A year ago, they were valiant. Beaten, but valiant. They trudged on, in fact they ran onto the field, game after game and got their socks knocked off. But incrementally, play by play they improved; the weave of the team grew tighter and skills developed.
This was their first year together. A group of gangly, growing, eight and under boys learning to pass well and play their positions instead of chasing that black and white ball around the field like a bunch of puppies on a squirrel.
Now the scene has changed.
Tonight they were grace in motion. They’ve been winning again and again, shutout after shutout.
Passing, running, shooting, straight up the middle or a quick kick to the side to the man set up a little off center that nobody saw. The ball flies to him and bam, it’s in before the goalie really knew it was coming.
They marched back to their positions after the goal and looked like seasoned veterans of the game.
The biggest change I see is that they are comfortable with who they are and what they came to do. And that agenda has been to win…not just play well, but knock the socks off every single team that beat them last year.
They are sportsmen, in attitude and skill. They all came and tried out. They were all selected for their abilities and fit to the team. Then the coach began to shape and mold each one, and the greater group.
They are a joy to watch, a symphony of movement. They make it look effortless, but yet it is obvious that they are working hard.
Coach stands on the side, sometimes shouting till he’s hoarse, taking off his hat, raking his fingers through his hair as the tension of the play builds. He’s a study in Italian, soccer loving passion. He sees what these boys have to give, what’s been gifted into them by a greater Hand and he does the job of digging it out and shaping it into the visible talent it was meant to be.
We are grateful for the dedication of this man, the persistence he has in molding, not just on the field, but in the enthusiastic emails when there’s a win, the encouraging communications when someone is sick and missed on the field and the exhorting when he can’t be there. He coaches by email instead, pouring in the words that the boys need to hear, building up, affirming his belief in who they are and what they can do. This also is a joy to see.
These soccer playing boys have come so far. The fruit is in the scores, and in their attitudes. They have been willing to work hard all along, disappointed at losses, but never looking back, being encouraged that there is always something to learn.
I am so proud of them all.
"When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping,
carrying seeds to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him."
Psalm 126 NIV