I am coaching the Westminster Eagles junior high boys soccer team again this year, I thoroughly enjoy it. Last year, our first season ever, we played in the "intro" division and went undefeated in 6 games (two ties, but hey, we were still undefeated). This year, we got moved to the "A" division with older and more experienced teams. Our team is made up of 6th-8th graders whereas most of the other teams have only 7th and 8th graders. We're definitely the underdogs in this league.
Since day one of training camp I have been working our boys hard. I know we won't outskill most of the other teams, so we have to be in better shape. What we lack in experience and skill must be made up for with hustle and heart.
What a great group these kids are! I've never had a group willing to work this hard with no real complaints. They seem to understand the uphill battle we have, yet are willing to lay it all out on the field.
We had our first official game last Friday and won. Then, yesterday, we played a very good team and lost 2-1. I won't kid you, it was hard to swallow. We were up 1-0 with 6 minutes left. They scored 2 goals in those last minutes to win. Really, a short mental lapse is all it took to lose. Much credit goes to our opponent for capitalizing.
After the game I saw a look of disappointment in the eyes of my players. Better than that, there was some fire there. Just what they need to go to the next level. A little more fire in the belly is what the competitive spirit requires. They got a taste of losing and it don't taste so good. The players need to channel any negative emotions they have from losing in to playing sounder and smarter.
All this to say, sports provide a great practical laboratory for all aspects of life. One of the parents sent me a great quote related to this:
“Sports provide the only practical laboratory for all aspects of education in life. And since sports are so dynamic and challenging, they reveal the individual participant in his true light.” - John Brown, Basketball Hall of Fame coach
I'm not sure I'd say that sports are the only practical laboratory, but they sure are one of the best. Being part of a team and competing against other teams incorporates so many valuable lessons, especially for young disciples of Christ. You must learn submission to authority, discipline, preparation, mental toughness, selflessness, sacrifice, self-control, skills, teamwork, etc. You will face disappointments, challenges, and a whole host of emotions you'd never know any other way. Through all of this, as a coach, I can remind the young brothers how we are first and foremost Christ's representatives at all times. Such a realization-for me as coach also-is a wonderful aid in our spiritual formation and maturity. I found myself being challenged to grow even yesterday, after the ref missed two sure penalty's in the box committed against us. Seems like the Lord isn't close to being finished with me, such situations really cause me to practice self-control, etc. Praise God for opportunities to grow-sports give many of these.
We have 5 more regular season games, I'm hoping we can steal some wins, no doubt, but the end goal is much higher- it's for each boy to come to see how all aspects of their life and activity fall under the Lordship of Christ. Working hard at something like a team sport is a great way for them to honor Christ and grow in effectiveness for Him.