The Wolves soccer team wrapped up their 2019-20 season last weekend with an exciting game at Northwest Christian University. The end of the season provides an opportunity to reflect on the journey of one of the young men on the field.
Cleat holes still mark the muddy field and water stands in front of the Walla Walla University bench. Dry leaves scuttle across the turf.
“My soccer journey so far has been difficult and competitive, but rewarding,” remarks Damien Dennis, junior business major and center back for the WWU Wolves soccer team. “Sometimes it is difficult to choose what path you want to take, but I’ve come farther than I ever thought I could make it, or had been told I could go.”
The turf shows signs of wear. A patch of bare earth marks the goalie’s position, the place of glorious saves and bitter defeats. The paint still lines the corner where so many young men stood, aching to find the back of the net just once more. Other paint also remains; the penalty spot, the center line, all reminders of a season past.
For Damien, beginning school at WWU had its challenges as he sought to juggle school, practices, and games. “It is stressful to be a student and an athlete, since they are both essentially full time jobs,” the center back remarked. “Being part of WWU’s beginning soccer program has been exciting though. It gives a lot of room to grow as a player, and it is cool to be able to represent the university. I want to bring a piece of my culture to this place.”
The field looks different from the angle of the WWU bench. The scoreboard looms overhead, and the field seems more personal somehow, like the staging ground of a battle.
Travel back in time to a pre-K youth league and the beginning of Damien’s soccer journey. “The first teams I played with put fire and passion in me, and the way they loved the game kind of stuck with me. They were the people who taught me how to play. Instead of the big superstars who have done it better than me, it is the people who taught me how to do it that inspire me,” he remarks.
As his elementary, middle school, and high school years passed, there were always city or school teams to join, but leading into his senior year of high school, the team didn’t make the cut and he had to take a year off. This made it much more difficult to be scouted by a college team, but he tackled the challenge, attended tryouts, and was signed by WWU.
Looking back, Damien remarks, “If I had one thing to change about my soccer journey, it would be getting to play that senior year. I wanted that year.”
While his dream after college is to find a team where he can play professionally, Damien remarks that he would also enjoy coaching or managing a team. On the field with his fellow Wolves, the center back has helped improve WWU’s record; building the program from the ground up.
Cleat marks are thick in the mud and the field is beautiful in the afternoon light—a place of memories, character development, and revelation, a legacy of teamwork and the forming of a brotherhood.
Posted Nov. 7, 2019