Losing someone close to you is one of the most devastating feelings in the world. Having dealt with this experience multiple times in life, I can speak to this firsthand.
However, there are things that can take your mind off the heartache. It will never take away the pain, but it gives you sparks of hope.
I’m talking about these vehicles to help cope with the hurt.
For me, that vehicle has been soccer.
Through the many hardships, soccer has always been there as a way for me to clear my mind.
If it wasn’t for soccer, I honestly don’t know what my life would look like right now.
My entire life, soccer allowed me to channel some of these dark emotions, and approach the next steps with a little bit more hope.
Well, most of my life, I should say.
Initially, I actually wanted to play football. But, as it turned out, I was too small.
So, in an attempt to find another sport, I tried soccer.
To be honest, nothing really drew me to the game originally, but scoring in my first-ever game piqued my interest.
I played club soccer until the age of 10, but what truly sharpened my skills was playing street soccer.
Growing up in Detroit, we’d play a lot in the alleys, parking lots, or on the streets. Street soccer is a lot more technical and less organized. It challenged me quite a bit.
But it also legitimized how much I loved playing soccer.
It was also during this time that soccer had to help with my personal life for the first time.
My father passed away when I was only 10 years old. I didn’t know him that well, and we weren’t that close, but it still had quite the impact on me as a child. No one wants to go through the loss of a parent, especially not a 10-year-old kid.
Soccer simply allowed me to shift my thoughts to something more positive. And this was the first time it really helped me through a hardship.
And three years later, life began to take another tough turn…
When I was 13, my mom decided it was best for me to live with my aunt and uncle in Detroit.
It was a very challenging time for her back then. She had nothing but my best interest in mind and simply thought this was the right move for my future.
While they were technically my aunt and uncle, I always called them grandma and grandpa. They became my guardians, and I’m so thankful for the way they welcomed me into their lives.
They’ve treated me like their very own child, and I will never forget that. It’s hard to express my gratitude in words. But I hope they know how much I value everything they’ve done for me.
Unfortunately, just two years after I moved, I was forced to deal with two more losses. Both my mom and my grandpa (uncle) passed away when I was just 15 years old.
Within a five-year span, I had lost both my parents as well as my grandpa. I was struggling during this time. If it wasn’t for my grandma and soccer, who knows how my life would have turned out.
In search of coping with the hardships, I dedicated my life to soccer. It was the one outlet that helped me power through these terrible times.
At this point, I played soccer at Detroit Western International High School. The school was part of the Detroit Public School System and had approximately 1,550 students. This community really took me under their wing and was instrumental in really defining my passion for the sport, and overcoming my early struggles.
But when it came to competition, unfortunately, we didn’t play a whole lot of other schools, so getting noticed by colleges was trickier than I thought.
Initially, I thought schools would just contact you. But when I realized that this isn’t how it works, especially when you don’t get a lot of exposure, I knew I had to be a bit more proactive.
After consulting a few sources, I ended up attending a community college in Schoolcraft, Michigan.
At first, I wasn’t overly stoked about it. I had dedicated so much time in soccer to cope with my losses; playing at a community college felt like a bit of a “step back”.
Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Schoolcraft was a life-changer, on so many levels.
In my first season, we made it all the way to the National Championship game. Going from not having much competition to playing for a national title was a huge step forward in both my personal development as well as my soccer career.
Now, coaches also began to notice me. After all, I was finally getting some exposure.
I had offers from a couple of schools, but when it came down to it, nothing could beat the opportunity to play for Oakland.
Today, I can proudly say that thanks to Schoolcraft, I fulfilled my dream of playing for a DI school.
DI soccer is a whole different beast. I couldn’t compare it to anything I’ve experienced before.
It’s so much more competitive and demanding. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it. But, it definitely took some getting used to.
Fortunately, I’m blessed to have joined a team full of caring and compassionate teammates and coaches. They all know that my soccer career as well as my personal life have been everything but easy.
Their understanding and support mean more than I can describe.
And this was especially apparent in the last couple of weeks.
Up until a few months ago, I still had my grandma to share life with. I was living with her, commuting to Oakland every day, and taking care of her.
She had beaten cancer, but the disease took a toll on her. Especially her breathing got worse and worse.
After everything she had done for me, taking care of her was the very least I could do.
But one day, I came home and found her……
It’s an image I’ll never forget. Just thinking about it makes me choke up. It’s all still so fresh to me.
She literally was my guardian.
It’s very hard to move forward some days, not going to lie.
Fortunately, my coaches, teammates, and trainers remind me of how proud they are of me and show their support. I feel that love constantly.
A former club soccer coach even lets me live with him and his wife. Soccer has united us and we continue to bond over the sport. I can’t express how grateful I am for his help.
Needless to say, soccer has always been my escape.
It’s been my coping mechanism through an unbelievably difficult journey. Through the ups and the incredibly difficult downs that have been thrown at me in life, soccer has always been there for me to express myself while doing something I love.
Perhaps, that’s why I continue to push every day, still in constant pursuit of achieving that ultimate goal – to play professionally.
I’m just thankful for the relationship I’ve had with this game. The number of hardships it’s helped me through – I can’t even put into words.
So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, soccer.
“Most people in the United States, let alone Oakland University, can fully understand and comprehend the life that Dylan Borczak has lived through, it is truly heart breaking. No one should have to go through all that this young man has endured in his young 20 year life. But by the same story, Dylan is also an amazing American success story, one that makes me proud to be a very small part of, and one that is far from being completed. There is a quote from author Susan Statham that I love that I think epitomizes Dylan, “Your life is your story. Write well. Edit often.”…..Dylan still has many more amazing chapters in the Book of Life to write and live, he has a very bright and inspiring future.”