Monday, October 31, 2011

Part 2: Soccer never ends ... and I give thanks

Actually, that previous blog post didn't start out as a defense of the large amount of time we are devoting to Joel's soccer.  I had another intention, which is the point of this post.

We are on the "soccer in college" journey.  Joel would very, very, very, very much like to play soccer in college.  And so, the search is on to find the right school that is interested in him that is also a good fit for him, academically, socially, geographically, spiritually.

It isn't easy and it's time consuming.  It's also exciting and a matter that we are committed to bathing in prayer.

This past week, Joel had a major decision to make that affects the way he will be spending his time in the coming months.  It was a hard decision.  Coty wasn't here to talk with him about it and we wanted Coty's input.  He was a standout college athlete in track and cross-country (10,000 m., #2 all-time) back in the day, and had an experiential perspective that we wanted to hear on the looming decision.  Thank goodness for email.  We forwarded messages back and forth and this morning, Coty sent us a lengthy email with some words of counsel.  I share them with you, because on this Monday, the day of the week I often add to my endless list of thanks, I am incredibly thankful for the wise words of a far away Daddy:
"We clearly must strive for excellence in Christlikeness, in general and in particular in the roles we occupy: son, employee, friend, and (later) husband and father. Striving for excellence in a secondary area – like running or soccer – can glorify God if we pursue it with the rightattitude, keeping His glory central, and showing that our success in this area is a parable of our striving after Him. Furthermore, such a pursuit of excellence can teach us and others valuable lessons about the pursuit of excellence in the mandatory areas, particularly when we are young.There is great value in making a decision to pursue a goal, and then refusing to drift along with the crowd but saying no to many other activities in order to attain the goal. Outside our family, you can see the present impact of a past devotion to athletics in the way that MrStout is approaching his fight with cancer.
But striving for excellence in these secondary areas comes at a cost. It means saying no to many other possible uses of your time, including time spent with friends and time spent on other forms of physical activity. With the exception of the minuscule number of professional athletes, itcomes at a financial cost: spending money to participate and making less money than you otherwise would because of the time you devote to the sport. And while the lessons learned from such striving can be valuable, there may be other lessons from other ways of spending time that would be yet more valuable.
What would striving for excellence in soccer look like? I don't know exactly, but let me describe what striving for excellence in running looked like for me:
No other sports during the competitive season that had the slightest possibility of harming my performances. I remember as captain of the track team at Davidson berating another runner who twisted his ankle playing basketball and was thus unable to participate in a meet. I was incredulous that any supposedly serious athlete would let down his teammates in thatway.
Dropping my interest in other sports. When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I was an avid fan of football, basketball and baseball. Once I began to take running seriously in high school, I had to cut out more and more of the time I spent following those sports. Once I went to college I followed Davidson basketball but basically otherwise quit devoting time to following those sports.
Cutting out all watching of TV. Again, this progressed over time: cutting back while in HS after I started running and then, at Davidson, never watching.
Being very selective about non-academic, non-running activities. I did participate in cultural events, parties, dating (for which you should be thankful - my note: Coty and I met his senior year in college, when he was a very serious, successful and gaunt college runner), and selected service organizations. But I had to budget time carefully to achieve both academic and athletic goals, and I did much less of these types of activities than if I had been just a casual runner in college.
If you have a child who is making a similar decision, perhaps these words will be helpful.  Striving for excellence in any pursuit comes with a cost.  We are carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully counting it with Joel right now.  Coty ended his letter with these words:
"I love and am proud of you. Should you decide to pursue excellence in soccer I will get considerable joy out of being among your biggest fans. But I will also get great joy out of your becoming what God intends you to be if you strive for excellence elsewhere."
As we set out on this new soccer journey, I am thankful today for:

2091.   The man who walks with us every step of the way, who never ever sits down on the sidelines when a game is going on, who can retell every one of his son's outstanding plays, who delights in every one of his son's athletic accomplishments, but who knows that soccer is not life.  Colossians 3:1-4



Anonymous said...

Wow. Two comments in the same day:-). The soccer coach at Davidson is longtime friend. My first son played soccer at George Mason. My third is wrestling with a decision right now: University or Virginia, Duke, Wake Forest, UNC or Maryland. He spent last year in residency in Bradenton, Florida as a member of the United States U17 national team. It was a huge leap of faith. One thing that grew that year (and there were many things) was his faith. He was very involved with campus ministry there and we are forever indebted to the team chaplain. There have been so many, many times I have considered the cost--and this has all come at great cost. But as we wrap up those college visits and I have seen the opportunities spread out before him, I have to admit I could never imagine how richly he'd be rewarded for his commitment.

Kristi said...

Wow...I cannot wait to read this with Harvey & Trey. Thank you for sharing, and to Coty also!