This season has been really difficult for me so far. After breaking my neck last year, it took me a while to get back into the swing of things. But by the end of last season I felt like I was finally hitting good form again. This offseason I continued to push myself, working extremely hard in the gym and on the field. I felt stronger and more confident than I had in a long time. This was the first pre-season I’ve had when I felt really strong and powerful, but my work didn’t seem to be rewarded by my coaches when it came to playing time and starting games.
My whole career at FC Dallas has been very inconsistent. One season I’ll start about 10 games and then play another 10, the next season I’ll start almost every game, then the next I’m in and out again. This is my fifth year on the team and it’s still the same story. These seasons have proved to be a time of real testing for me and my wife in regards to our faith in God’s plan.
On top of that, this past season we were looking at being traded to a West Coast team, closer to our families. Both my wife and I being from that area, we have a desire to go back at some point, but right now God’s keeping us here. With this season being so challenging in Dallas, we’re continuing to pursue that possibility. While the questions and unknowns are stressful, we are learning to wait on the Lord and trust in Him.
Going into each season, I don’t necessarily have a specific goal of how many games I want to start or how many goals I want to score, but I do set goals for myself. My main goal is always to glorify God in everything I do, both on and off the field. As a team player, and as someone who represents FC Dallas everywhere I go, I want to be the best representative of my team, but most importantly, of Jesus Christ. I work as hard as I can with all God’s given me.
I’ve been really eager to grow in my sport, working really hard to progress in the areas where I may be weak. At this level of the game, we’re all really good at what we do, but there are always areas where we can improve. For instance, I have an engine. I can run all day long, going up and down the field for 90 minutes in a game, but one thing I’m not so good at is holding up the ball. I’m not great at holding my opponents back while controlling the ball. This year, I’ve been coming into each practice focusing on these aspects of the game, asking myself how I can use each day to get better. In the past, I’ve been more focused on just getting through practice, blending in, or making my strengths stand out on the team. This year, I’m concentrating on embracing my weaknesses, becoming more aware of what those are so I can improve my game. It may not look pretty at the time, but I know it will make me a stronger competitor in the long run.
This year I’ve experienced a great deal of suffering. Not physical suffering, but emotional suffering. It’s been hard. For the past two months I’ve been doing an in-depth study of 1 Peter. Someone once told me their favorite way to really know Scripture is to read one book 30 times in a row, meditating on its truths. As I do this with the book of 1 Peter, I see Peter addressing exiled Christians who are dealing with intense suffering, not physical suffering, but the emotional kind. Often in America we talk about the fact that we really don’t experience suffering the way they do in third world countries, or as they might have back in Biblical times, but here we see even in Biblical times some people didn’t struggle with physical needs as much as emotional and spiritual ones. These struggles are just as real and just as painful. This book doesn’t discredit the fact that we experience suffering, even if it’s a different kind, here in America.
Peter tells these people that as Christ-followers, we will be persecuted. But as we walk through trials, we can have an intense joy found in the promises of Jesus Christ. This seems to some to be somewhat paradoxical, doesn’t it? The Bible is actually full of paradoxes! What seems crazy to the world is the truth of the Bible. For instance, in 1 Peter 5:6 he says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” Society tells us that if we want to be powerful, successful or happy, we need to work hard and put ourselves first. But God’s Word tells us to do just the opposite and He will lift us up in His time.
In professional athletics, you get paid to impress. Walking into this season with the goal of showcasing my weaknesses in order to become stronger was really hard to do. But I’m glad to do it because I think the Lord is pleased with that sort of humility. I want to walk in such a way that is always pleasing to the Lord. As I trust in His process, I know I’ll become stronger both in my faith and as an athlete.
— Ryan Hollingshead, FC Dallas midfielder/defender
The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit TheIncrease.com for more stories and videos.