I didn't volunteer to coach U12/U14 soccer because I love the sport. I never played in college or high school--and I'm pretty sure I was the bench warmer for the one season I played in middle school. But there's something special about sports ministry.
Through challenging practices and close-games, a team becomes a family. It's in those moments that a coach can have an impact bigger than the sport itself.
Northstar Soccer Club
Looking back over the fall and spring seasons this year, my team didn't exactly win every game. In fact, most of the time we tied or lost by a single goal. (Don't worry we had some wins too!) But, there's still just one game that stands out.
Let me set the scene.
...It was just another Saturday afternoon in mid-October, we came into the matchup feeling confident. The week before, we'd tied one of the teams from Birmingham United Soccer Association, aka BUSA, who's recognized as the premier soccer club throughout the state. This game, we were taking on BUSA's second recreation team in the league.
Playing BUSA can be a bit terrifying. They normally have 3-coaches on the sidelines, who clearly have a lot of playing and coaching experience. While on the other side of the field, I'm standing solo with a dozen anxious 12/13-year old girls hovered around me waiting for instructions.
To say the game didn't go as planned would be an understatement.
In the first half of the game, we had 3-goals scored against one of my girls--which was a bit traumatic--so we then switched goalies, which resulted in 4-more goals scored against us. That's right. 7-0 in the first half. We were making simple mistakes--passing in front of our own goal and giving the ball to opposing players on throw-ins--they were in our head.
At halftime, I was seriously contemplating making this my last season ever to coach soccer. The poor girls were so upset. And lets just say I was singing praises that our team's parents weren't running across the field to give me a lesson of my own after embarrassing their children with an entire half left to play.
Well, after a long second half, the game ended--obviously not in our favor. My players looked as if each of them had been punched in the stomach. I tried to be positive and remembered something I read earlier in the day: Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you respond to it.
Even though I knew I needed to respond positively I truly was having trouble thinking straight. I was discouraged and frustrated for my girls. And I knew a big part of the loss was my coaching. I texted my dad, who thankfully responded right away. He reminded me of the opportunity at hand.
Here goes nothing... I gathered my girls in our usual circle on the ground beside our bench. And started with the only verse that came to my mind.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of
God in Christ Jesus for you.
After J'Shell read the verse for our team... twice, we then spoke about how things don't always go the way we plan. This is where we as Christ followers are called to be different.
While most losing teams might walk off the field drenched in self-pity and disappointment, what if we were different? What if we recognized the other team's talent? What if we even complimented their performance? What if we smiled? Surely, that would make people ask, what in the world is wrong with them? Did they even pay attention to the game? Do they even care?
But we had been given the opportunity to show others that our identity is in Christ. At the end of the day, whether we win or lose He loves us and that's all that matters.
Identity was something our team talked about all season-long. Our team's mission statement was:
I am beautifully and wonderfully made. I am confident no matter what because my confidence is in Christ. Everything I do is to make Him proud.
I asked the girls to give me 3-reasons we had to be thankful for this particular game before we left. They were thankful... 1) That we played our best 2) that we got to play together 3) that we were physically able to play.
I thought it going to be like pulling teeth trying to get those answers, but we had more than enough hands raised. We left for our "post-game party" at Wendy's then all went our separate ways.
6-hours later, I checked my phone to find an email from one of my players. Hannah had asked me about the verse we had talked about. My arms immediately covered in goosebumps. I didn't think my team was listening during our discussion--and who could blame them after that loss--but apparently they were.
Earlier in the day, I had selfishly considered ending my short-lived soccer coaching career. I thought, maybe this isn't my "calling." And felt I was doing more damage than good. But, looking back on the day now, God had a plan in place. He provided a perfect opportunity to reveal to my girls--and me--what whole-hearted faith should look like.
A faith that understands what it means to be makários (blessed)--a joy that transcends circumstances.
A lot of times when life throws us curve-balls it can make us second-guess God's decisions: Does He really have my best-interest at heart? This isn't what I want!
When in reality, Romans 8:28 tells us that "for those who love God all things work together for (their) good." Sometimes, we simply need to be reminded of God's sovereignty. Before we were even born He had our entire life written out (Psalm 139:16).
Maybe, He's just using our loss for His gain.
"And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better." Hebrews 11:39-40
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute."