Every team has one they might just be referred to, as something different like the hitting dummies, the scrubs, or the term that is actually used is walk-on. I prefer poo squad because it’s the term my father and I used when talking about the people I played along side all four years of my career (including myself).
My personal journey as a walk-on is one with many peaks and valleys. There were times where all I wanted to do was quit and there were times where I achieved things I never thought I could.
Before I tell you about my life as a walk-on, let me explain to you the type of player I am. I’m a team player. I would never think I deserve to start over someone who is obviously better than me. No matter what though, I will out work any person who steps on the field. My weakness as a player was my fitness. I hated running and it showed when I had to run fitness tests. If people described me as a player it would be aggressive, a b***h to play against, yet a smart player. So let me continue.
My freshman year was a learning experience. I knew I was not going to play or travel so I found myself competing against myself on the weekends to see how many bottles of vodka I could finish. Along with copious amounts of alcohol, the freshman fifteen was about as real as the foot-long hotdog I ate at every home football game. At the end of the season, I was threatened (and rightfully so) by coaches to lose weight and pass both fitness tests or I would be kicked off the team. But everyone knows it has to get worse before it gets better.
That summer I busted my ass doing two-a-days for two months. I lost 20 pounds and managed to pass my fitness test while I was running at home. When I reported for preseason, I had to run the test in front of my coaches. One coach specifically stood on the line and just yelled at me, trying to motivate me to pass. But I fell short. I walked off the track devastated. I knew my athletic career was over. I grieved through the day just dreading the moment they called me into the office to send my ass out the door. And I waited and waited. But it never happened. Next thing I knew was I was traveling and even playing a few minutes. The lesson I learned my sophomore year was hard work pays off; even when you fail, you might end up somewhere better than you expected.
After my sophomore year I was awarded for my effort. I was now deemed a scholarship player.
I had a former player, one I respected a lot, tell me that no matter how much money I ended up getting, I would always be considered a walk on. I didn’t believe it and I wasn’t going to let it happen to me. I was determined to make an impact my junior year. But my walk-on label stuck. I didn’t play one minute in the first couple of games, where I thought I could have helped my team. Finally, I got my chance. We had injured players and the coach had no option but to start me. I hadn’t played a full game in 2 years, but I played the game of my life against North Texas. From there on, I started other conference games, helped lead my team to the conference championship game and the NCAA tournament. At the end of the year, my coaches honored me with the Bob Conor Award. It is the award for the hardest working player on the team and for once I felt like I had finally made my impact on my team.
Senior year had arrived. I was ready to finally be that player they could always depend on. I stayed on campus all summer working out relentlessly and passed my fitness test for the first time. You would’ve thought our team won the NCAA tournament for how big of a deal it was. Preseason rolled around and I was kicking ass and taking names. Our first couple games I would play and it was everything I wanted it to be. The injury bug struck our team though, taking four of our starters off the field. We struggled and I was forced to play against Arizona (90 minutes in the hundred-degree weather) with five other non-starters. Our team took a turn for the worst, going 0-5 and I was forced to the bench.
It pissed me off because I worked hard to be on that field. I should’ve had other opportunities, but I didn’t. It was because I was a walk-on. The coach puts so much money and time into their 100% scholarship players that in the end they have to trust their instinct that those players are going to get the job done. I get that.
But there’s something a lot of other people don’t see. What it takes to be a walk-on. We have to take constant crap from the team and coaches constantly, to be treated like you’re just a body to go against. To bust your buns for no real reward and at the end of the day, the only thing you have to show for it is the small sentence you get to put on your resume. The importance is the life lessons I’ve learned from this experience and what I have to offer after soccer (which quite honestly a lot of other athletes don’t).
I have more pride for the person I am and the person I want to become. I might be a poo but I sure as hell run that poo team and everyone knows it. I have no problem being king shit because at the end of the day I’m that terd that just kept floating back to the top regardless of how many times they tried to flush me out.