In my attempt to serve my church, I volunteered to coach a boy’s soccer team with the Upward Soccer Program. With the help of a friend, we get to coach five boys under the age of 8 about the game of soccer and also about Christ and how Jesus would volley a shot under the crossbar with both power and grace… if He were a soccer player. My team, the Eagles is comprised of very impressive boys but not because of their athletic talents or their deft one touch skills but because they embody what the beautiful game should look like.
The purpose of the league is to teach the children the game of soccer but more ultimately, teach them about Christ. Half way through every practice, I lead the team through a devotional with the purpose of building their understanding of Jesus and His work on the cross. It is also a league where children get to learn a game without the pressure of winning and losing and void of a screaming coach or parent. We don’t keep score or standings. We just let the children play the game and encourage them for their efforts.
My friend and I also try our best to teach them good sportsmanship. Given their young ages, they are prone to run into each other and knock one another to the ground, so our emphasis has been to put the safety of a fallen player before everything else. The result of that was actually quite amusing as last Saturday was our first game. On several occasions, my boys would forget that the ball is in play to stop and help pick up an opposing player. It was a very proud and touching sight as we felt that we’ve taught our boys well. The problem with it is that play keeps going and it has resulted in several “free” goals for our opponents.
My natural instinct as a coach and biased fan was to cringe but it was a very revealing moment to me and where my priorities were. For a few seconds, my heart was more concerned with conceding a goal rather than celebrating my boys’ impeccable display of sportsmanship. In a league where score isn’t even kept, why did I care if the opposition scored? I’m very blessed to be able to interact with these boys and have them remind me of what the real important things are.
On an amusing note, there was one incidence during the game that I couldn’t stop laughing about. One of my boys had the ball and was streaking towards the opponents goal alone. He had gotten close enough to the goal to take a shot, so there were a few of us encouraging him to do so but a defender had caught up with him, tripped and fell in the path my boy. What was his response to the scenario? He stopped the ball, reached down with both arms to pick up the fallen player, picked him up then proceeded to take a bending shot on goal (which he missed by centimeters)! I couldn’t stop laughing for the rest of game over it.