This past weekend was surreal. I coached my first competitive soccer game in 8 years.
Allow me to give you a little background:
Eight years ago when I lived in Salt Lake City, I was in the throes of coaching high-level competitive youth soccer. I had a successful team and I coached for the Olympic Development Program. If you are familiar with competitive youth sports, it is fast-paced and high stakes. You have to be on top of your game. If you are not, you and your team will get quickly exposed. This leads me to put immense pressure on myself.
Sadly, the pressure was too much, and coupled with problems in my personal life, it lead me down a road of destruction. The end result was a winless season that ended in disgrace, drug addiction, severed relationships with people I cared about, and letting down my players who worked so hard for so many years.
It’s a hurt that has taken years for me to forgive myself for.
Over the last seven years, I have gone on quite a journey. I have found Christ and made a commitment to follow Him. This led me to take some time away from soccer, despite some opportunities to continue coaching here in the Treasure Valley. Coaching has always been something I have been passionate about. It is also something I can confidently say I do well at. It is a true calling.
Up until last fall, I was coaching recreational soccer, which allowed me to work on other things in order to set a foundation for getting myself back on my feet.
Two years ago, I started with a group of seven-year-old girls who love to play soccer. We played recreation for the last year and a half and now we are now playing competitive soccer for Idaho Youth Soccer Association. It’s been an adjustment for me as much as it has been for them.
This past weekend was quite emotional as I stepped back into the hyper-intense world of competitive soccer–a landscape I know so well–yet I could not help that I feel so different.
I feel different because of what I learned over the last seven years: turning your life over to God is not just a religious idea, it is a reality, a real miracle that takes place. This new birth of your spirit stays with you no matter where you are in life.
I am writing this blog sitting on the sidelines after my game and taking time to reflect on what all this means. Please note that I do not have all the answers. I am still learning.
For me, I really “feel” the new life inside of me when I do practical things in accordance with my new life in Christ—something that shows His Love. I am really competitive and love to win like most people. However, that is no longer why I coach.
Coaching allows me to connect with people and love them, especially young people who need positive adult role models in their lives.
Coaching now allows me to practice humility, especially when it comes to winning and losing gracefully.
Coaching allows me to love my players for who they are and not for what they can do for me.
While I do feel different, I feel at peace getting back into competitive soccer. I feel renewed yet humble as I sit here at Simplot Sports Complex. I am back, for the first time.