An angry 17-year-old and the world at her fingertips never lead to good things. 140 characters. That’s all it took for Ava Decker to lose her scholarship to Notre Dame, just a couple of words on twitter.
3 Weeks Earlier
The Decker family lives and breathes soccer. As soon as you step into their house, you see jerseys of all the soccer greats lining the walls. Used cleats and tattered balls from the World Cup are perched in glass containers. A short trip down the basement stairs and you would be awed by the indoor turf field. Black rubber bits lie splattered across the fake green grass. A net sits at each end of the field with hundreds of holes in the netting from the non-stop firing of balls into it.
“Dad, what are the teams for tonight’s game?” Ava asks as she scoops more peas on her plate.
“Yeah! Dad let’s keep the same teams as last night.” Trevor mutters through a mouthful of steak.
“Christina, what do you think the teams should be?” Scott asks.
“Ava and I vs. you and Trevor, a little boys vs. girls matchup.” Ava’s mom Christina then beams over at her 17-year-old daughter.
Shortly after dinner my family and I make our way down to the basement. The women are dressed in white uniforms and the men suited in navy blue. We all sit down together and start to lace up our cleats and slide on our shin guards. A family tradition is what our parents would call it. Whenever the whole family was at home together for dinner they would play a soccer match afterwards. My parents would always tell Trevor and I to just have fun and relax, but we both knew better. Our parents had been secretly keeping track of which of us had won more games, pretty amusing if you ask me. Now back to the “fun” game, it was time to start. After the first 5 minutes I was ready to “throw in the towel.” I couldn’t because that would show my parents that I wasn’t determined and I didn’t want to get to the “next level.” Finally the not-so fun, fun game finishes.
“Hey Ava, great game, you really looked like you could make the local travel team.” Trevor chirped from across the field.
“Ava, get over here now!”
Let me give you some background information on my mom before your socks are knocked off by her seriousness. My mom grew up in a family of 8. All of them played soccer before they could walk. My mom played for the same club as I do now, the Michigan Hawks. She then played 3 years at Notre Dame before tearing her Acl. After college, she tried to play pro but was never the same as she was before her injury. Even today the injury still nags her, knowing she was that close to playing professionally. She tried to coach me when I was younger, but the other parents on the team thought she was too critical and serious.
“Ava, I am disappointed with your effort. I would have rather watched wet cardboard dry than watch you tonight.”
“Sorry mom, I will try harder next time.”
“What if there is no next time? What if you got hurt and could never play again? You need to give 100% effort whenever you are on the field. No ifs, ands or buts.”
My mom had always been my biggest critic, I was done for the night I headed upstairs and took a shower. The warm water felt good down my sore back. After 2 team games today and the family game, I was beat. I changed into my favorite Mia Hamm t-shirt and a pair of flannel pants. I sat on my bed and thought to myself about how I had wanted to tell my mom that I had been accepted into Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Beach, California. There, I could continue my new dream of becoming a home decorator. But of course, my mom did not care what I had to say. No one in my family had ever really cared what I had to say or what I thought about things. It is the worst feeling in the world, only being accepted because you are a good athlete. I never had anyone to talk to if I was sad. No one even asked me if I wanted to attend a different school than Notre Dame. As soon as I was born it was decided that I would attend Notre Dame just like my mom and dad had. After daydreaming for a little I pulled out my phone, I clicked on the twitter icon. I started to type away rapidly; I took a picture of Coach McCarthy and compared him to a Donkey.
I woke up the next morning and felt bad about tweeting that. I quickly checked Twitter. “I’m dead.” I said to myself. I had gotten 3456 retweets and 6734 favorites. Sportscenter had even retweeted it. I slowly slumbered down to the breakfast table. I was about to tell my mom what I had done but then my dad ran in “Ava, get ready for your game now. I’ll be outside waiting.”
I quickly ran up to my room and frantically threw my jerseys, shorts, socks, shin guards and cleats into my bag.
“Ava, you know that you need to play well this morning. Coach McCarthy will be there watching.”
“I know, dad. Notre Dame is always watching me as you say.”
“That’s right. You’re going to play great today. I can tell. Just a few more months before we send you down to Notre Dame.”
As soon as I step out of the car, I feel the aroma of the turf hit my nose and the beating sun on my neck. I feel at home, but as soon as I walk over to my teammates, my bubble bursts.
“Ava, why would you say that? I heard Notre Dame is going to revoke your scholarship!”
“Yeah Ava, that was so dumb!”
“Have your parents found out yet?”
I couldn't stand the non-stop talk about what I had said. I was heated, beyond mad.
Every pass I gave in warm-ups scorched off my foot. I fired the ball into the net at rocket speed and battled until the other girls backed off.
The whistle shrieked through the air and I was off. I wasn't about to let talk affect my play. I ran my heart out, and never quit. Every loose ball was mine. Halftime was approaching and we were trailing 2-1. Claire, Heather and I were running up the field. A brick wall of 4 defenders stood in front of us. Claire passed it over to me I head faked to the left and then blew past the defender to the right. "Just 3 left I told myself, just 3 left." I quickly passed the ball to Heather. Our coach, coach Christie yelled "Get open Ava." I knew where to go. In mid-stride I cut between the 3 defenders, hoping for the "through ball." Heather chipped the ball over the out-stretched legs right into my feet. It was up to me now, 5 seconds left in the half. Green turf lay in front of me like a stranded desert.
I knew she would bite on the first move I made. I took one last long stride and pushed off as hard as I could. I was able to peek out of the corner of my eye to notice that the big clock read 4 seconds left. I gritted my teeth and planted my right foot into the ground as hard as I could. Perfect fake, the one I had done so many times. A fake shot, but the goalie didn't budge. I knew then to fire it. "All or nothing," I said to myself. I reared back my right leg. A pendulum as coach Christie would say.
2-2 all tied up. As I ran back to the bench I couldn't help but look at my dad on the sidelines. As soon as I saw his face I knew coach McCarthy had told him what I had written. I was a sickening feeling. All of a sudden didn't want to play anymore. I felt as though I was going to throw-up any second. I refocused and ran back to the bench, where my teammates started to congratulate me. The congratulations were cut short by coach Christie’s icy voice “What are you all happy about? You’re celebrating like a bunch of 5-year-olds. You are losing to a mediocre team. Now wake up and start to play like you know how to!”
“Yes coach,” we all responded in unison. I felt out of sync the rest of the game. All of my passes were either too hard or too soft. My first touch was uncontrollable and I couldn’t focus on the game.
Afterwards on the way back to the car my dad and I didn’t exchange any words. Inside the car the steady hum of the wheels soothed me.
“Dad, I didn’t mean it.” I said
“I don’t care. You lost your scholarship to Notre Dame. That was very stupid.”
“I know I’m sorry.” Inside my head I was thinking about how happy I was that I wasn’t going to be attending the University of Notre Dame. I couldn’t wait to start to fill out my course enrollment sheet for Laguna. I then checked back into reality and thought about how much trouble I was about to get into at home. I then dozed off in the front seat of the car. A much needed rest.
2 Hours Later
“Ava! You are in so much trouble I can’t even explain,” my mom exclaimed as soon as I walked in the door.
“Then why don’t you try to explain? Mom!”
My dad then chimed in, “Ava don’t give your mom attitude!”
“Whatever you say.”
“Ava, sit down and shut your mouth now!” Dad screamed at me. I then sat down at shut my mouth and listened to what they had to say.
I felt so much better after that talk with my parents. I was finally able to explain to them that I didn’t want to play college soccer and that I wanted to be an interior designer. My parents listened to me but never agreed with me, they reluctantly let me to pursue my dreams.