I was standing on a high school soccer field the other night. A storm front had just rolled past; the air had cooled in its wake. But we never saw a drop of rain. The lights over the field began to glow just as the sky opened to a sunset of oranges, pale blues, and feathered, blood-red clouds.
Our side won the match. Near the midway point of the second half, one of our strikers outran our opponent’s speedy center back to win a ball our left winger had played toward goal through a gap in their defensive line. The keeper left his line and made himself big in anticipation of a shot, but our striker cut the ball to his left and took one final touch to set up a strike into the lower left corner of the net.
By far it was the smoothest, most assured goal I’ve seen scored this season. But what made it memorable was that, for the scorer, the goal came just at the right time — at the beginning of his final season of play and at the start of what looks to be his hard-won standout season.
For three years, this young man has struggled against issues on and off the field, struggled to get noticed by other coaches and struggled to gain the respect of his teammates. This past off-season he showed renewed commitment to studying the professional game, to running for fitness, and to working on his shooting and finishing technique.
He came back this summer ready to play.
He worked hard at open fields and at training sessions. He listened to coaches and teammates who offered advice and encouragement.
He showed up.
He was present.
He put the past three years behind him and decided he would make this year his year.
As his teammates swarmed him to congratulate his effort, I shouted his name and my own encouragements from the sideline. I felt a deep sense of gratitude that I’d been allowed to witness what all had gone into his scoring of that goal. What’s more, I felt called; felt reminded that I too possessed a similar power: power to leave what might have bothered or vexed me behind and make the now into what I most wanted it to be. As a coach. A teacher. A husband. A writer.
Image credit: Abigail Keenan via Unsplash