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What Soccer Taught Me About Getting an Autism Diagnosis

For over 80% of my life, I felt like I was walking alone. Not in the religious sense, but alone in that I had no one around me who understood me. Especially me before I was diagnosed with Asperger’s.

Let’s jump in the Way Back Machine (did anyone catch the “Sherman & Peabody” reference?) and look back a few years.

When I was 10 years old, soccer first came to my city, and I loved it. But I sucked at it. Sucked in a big way. How big?

My first coach told me early in the season, “I only play you half a game because I have to.”

Well, that will do wonders for a kid’s self-esteem. But I kept playing and eventually got better. Not good enough to make my high school team, but I got better.

I played club soccer and eventually got a scholarship to a tiny school with a coach who doubled as an economics teacher who took a two-week coaching course to get certified. That story is a huge train wreck for another day.

Most Saturday and Sunday mornings during football season (European football season), you can usually find me on my couch with some hot tea and a little breakfast. Why am I up so early? It’s the English Premier League (EPL), baby! With a six-hour time difference between London and Kansas City, that means early afternoon games are early morning for me.

You'll Never Walk Alone
Image provided by author.

I love all things EPL. I love the fanbase for the different clubs, I love how they support their side, and I especially love how almost 46,000 at Anfield (the home stadium of Liverpool) come together to sing throughout the game.

When I first got into the Premier League I loved Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Liverpool. The tradition and the rivalries were something not to miss.

They still aren’t.

Then one day as Liverpool was coming onto the pitch (field) I noticed the track jackets the team was wearing. Across the back in bright letters was, “YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE.”

I started researching that and found that was the official motto of the club, and, as you can see from above, it’s even on the gate as you enter the stadium.

After my autism diagnosis, I felt alone. I didn’t know anyone who was autistic. At least I didn’t know anyone willing to admit they’re autistic.

Eventually, I did meet people on the spectrum and began self-advocating for myself, and anyone else who needed a voice.

As my work grew I met more and more people, and now I know that no matter what happens in life, I have people I can count on and I know that I’ll never walk alone.

What’s it like for you? Do you feel like you’re walking alone? You’re not. Thousands of people like you are willing to walk with you and support you through your journey.

If you feel like you’re alone, look for Facebook groups, Mighty support groups, or even hit up some of the self-advocates in your niche. They’re willing to help and to make sure no one walks alone. You will find someone.

Tell us about your journey. Do you walk alone, do you walk with others? Are you struggling? Are you thriving? We want to know.

Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone.

Getty image by NiseriN.

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