“Whatever you do, work heartily for the Lord and not for men.” -Colossians 3:23
As I watched the USWNT beat the Netherlands in the 2019 FIFA World Cup today I couldn’t help to think back to my own memories of playing soccer.
I started when I was about 6 years and played until I was a senior in high school. Honestly, I cannot say I really enjoyed it. It was really hard for me. I was not blessed with natural talent, which meant whatever I did 100% came from practice and hard work.
My dad was the one who pushed me to go on with it. He said sports make you a better person and as an adult now, I am totally a believer. He told me that like me, he was not at all gifted, even slightly, in sports. He liked to play a variety of sports and he never had an upper hand. We were both short and unlucky when it came to athletics.
He told me that I would have to work harder than everyone else out there on the field to get ahead, and that even still I would struggle.
Oh boy, was he right. I struggled. I was never MVP. Ever.
Every year I won the other awards, awards that I am now so proud of: most improved player, biggest heart, hardest working player, never gives up, most coachable.
I still remember the one time when I was in middle school and I was on a competitive travel team that went all over the southern part of our state. We were pretty good and we were in a the finals of a big tournament. We lost in the last few minutes of the game, and the whole team was devastated. Me, along with everyone else, hung our heads and started to walk off the field before shaking hands with our now victorious opponents.
I will never forget my father on the sidelines yelling to me, he told me to come there right now and he said “YOU GET YOUR HEAD UP RIGHT NOW, AND RUN NOT WALK, OVER THERE AND SHAKE THE HANDS OF YOUR OPPONENTS. I DON’T CARE IF YOU WIN OR LOSE, I DON’T CARE WHAT EVERYONE ELSE DOES YOU HAVE BEEN RAISED BETTER THAN THAT.”
That was the first and last time I didn’t run over there to thank my opponents win or lose, even though sometimes I was the only one doing it.
He taught me that you RUN on and off the field at half time, water breaks, substitutions, etc even if you have to limp and it hurts. He taught me that you say YES when everyone is too lazy and says no. He taught me that you show respect for coaches and referees even when you disagree with their calls (which is funny too because I went on to be both a coach and referee).
He taught me the most important life lessons that I now take into my career and life, and have success because I know them.
I wasn’t the best natural soccer player and even with hard work, I was never amazing. I would never have the opportunity to go on and be a professional athlete. But I was always the one on my team with the most sportsmanship and the most coachable.
You don’t have to be the best. But you can have hard experiences create a better you.
Thanks, Dad, for teaching me the important stuff.