As far back as I can recall, I have been an athlete — not just an individual running around and kicking a ball, but a team-oriented athlete. In those 18-odd years, I have been a member of dozens of different teams: school teams, town teams, travel teams and club teams, each with its own mentality, attitude and make-up.

In reflecting on my time at Yale, as well as my athletic career, I’ve struggled at pinpointing what exactly it is about my Yale teams that gives them a special place in my heart.

Being at Yale also meant being away from my home and family for the first time in my life. I worried that I would not have a place of belonging, a space where people would help me grow into the adult I am in the process of becoming.

I was young and vulnerable and looking for a niche.

In Yale women’s soccer, I found not a niche, but a family.

People throw this term around when describing teams, and it’s about as corny as it gets, but I mean this in the most literal sense. In my four years as a member of YWS, my teammates cared for me, fought with and for me and were my greatest champions.

Teammates are always unique friends because of the simple realities of athletics: they don’t hesitate to hold you accountable, they push you to your max and they are endlessly supportive, however constructive, when it is necessary.

Shared adversity as well as triumph creates a uniquely tight bond.

There is something about being so simultaneously excited and exhausted because of a united effort, like coming from behind three times against Princeton to win in over 100 minutes of play. I will never forget summoning a final burst of energy to join the postgame pig-pile. Moments like those are ones that bond you forever.

Just as sisters would, my teammates have helped me get through the best and worst moments of my college experience.

When I had a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, quarantined due to strep throat, my teammates brought me soft food and Pedialyte. In the groggy moments following my knee surgery sophomore year, they sent me fruit baskets and cards. When I finished my thesis just a few weeks ago, some teammates brought me out to dinner while others baked me a cake to celebrate.

Others visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and bought me a Gryffindor T-shirt, just because they know how much I love it.

They have celebrated my achievements and lifted me through my lowest moments. They have cared for me in a way that only family members do, and I hope that I have been able to reciprocate even half of what they have given me.

With these young women I have been physically, mentally and emotionally drained, as well as jubilant. I have shared social successes as well as personal. In lieu of direct access to my family, my teammates filled that void and were responsible for maximizing my Yale experience.

I’ve always joked that the reason I only play team sports is because I am not athletic enough to stand on my own. However true this is, I think the real reason I have sought out team sports is that I crave that sense of camaraderie and family. To my teammates on Yale women’s soccer, I would like to thank you for giving me four years of support, love, and of course, fun.

SHANNON CONNEELY is a senior in Davenport College and a four-year contributor for the Yale women’s soccer team.
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