Gaels career reaches full time

Nick Pateras tells his story of five years with the men's soccer team

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After five years, being a varsity athlete becomes such an integral part of your self-identity that it can be hard to let go.

I recall coming into training camp as a nervous, wide-eyed first-year before gradually progressing into a veteran of the soccer program. For five years we would devote 30-plus hours to soccer, not including travel time on exhausting, arduous trips to cities like Sudbury and North Bay.

Being a varsity athlete has a much deeper, emotional significance than people tend to acknowledge. Many of us have spent thousands of hours playing the sports we loved growing up and into our university years. Some do go on to play professionally, but for most, our sporting careers really culminate at university.

This is why I chose to play Queen’s Soccer for one final, fifth season. Yet by coming back for one last kick of the can I’m also now faced with the cold reality I cheerfully dismissed a year ago: assessing how football fits into my life from now on.

The five-year rollercoaster has undoubtedly enveloped my Queen’s experience. Anyone part of a tight-knit faculty or on-campus group will be able to relate to the true feeling of fraternity. I’ve always called my teammates part of my family and I genuinely feel that way.

Indeed, every teammate has been incredibly committed to the cause, prepared to make sacrifices both mental and physical. I’ve both heard of and witnessed an array of injuries, ranging from concussions to broken bones. I myself actually suffered a freak collision in my fourth-year, breaking my jaw and as a result will never boast an aligned set of teeth.

Now that the experience has concluded though, I’m filled with trepidation at what comes next.

With a full-time job on the horizon, football will be retracted from the epicentre of my world and given a buckled-up backseat spot. Realistically, the best I can hope for is joining a high-level competitive men’s team with whom to practice and play at most three times a week.

Any extra training will have to be self-directed and usually completed in isolation. Of course the stakes don’t feel as high, and frankly they aren’t. Barring the professional game, almost nothing can rival the hyper-competitive nature of university sport and so it certainly feels like somewhat of a step-down.

Sadly, I’m resigned to admit that the apex of my footballing career has come and gone and from hereon in, my relationship with the sport will be definitively more casual.

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