I got older, the pressure to secure a scholarship increased. The pursuit of higher education through soccer added another layer of stress to an already demanding and competitive environment. The pressure to perform at a high level, score goals, and impress college coaches weighed heavily on my shoulders. The fear of not being good enough to earn a scholarship gnawed at my confidence.
Encouraging Identity Beyond Sports
As mentors and coaches, it is essential to create an environment that fosters personal growth and self-discovery. While excelling on the field is vital, it pales in comparison to the importance of character. If athletes focus on being kind, respectful, hardworking, and compassionate individuals first and foremost, it will carry them further in life and give them an identity that goes beyond being just a soccer player.
Embracing the Journey
The pressure to get a scholarship can be overwhelming for young athletes. While scholarships can be beneficial and a driving force for many athletes, they should not overshadow the joy and personal growth that sports can bring. My own journey of overcoming injuries and finding my identity beyond soccer is an important reminder that setbacks are a natural part of any pursuit and actually present opportunities for growth and resilience.
As a coach, my goal is to empower young players to embrace not simply thinking of themselves as a soccer player, but as a person first and foremost. I need the support of parents to help kids see themselves as something greater than just soccer players. Together, we can guide them toward personal growth, and emphasize character development. By doing so, we nurture well-rounded individuals who think of themselves as more than athletes but also as good people. Let’s empower the next generation to shine not only in soccer but in all aspects of life.
Learn more about Izi's story and her soccer coaching services at https://push-the-goal.com/