As a Christ-follower in the world of professional athletics, specifically professional soccer in the MLS, I often hear people talk about my “platform.” We have all heard this before, but people are referring to the ability to impact a large number of people through the faithful witness of just one person, or a few people. It’s absolutely true that people look up to and aspire to be professional athletes, which leads to athletes being trend- and culture-setters.
While this idea of a “platform” is true, it is definitely to a much lesser extent as a professional soccer player in the U.S. And an even lesser extent playing in a smaller soccer market like Dallas, Texas. Although the sport of soccer is growing in the U.S., and the MLS specifically is growing rapidly, my influence is still much smaller than some of the other big professional sports in the U.S.
With all of that being said, I still get caught up in this idea of a platform, and the weight and responsibility on my shoulders to represent Christ well in my sport. And I have seen a few potential pitfalls in this thinking that I am learning to combat.
The platform is never more important than my family. It has been said many times before, and maybe you have heard it, but it’s worth repeating. My identity is as follows: Christian, husband, father, soccer player. As Christians, we are first and foremost that — sinners who have been transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ, and our identity is found with the knowledge that we are adopted children of God.
Second, I am a husband. I am married to one person, Taylor, and the two of us are now mysteriously and spiritually one person. And after Jesus, she is the one that my heart loves most.
Then I am a father, which is literally the outplaying of my one-flesh union with Taylor. If you want to know what two people becoming one looks like, just look at my children; they look exactly as if Taylor and I combined to be one person (except my son Huck, who looks like the mailman).
Finally, I am a soccer player, and with that profession comes a responsibility to represent Christ well to a watching world.
What I often see rising up in my own heart, though, is to reverse that order. To treat professional soccer, and the platform that comes with it, as the most important thing in my life, because of its ability to impact many more people on a larger scale. To spend more time in the community, with fans and followers, doing ministry outside of the home. And all of this to the neglect of my own family. If I feel this pull in my life, I can only imagine what it’s like for those athletes that have a much wider reach than I have.
All that to be said, the large reach of the “platform” can look sexy and enticing, but nothing is more important than the ministry taking place in my own family within the four walls of my own house.
“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” — 1 Timothy 5:8
— 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.