18 years, five teams, six coaches, 11 trophies, the best teammates a girl could ask for, countless bruises and scrapes later, and I still remember my first goal like it was yesterday. I was 5 years old when I was first asked to play on a soccer team. It was a sunny day after a Brownie’s meeting and my best friend came up to me and asked, “Want to play on my soccer team?” At 5 years old, I knew this girl was very different than me. I was shy, timid, sweet and unsure of my athletic ability. She was loud, proud, and got what she wanted. I knew the second the question left her lips that it was a lost cause as I was going to be on the team because that is what she wanted. Eighteen years later, and I am glad she asked and basically forced me to accept. The United States is the only country in the world that uses the word “soccer” when talking about the sport of soccer. The country’s love or lack there of, for the beautiful game, never held back my own. The first day I stepped out on that 15 x 25 field, I was hooked and have been playing ever since.
Thankfully, throughout the years my skill level has increased tremendously (at least in my right foot) and some would even describe me as “talented”. However, that was not the case when I first started. Our team was the Ice Pirates, a team name I still don’t understand. Our coach was my best friend’s mom and I was the smallest girl out of the field. Luckily, I had the coach in my back pocket, she was like my second mom and she believed that my shy demeanor was just phase. She taught me the beauty of aggression, even when it was illegal. Running down the field together she showed me how to secretly tug on the other girl’s jersey in order to slow her down and get inside her head. Competitiveness came naturally to me, the skill did not.
On my best day, best leg, and with all the umpf my slim body had, I could maybe kick the ball a foot in front of me. A very unfortunate ability given the strategy of a 5 year old soccer team; everyone go to the ball like a swarm of bees. Youth soccer is more like a live version of a pinball game rather than a well-thought out, almost poetic game of soccer. I was not good, and worst of all, everyone knew it. I would try my hardest each and everyday but did not add much stock to my team; my team, who were actually very good. For the first four years together, we went undefeated, a fact I am still very proud of! I however, did not contribute to most of that record. It was not until the mid-second season, that the smallest Ice Pirate with the longest hair (a braid down the middle of my back, a characteristic I am still recognized for, “oh, you’re the girl that had the really long hair?!”) got her first goal, a day I will never forget.
I generally played “defense”. I use the term loosely, because again, there really aren’t any positions in youth soccer. It was a summer day in central Ohio, when my coach called me over during a game where we were winning 7 to 1. “Hilary, I’m moving you up front. Just stay up by their goal and I’m not letting you out until you get a goal. You can do it!” I had my mission, and although I was shy, I was not one who liked to disappoint. I was ready to get my first goal. I ran around like crazy, getting a foot on every ball I could, but still no luck. During halftime, my coach made the announcement to the team, “we are getting Hilary a goal today”. My team, my protectors, my friends, my sisters, they were behind me 100%. The entire second half was the Hilary Waugh show. Not a concept I was super comfortable with, but I had the belief of my coach and teammates and I wasn’t going to let them down. Every chance they got, the ball was kicked my direction and it wasn’t until the goalie was out of her box that I was basically able to dribble the ball right into the goal. It was the ugliest goal a person could imagine and yet it was my proudest moment. As soon as that ball crossed the line, I turned around, teeth showing, arms up, only to be greeted and congratulated by my fellow teammates! I looked over to the sidelines to find my coach yelling, clapping and jumping around for joy. “Oo, ah, Hilary” was coming from the parents, a cheer designed just for me by a friend’s dad (it was in reference to a soccer player way before my time, but I still loved to hear it). That was the best goal I ever had.
I am still a pretty shy, laid-back person and without a doubt that was the biggest celebration I have ever been apart of for one of my own goals. For the rest of my career, it’s been a shot pass the goalie, ball in the back of the net, a few high fives from my fellow teammates and a jog back to my side of the field. My lack of celebration shouldn’t be mistaken for arrogance or lack of enthusiasm, but just a girl who loves the sport of soccer ever since she was a small girl and shows it the best way she knows how; in her effort and heart she leaves out of the field every game. I’ve had a lot of goals since that the first one, but none stick in my mind as well as that one. It would have been impossible without the support and love of my best friend, my first coach, and my teammates. There is no “I’ in team, and the same goes for “goal”.