The words hit me like a sledgehammer.
Just minutes after my Webster University men’s soccer team fell 3-1 to Dominican University (Ill.) on Friday, Nov. 9, assistant coach Alex Fritts shook my hand, pulled me tight and said the following: “You had a hell of a career. You should be extremely proud.”
Hearing the word “career” in the past tense nearly brought tears to my eyes. My college career, and my 17-year soccer career, had come to an end. It was overwhelming.
The loss to Dominican, the No. 8-ranked team in the country, meant the careers of 13 Webster men’s soccer players were over. It meant a dream season that included a conference regular-season championship and a conference tournament championship had come to a close.
It meant I would never again play a more meaningful game of soccer in my life. For someone who has played soccer pretty much year-round since the age of 5, it was difficult to believe that this was my reality. The end had arrived.
Marty Todt, who completed his 25th year of coaching with the loss, said to us before the start of the Dominican contest, “At the end of the game — win or lose — if you know you left it all out on the field, you will have closure.”
I’ve heard Marty say the word “closure” hundreds of times since I joined the soccer program in 2009. He’d say it at practices. He’d say it before just about every game. More than anything, even winning, Marty wanted his seniors to feel a sense of closure after they played their last collegiate game.
I wish I could say I feel that full sense of closure. I know I left it all out on the field, and I believe my teammates did the same. But the truth is, I don’t have that feeling. And you know what? That’s OK.
I don’t feel closure because my goal was to help Marty and the men’s soccer program win an NCAA tournament game for the first time. And beyond that, I wanted to help Webster win its first-ever national championship. Ultimately, we fell short of those goals.
But instead of dwelling on the past, instead of dwelling on what could have been, the 13 seniors on this year’s team need to use that empty, heartbroken feeling — the one all athletes get after an emotional loss — to become something greater.
That’s the message Fritts had for us in the locker room after the loss to Dominican. Become a better son. Become a better friend. And someday, become a better husband and father. Use this excruciating loss — this empty feeling — as fuel to become the best that you can be.
Now that my soccer career has ended, I’m going to use the empty feeling and the lack of closure to motivate myself to be the best tennis player I can be. The tennis season is just around the corner. Never before has the Webster men’s tennis program won a conference championship. We plan on changing that this year.
But sooner than I can bear to think, the tennis season, like the soccer season, will come to a close. It’s hard to believe that four years has flown by this quickly.
I’ve been a part of many great moments, and I’ve made several lifelong friendships. For that, I am extremely proud.