This year, the Mountain East Conference has been publishing letters written by student-athletes to their sport. The letters allow the players to express in their own words how sports have shaped their lives and what it means to be a collegiate athlete.
Below is a letter from junior Maddy LaPole, a women’s soccer player at West Virginia Wesleyan College. LaPole is a former West Virginia All-State player from Musselman High School.
Since age four, you have been there for me.
As a little girl with constant energy and a competitive spirit, you gave me an opportunity to channel my passion and appetite for life onto the field. Sometimes you split time with other sports or activities, but it was in you I found one love.
At age seven, you gave me a chance to develop my skills further through travel soccer. Growing up playing with boys, it only made sense to stick with them: the guys who became brothers and best friends, who had my back when other teams made fun of the team with a girl.
Soccer, you gave me the highlights of my youth, where the school day could not go fast enough in anticipation of practice that evening and games on the weekend. You would keep me out past dark, in the cold, in the rain, even from dinner, because my life was and has been devoted to you.
Sure, there have been challenges. It was with you I lost a state championship, because of you I have cried out of frustration. You who have taken time away from my family and friends. But it is through you, soccer, that I have become the person I am today.
As a lifelong athlete, soccer is a central part of my identity. Sometimes people wonder how I stay so devoted, so committed, so passionate about a mere sport, but to me, soccer is so much more than that.
Soccer is where I have traveled, made incredible friends, and where I have learned that character and hard work speak more than words ever could. Soccer has shown me that relentless effort and ambition on the field can be transferred to other facets of my life, where I can succeed beyond the pitch. Soccer has given me relationships with individuals I would not trade for the world, especially with my dad, who coached me up until high school and remains my biggest supporter.
The feeling of taking the field with my team, scoring a goal, lacing up my cleats, celebrating and winning and bonding over this beautiful game… these are the moments that define me.
I am quickly approaching my final year with you, soccer, and it’s a difficult reality to face. While I am an individual that is more than my sport, it is within this sport I have learned and grown in more than words can convey.
Through you, I have learned the value of dedication and incessant tenacity. I have learned when to be humble and when to be overly confident bordering on cockiness. I have learned how to lose graciously, how to encourage others when they are feeling down, and how to manage my time effectively.
Most importantly, soccer, you have taught me how to love something so much that I put my entire heart and life into it, and for that, I thank you. It is with complete sincerity I can say you are one of the greatest experiences of my life, and not a day goes by where I would change my passion, journey, and personal growth through you.
Thank you for inspiring little girls like me, so many years ago.
West Virginia Wesleyan College
(#9, #3, and your #1 fan)