As I grabbed my laptop in the airport to start typing away at my first blog before catching yet another flight, my most immediate thought was to write about how busy my schedule has been this fall. Between college soccer and World Cup qualifying, being a color commentator for ESPN and FOX has kept me on the move. As I reflected on the fall, however, I was also reminded of my past season with the Boston Breakers and all that God taught me through the sport of soccer.
Even though I have been in professional soccer for over a decade, this past season was, indeed, a learning experience for me. I had the privilege of being a player-coach in the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League), which was a unique role that taught me a lot about myself.
It all started out well: scouting players and deciding who to draft, learning the ins and outs of the structure of the league, and helping with tryouts for our team. Then preseason rolled around, and while it was hard physically, I started to see that it was going to be even more difficult socially to balance being a player and coach. I found myself frequently torn between my duties as a coach and a player. I respected each player that was a part of our team during preseason — many of them were my friends. In an ideal world, I would have loved to take the field with each and every one of them.
As the season rolled along, it got even more difficult to live the double life of a player-coach because we were not winning. I do not take losing well, and with the stress of the season building, I felt like I slowly was starting to look within myself rather than looking to God for help. Even more challenging, I felt as though I was forced to compromise some of my closest friendships on the team as I balanced the pressures of being a coach and player. Negativity and frustration building in my mind, I had to find a way to stop listening to the voices inside my head that were telling me lies about who I should be or what I should do. It’s never easy to put to bed those voices when things are not going as expected. But I found that the way to block them out was to look outside myself and rely on Christ.
I am so fortunate that I am still able to play professional soccer and learn the skills it takes to coach and manage a team. Throughout my career a favorite verse of mine has been James 1:4: “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I know that I will constantly need to remind myself of this life verse so I can persevere with the help of God, no matter what comes my way. I am grateful that Jesus has a hold on me. When I doubt myself on the field after a tough game or doubt myself as a coach when it feels like my friendships are strained, I know He will always bring me back to His truth.
I hope you are encouraged by this as well that we are able to persevere when we stand firm on what we know to be true rather than being controlled by how we might feel.