From a young age, I’ve been taught to always say thank you. I probably say thank you too much. I say thank you when someone holds the door for me; I whisper thank you with a hand gesture while I’m driving if someone let’s me do something after I miss a turn or whatever (whatever I am not the greatest driver). I say thank you when someone hands me a water bottle at practice or when I get treatment from the trainers.
It’s easy in the moment. Someone is doing something for me and I show my appreciation the best I can with the little time I have.
So now I have this big gift I’ve received recently. I had the opportunity to step on the field for the Washington Spirit for the first time (ever) and to play in an actual game for the first time in over a year.
Last Saturday night, I stood at half field, anxious to get on. I was trying my best to take it all in, but it was nearly impossible when so much was going through my mind. The only thoughts I clearly remember are:
“Wow, the ball hasn’t gone out of bounds for like three minutes.”
Finally when it was my time to step on the field, it felt like I stepped into a battlefield with my little tiny gun. The rest of my teammates had these big bazookas and I had my little water gun. They were spouting off orders and going into tackles; they were dripping sweat and playing through aches and pains. I had to get on their level and quick.
I started giving instructions to other players and that helped me settle in a little more. It was only three minutes, but I remember almost every second of it. I tried to nutmeg a player; I kind of went in for a tackle, I completed a pass; and remembered where I had to be on set plays. It was a good start.
It was amazing. It was a feeling I’ll never forget.
Those three minutes were a gift I have received as a result of a lot of things I had to do myself, but also a lot of things people have done for me in the past year. There is no way I could have gotten to that point alone. So I have a lot of thank yous to say because aside from my excitement (I haven’t really stopped talking about it yet) I just feel incredibly thankful. Here goes:
My family. They never want me to stop playing. I can’t ask for much more than that from them. They laughed when I told them I played for three minutes because to them, it’s good, but it’s not good enough. They were with me during the worst parts of rehab. My mom and grandma especially, call me every single day of the year to see how I’m doing. My brother hardly left my side during my surgeries. Unfortunate for him, but he made sure I was okay all the time.
My friends and current and former teammates were just incredible. I would text them randomly to ask a question about my knee and they never missed a beat getting back to me. They were always there for me. I was amazed at how many people came up big over the past year. And this year during preseason my teammates were on another level. They did more than they'll ever know for me. Now they have to get nutmegged as a result. Suckers.
The Washington Spirit and Mark Parsons. They didn’t give up on me. And I am going to try like hell to repay them for that. I’ll never forget that.
Physically I couldn’t have depended on just one person to get me through this process. It took an impressive team of people.
My surgeon who made my scar so beautiful, Dr. John D. Kelley of Connecticut Orthopaedic. The first time I met him and he told me I had definitely torn my ACL, I was obviously upset and when he saw me start to cry, he gave me a huge hug. That’s when I knew he would be doing my surgery.
And then people who put in a ton of hours for me. Thank you guys.
The team at Star Physical Therapy
Chris Gorres and Explosive Performance
Mark Kang and Randy Rocha at Metro Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
Ranfone Training Systems
The support from all the people I don’t know personally was the icing on the cake. The messages and packages and notes and just the fact that people never stopped supporting me. With Twitter and Facebook and all that good stuff, I felt love constantly. And especially Saturday night. I was blown away. The Spirit Squadron.. you guys made me blush. Thank you.
I know I touched on my grandma a bit, but she had a big role to play this year. When I tore my ACL, she knew how devastated I was. In fact, she didn’t want to tell me that she had been diagnosed with cancer because she didn’t want me to feel any more grief, which says all you need to know about her.
She kicked cancer’s ass and after my game Saturday night she said, “Tiff, I never thought I would see you play again.” I was coming back for her as much as for me.
So for all the people who have been there for me and helped me get back to this point in my career where I can play soccer again, my thank you is from a lot of people, not just me.
I love playing more than anything in this world. This past year has reinforced that. I always said I didn’t need soccer taken away to appreciate it more, but since it has, I do appreciate it more. I appreciate a lot of things more, like walking down stairs and people who come back from injuries. This has all made me a better person and I hope I can help others through their process.
At the end of the day, I want to play for as long as I’m physically able. Whether it’s in a game in front of thousands of fans or with my four-year-old cousin in the driveway, it’s always the same game. It always makes me happy and it always will.
I’ll always fight to have it. And now I know, I’ll never have to fight alone.
Thank you again to everyone.