More than a Soccer Team…

I never thought I would manage a team, let alone a soccer team. Soccer never was on my heart until seven years ago, where I helped organize a team for intramurals. Sometimes, it seems like an obsession. That I have some personal motive that results in me choosing to be with the team rather than serving in ministry, hanging out with people, or something of the sort.

In running this teams, I’ve managed to experience a number of injuries. The worse of them were ones to my head. Three minor concussions and numerous hits to the head. A chronic injury to my dominant foot and my hamstring. Yet, I’ve been driven to keep continuing to play, manage and lead a team. Even at the risk of my own health, I’ve still been driven to continue doing this. But why?

Every so often, I think “Why am I doing this in the first place? What’s the point?” I could be risking further injuries. I know that any one severe hit could change me forever. I could be doing something completely different. Having to deal with the complications of managing a squad can be difficult too. Ensuring enough playing time goes around, finding a chemistry among 16 different players, and creating an strategy and tactic that fits everyone’s style of play. It seems like this overwhelming burden, doesn’t it?

Then I’ve looked back on the number of people that have come and gone on this team in the past three years. I’ve looked at all the relationships that have formed over these past years. I’ve seen people who never knew each other become best friends. I’ve seen photos of teammates going on hiking trips and out to the beach. I’ve seen strangers before joining this team to becoming bridesmaids for the bride-to-be at their weddings.

The team does have a focus on winning, teamwork, and playing a beautiful game. Every single person that’s been on this team have had that same desire and goal (minus a specific crazy Eastern European keeper). However, the team was more than just that. It’s been about creating those relationships. I’ve seen a lot of them blossom through this team. And while a lot of them might not be on the team now, I know that those bonds are still there. It’s been a joy to see all of the friendships created these past few years. That’s been what I’ve hoped and loved to see as I managed and lead these players that have come and go.

So in the end, it’s worth it. To me, anyway. Sometimes, that struggle is there. Things might not be going so well, but to create that opportunity and place for those relationships to be created and built outweighs the losses or sacrifices made in its place.

It’s not the score lines that are remembered, but rather the memories and friendships that were created.

Quitting soccer…

A few weeks ago, I suffered my third concussion in the span of a year while playing soccer. A week before that, I landed on my head rather clumsy on a bad challenge and was dealing with a lot of headaches. The fact that I had taken two head injuries over a week span left me made me thinking long and hard about my health and well-being.

It’s the things that we love so dear sometimes that we have a hard time letting go of. Sometimes, it’s a loved one. Or it could be it’s an item we’ve treasured for so long. For me, soccer was one of those things I had loved a lot.

It wasn’t for the glory of playing the game, nor was it for bragging rights or even to work towards becoming the best. It was the fact that I learned about a game that isn’t about one person. Or two… Or even three. It was a collective whole that made it work. It was about building the trust between everyone on the team in order to succeed and progress.

But more importantly, it was about the relationships that I had built through playing the sport. Whether it was IMA teams, Shamrock leagues, or Co-Rec teams, I built a lot of friendships there. That’s what really crushed my spirit when I had to make this decision. I could still watch games from the sidelines, but it wouldn’t be the same as it is on the field. The difference in the relationships between player to spectator versus player to player is huge. The other thing was it wasn’t with just men, but women as well. It gave me a bit better understanding and more respect for women in the game. I cherish all my relationships with those on the teams I play with though.

How long am I quitting for? That seems to be the question everyone is asking. Some are saying that I should just take a break and come back. However, I already know the answer. It is for good. During that weekend, I considered all the pros and cons about a possible return. While I have control over my own actions, that only half of it. It’s about the opposing player that I can’t control. It wasn’t worth that risk of taking another injury from another place that could result in me suffering serious brain damage or disabling motor skills. To have to deal with that as well as my friends and family suffering the consequences due to it wasn’t something I was willing to make them go through. Being unable to serve, my family, my friends, the community and the world would be extremely difficult as well and I didn’t want to do that either.

While it’s sad for me to have to quit playing the game, I know it doesn’t mean that I am leaving everything behind and moving on to something else. I will still try to be involved somehow. It could be coming to games to support or it could be helping with managing teams. I don’t know, but I will still be around.

Though this door has started to shut itself, I know that there will be another one that will open up for me. It’s the way life and God works with all of us.

Reality Check…

The past year has been frustrating to say the least. There have been some bright spots, but for the most part, it had taken its toll on me. I’ve tried to maintain a positive attitude despite the problems that have risen and the events that affected me. The three concussions in the past year forcing me to quit a game I’ve loved to play for the past few years… all the job rejections that I’ve had to deal with… the relationships that I’ve cherished so much have started to fade away… my mental health slowly deteriorating due to my head injuries… my inability to work out my relationship with one of my best friends… and much more.

Over the past couple of weeks, these things started to overwhelm me. And in doing so, emotions started to flare a bit more. I started to get a lot more upset and more apathetic about things. My mind kept thinking “Screw going to church and the retreat. This job hunt is pointless. My degree was just a waste of thousands of dollars. There’s no point in staying in Seattle anymore.” I just surrounded myself with negativity and tried to verify my current situation with blame and anger. While I didn’t show it in public, I was constantly fuming. Negativity just swarmed my thoughts frequently. I started returning back to my old ways, becoming ticked off at life and isolating myself from everyone else whenever possible.

Then I was reminded of how selfish I started to become again…

Thoughts flooded my mind of the current state of the world and all the tragedies that have been occurring over the past few weeks: The hundred thousand people in Myanmar that have lost their lives, and the many more that have lost their homes, loved ones, and much more due to the cyclone. The ten thousand that died due to the earthquake in China in the past few days. It wasn’t just that, but other events as well: The genocides in Darfur, the HIV virus epidemic, the war in Iraq, and the struggles going on in Israel, the homeless that are across the US. So many of these events came up and forced me to think about my life right now… and how fortunate I should feel.

I’d become unthankful despite what God’s provided for me throughout my life. He provided me a place where I can live, a family that loves me for who I am despite my downfalls and struggles, a great group of friends that care about me and help me get back on my feet when I fall, two great roommates and a best friend that listen, give me advice and help me through the tough times. And ultimately the love that He alone provides me through the best of times and the worst of times. I had forgotten everything He’s done for me that it left me feeling broken and asking His forgiveness for what I had done. The fact of the matter is I could have be somewhere else in this world right now, struggling and suffering much, much more. What I have to deal with is nothing compared to what many in this world have to deal with.

All that I can do is be thankful for how good of a life that I’ve been given. For me to wallow in such self-centered thoughts and be frustrated about my future was not the kind of person that He asked me to be. It’s to use my resources and gifts that I have to provide to those that are in need for this world. And to be thankful for how amazing a situation I am in right now. God gave me a reality check and a swift kick in the… Well, you can pretty much finish this sentence. It’s what I needed to realize how good I have it right now.