Mike kicked the soccer ball so hard that it landed in the yard six houses away. Not guilt-ridden in the least, he turned back to look at Anthony’s shocked face.

“Uh…D-dude…” Anthony stuttered.

“I’m f%$#ing done!”

With that, Mike walked away. He was done with soccer for good. There’s no future in it, he thought. I can’t be like my dad and my brother.

Opening his bedroom door, he looked at the backpack by his computer chair. It was time to hit the books. They were the only things that helped Mike discover what he wanted to do with his life.

As he started reading chapter 4 of his psychology book, he realized…This was the only subject in which he excelled. The thought of helping people with mood disorders, identity crises…that sounded appealing. Right in the middle of his thoughts, he was distracted by his father’s flaming rage.


What now?

Dragging himself to the kitchen, Mike rolled his eyes. His eight-year old neighbor’s mother scowled at him.

“Care to explain why you kicked your soccer ball into the Crains’ yard?” his father asked.

Mike shrugged. “I’m done with soccer.”

His neighbor’s mother shook her head and ran her hands down her face, trying hard not to cry.

“Your ball hit my son in the face! His mouth is bleeding! He had to get stitches!”

“You’re done with soccer?” Mike’s dad yelled, walking towards him.

The mother looked up at Mike’s father with her face twisted in disgust.

“Really? MY son was injured, and the bigger problem is that YOUR son is quitting soccer?”

“Yeah, that’s all he cares about,” Mike told her.

“You know what? You guys have issues. I can’t deal with you right now, but I’ll be back.”

The mother left, leaving Mike to defend himself.

“What’s wrong with you?! You have no respect!” he yelled.

“You’re a soccer player! My father played soccer! His father played soccer! My YOUNGEST son is playing soccer! YOU are playing soccer!”

Mike shook his head and let out a loud huff.

“I’m not a soccer player, Dad. I’ve never been good at soccer. I’ve never LIKED soccer. You know, if Mom were here, she’d back me up!”

His father slammed his hand on the table. “Well, she’s gone! She’s not coming back! So get your head out of your a%$ and do what I’m telling you to do!”

“No!” Mike protested. “I’m getting my grades back up! I’m applying for college! I’m gonna be someone! Not some p%$#& who doesn’t care about anyone else’s desires!”

“Yeah, right!” His father laughed. “You’re a failure. You’re not passing half of your classes.”

“Yeah, well…Maybe without soccer, I can change that.”

With that, he walked out the door and slammed it behind him. During his walk to the Crains’ house to apologize, he thought about what his father said.

He was right about my grades, Mike thought. I am failing almost everything. But I’m not gonna take his criticism or let him force me to pretend to be something I’m not. I’m gonna be who I’m supposed to be. That’s what my mom would have wanted.

He wiped a tear from his eye, embarrassed by shattering his masculinity. His mother fought hard to stay alive. She made Mike a fighter, too.