Through My Spectacles: The fear of falling


The key is to never let your eyes fall. Even as you anxiously move your feet into position on the line and her voice cracks the stiff air, cutting the silence. Don’t look at the goal nestled in the circle on the opposite end. Don’t follow the faded lines down field. It’ll only remind you of how far you have to go. Just run.

Stomachs always knot and bitter groans heat the cold field when she says get on the line for 110s. The thought of running up and down the field is a tiring task in and of itself, but I’ve always secretly loved sprinting. I’m not the best lacrosse player, I know that much…but I can run. When I was little, my favorite song was “I’m Like A Bird” because I loved the idea of taking flight. Feeling the wind stir beneath my arms, propelled forward by an elusive force. Running was my little taste of flying.

Last Sunday was my team’s first game of the lacrosse season against Mercyhurst, a team we had battled against a year prior on a field in Pennsylvania that had transformed into an ice rink under the weight of a blizzard. Sunday was different though—it was a surprisingly beautiful day for February. The sun welcomed us onto the field and the stands were congested with people and my shots were finding the back of the net, the sound crisp and familiar. It was going to be a good game for me, it was going to be a good season. I could feel it. In the way my nerves broke out of their cocoons, transfiguring into flutters of excitement. How my cleats cuddled the turf, knowing all the steps I had taken and all the steps I would take. In the familiar face that watched me on the jumbotron, an easy smile consuming half of her face: ready, confident.

It was supposed to be a good day.

When I went down I knew something was different. It wasn’t like my normal fall where I clumsily fumble to the ground and quickly get back up. No, this time I slowly crumpled into the turf; seeing cleats trudge past me as I curled into myself. I don’t know how it happened. All I know is, I heard three consecutive crunches, as though someone was squeezing bubble wrap inside of my knee. I held my knee so close to my chest, afraid it would disintegrate if I let go. I wanted to absorb it into my body, to use the rest of me as a shield to protect it from the pain. 

Whatever hopes I had for the season were gone, just like that.

The exhausting but rewarding midday practices and the emphatic home games and the championship in Denver, all the things I had held close were released from me. And as I felt them rising from my body I gripped at the air, trying to push them back inside me where they belonged.

I made it through a minor injury in the fall, all the run tests, and all the snowy days, just to play two minutes of my junior year. It’s funny…during the toughest practices I would look over at the bench where all of our injured players usually congregate and think about how nice it would be to sit with them, for just a second. To not have to run around the field eight more times or outrun someone for a ground ball. Now I am.

When I was carted off the field all the players’ parents were waiting at the fence to congratulate the team. They all gave me the same look: their lips poked out a little and their eyes were glazed with pity. I thought to myself, “This must be how it feels when someone in your family dies, and you have to stand in front of a room of people during calling hours.” No one died, but it felt as if something had. Whatever hopes I had for the season were gone, just like that.

Watching practice has been hard, I can’t imagine what the rest of the season will be like when all I want to do is go in. For my coaches to turn to me and say, “You ready?” I want to box out my opponent on the circle so our draw girl can get to the ball easier. I want to transfer the ball through the midfield and give it up to our attackers so they can fake high and shoot low. I want us to go to Denver knowing I played a part, even if it’s a little one, in getting us there.

But things happen, and I’d like to believe for a reason. So maybe this season wasn’t meant to happen for me and maybe this year wasn’t meant to be my year. Maybe it’s my turn to be in a new position on the team, to support my team from a different place than I’m used to. Although I may not have this season, I still have time and I still have my team and I still have dreams of Denver. I started lacrosse because I fell in love with the sport and being a part of a team, of “us.” And us still exists, whether I’m on the field or not.