A big part of who I am has been developed through my experiences with soccer.
I started playing the sport at the age of seven and continued until I finished high school, ten years later. I was lucky enough to have my dad, Pat, as my coach for nine of those years and I learned so much from him. He was exceptional because he wasn’t just a coach; he was also a mentor and an example. He impacted so many people by being steady, fun, and caring. All of his players looked up to him and I am so privileged to have him as my dad.
My tenth year of soccer started out as any other, but for the first time I had a new coach and he was different than my dad. He was mean, uncaring, and treated his players harshly. I remember he would pick on me and on another girl during practices by making us do an example in front of the team, say that we were doing it completely wrong and then ask us if we were stupid.
During games, I mostly just sat on the bench. When I actually got to play, it was only ever for a few minutes because anything I did that wasn’t perfect would result in me getting screamed at and then subbed off. Nothing was more humiliating to me than walking off the field after such a short shift just so I could sit on the sidelines for the rest of the game. Soccer had gone from something that I enjoyed and looked forward to to an activity that I found unbearable.
When talking it over with my dad, I told him that I wanted to quit. I did not want to go to a game or practice with this guy ever again. He expressed that I should finish something that I had started. He knew it would be tough but he encouraged me to be persistent. Even though I didn’t want to, we decided that I would continue until the end of the year.
Unfortunately for me, our season that year continued through July as opposed to ending mercifully in April, as we were selected to go to Provincials. By the time it was over, I was full of hatred and anger towards the coach and so relieved to be done.
I never really knew until that year that you could be scarred and broken by just one person. I grew up a confident, self-assured girl and this bullying severely affected my confidence and self-worth. Then at some point while reflecting, I realized that if girls can be so negatively impacted by one coach, it was possible to positively impact them to the same extent, like my dad did.
I decided that I was going to coach girls’ soccer myself, with a focus on building the girls up. I signed up to coach 7 year olds and spent two days a week during my Grade 12 year coaching the “Jalapeños.”
Using L’il Ol’ Me
Later on, while reading the Bible, I stumbled across Romans 5 and verses 3 and 4 immediately became my favourite passage. Paul says, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Reading this over helped me realize that even though my experience was bad, I persevered through it thanks to my dad, building character and a reliance on God.
The hope and optimism came quickly once I realized that God could use lil’ ol’ me just by having fun with young girls while playing soccer. God helped me to see what my real passion is, which it turns out is not actually playing soccer, but coaching it and having the opportunity to bless girls in a way that I did not experience that year.
Build and Believe
Fast forward a few years, and I now coach soccer at the secondary campus of ACS. Ever since I started the program four years ago, there have been over 30 girls try out for the team. Most of them have never even played soccer before. This year on our team, we have 7 international students, 14 Grade 9s, and a number of girls who are not involved in any other extracurricular activities. These players have the chance to learn not just how to pass, shoot, or head the ball, but also learn to be tough and determined, to be a good sport, to build relationships, and most importantly, to believe in themselves.
Soccer brought me a lot of hurt when I was in Grade 11. But because of that I learned how to persevere, have character, and put my hope in the Lord. It took a few years and a lot of praying to be able to forgive that mean coach, but today, I am able to look back on my experience and know that it was worth it.
After all, “no pain, no gain!”