One day I hope to tell this story to my children and grandchildren. Their little feet can run in these same cleats. They will discover the same importance of balancing hard work, fun and discipline, as I once did. 

My first pair of soccer cleats, the same size as my hand today. The shoes that shaped me not just as a player, but formed my identity and made me into the person I am today. I first learned what I was capable of while wearing these cleats. I never quite got to break them in, only prance around in them around the field a handful of times. The white leather has been dulled by the rubber turf. Instead of white they take on more of a gray. Even the laces have lost their crisp look. When I untie them, I see the protected areas, the places that were never exposed to the harsh conditions. My feet had once been that size, in these shoes.

I probably had my mom tie them for me but I was a determined child and there is a story of how I didn’t leave the garage until I’d sufficiently learned how to tie and untie my laces. From a very young age I was independent and persistent. Every obstacle I came across I tackled head on, plowing forward into the next. I carry that same ferocity to overcome challenges into classrooms and interviews today. Soccer has taught me how to hone my stubbornness and use it to propel me in my chosen direction. There is something about never giving up, even when times get tough, that is ingrained in me like an instinct.

My lifestyle has been almost entirely built off of and around sports. There’s no way to cheat tying up cleats, the same way there’s no way to cheat a good grade or an interview for your dream job. These cleats are the foundation of my values in life. Yes, they may get weathered and beaten up by the punishing pace of the game, but each stud holds true. From when I was four years old, only just discovering my love for the sport, until now, playing in college and at the semi professional level – my values carry me the same way my cleats do, in and around the game but especially through. Ten minute mini games have morphed into ninety minute championship games, yet still my heart has never wavered. My passion to succeed was channeled into soccer but it remains a key part of my identity off the field.

My cleats represent a lot more to me than just soccer. For me, they encompass what it means to earn something. To put in the hard work towards your goals and surpass the possible and venture a little ways past, into the impossible. For me, they are the very definition of the road to achieving greatness.

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