Clayton Martin ran onto the field cheering for his team because they have won their last home game of the season in double overtime beating Ouachita Baptist 2-1.
But the senior team captain didn’t play. He had to sit out of the game due to receiving his fifth yellow card of the season when playing Delta State on Oct. 11.
Whenever a player gets their fifth yellow card of the season, they have to sit out the next game. Because the next three conference games are the Bulldogs’ most important yet, Martin did not want risk sitting in one of those. This meant he had a choice to make—to either sit out senior night or to hope he doesn’t get a yellow card while in conference play.
Instead of Martin playing with his team or being on the sidelines of the game, he had to sit in the stands to watch. He let out deep sighs and exasperated groans as he watched bad plays or calls happen.
“It obviously sucks sitting out,” Martin said. “Not only because I don’t get to play, but because I don’t have many games left before my career is over.”
Martin sat out of a game last season, but said it wasn’t that bad because he knew he had a complete season left to play. Now with the end coming faster than expected, every game matters as it staves off the reality that soon he and the other seniors will no longer play competitive soccer for their school.
Most athletes fear the day they can no longer play the game they love at the competitive level. This causes most athletes to do whatever is necessary to continue playing—like when we see people staying in minor league baseball too long or trying to continue playing quarterback at 40 years old.
Most people are forced out of their sport after being told they are too slow or old or that they are simply not good enough. Martin, however, has accepted that fact along with several other seniors on the team and will leave with grace.
They have learned that there is more to life than playing soccer—not that playing is bad or unimportant to them now, but priorities are changing as they get older. The fire is still there, it just manifests itself differently and the future after soccer is being thought about.
Fans heard this as seniors were recognized, and their future plans were announced—pastoral ministry, graduate school and moving on to other careers—just before playing their final home game at Union.
As Martin ran onto the field after the win, it was clear that while he knows the end is near, that doesn’t mean it can’t still be fun while he still has the time to play.