Throughout my four years at the University of Connecticut, I knew what kind of player I was. I was a high-energy player. I loved coming into tough games and working my butt off for my team. There was never a play I didn’t run after, a ball I didn’t chase down or a player I let go by without a fight.
Coming into my senior year this year, I was excited to help lead my team and pursue a championship to end my soccer career on a high note. This was a team I was proud to be a part of and that I knew could go far.
A month before the season began, I tore my ACL and meniscus for the second time and needed two surgeries and a transplant just to get back on my feet. Besides the fact that it is a grueling and painful surgery that no athlete ever wants to go through, it was my senior year and a guarantee that I would miss the upcoming season.
I struggled with team wins, and even more with losses. I struggled with the idea of not being able to step onto the field with my team and fight for every shot, every goal and every win. I couldn’t even run in conditioning sessions or work in the weight room. I didn’t know how not to work my hardest alongside my teammates.
I couldn’t be a part of my teams’ efforts in winning a game, I had no impact. And maybe I could have made an impact in a game we lost, if only I could play. It took me a while to realize the impact I could have, and eventually would have this season.
After the first few games, I realized I was still that same player who brings energy to the field, but it would need to be energy in a different form. It wasn’t my physical energy; it was my spiritual, and emotional energy that came in the form of yelling, cheering (heckling) and supporting from the bench.
I now pride myself on being the loudest person on the bench, and although I might just be the girl that never shuts up to those looking in, I know it’s helping to uplift our team when we’re stuck in a rut. I want to be able to put in work for this team, so it comes in other forms; I upload the data from our heart rate monitors, I pick up water cups from the ground. I pick up cones and shag balls.
The transition from player to support player has been the hardest adjustment of my life, and knowing I won’t be able to play with the greatest team I’ve ever been a part of has taken a lot of mental toughness to get through, but knowing I can still help my team makes all the difference to me.
Anything to give back to the sport, team and collegiate program that gave me so much over the past four years.
Alexa Casimiro is a student athlete and member of the Huskies’ women’s soccer team