Updated: Oct 22, 2021
When self doubt is immobilizing, how do we rise above our internal voices? Football, of course!
There are lots of insanely smart people writing blogs that incorporate brilliant statements, amazing insights, and educational inspirations . I’m not that. In fact, at one point (maybe more than one point...), I became so intimidated by the incredible writing skills of those I admired, I stopped writing anything.
Then, that self doubt trickled in to my career and I began to doubt my capacity as a coach- there were so many others who had been coaching for many more years than me. I wondered, "What gives me the right to coach you?" And thus, a spiral began to tighten around my soul and I withdrew to my inner sanctuary of "me versus me".
Definitely not a healthy place.
This inner sanctuary of "me versus me" looked like an open field of lazy green grass and blue skies with puffy clouds. I could lay on my back with my arms open, stare at the sky (you know like the visions in movies where the lead character relaxes on her back in the middle of a field unaware of ticks, ants or poison ivy) and ponder life, ignoring those hidden dangers.
Me chatting with me. Unfortunately, I'm not always a good friend to myself.
How did I inspire myself to crawl out of self-pity, hopelessness, and self doubt?
Alex, my oldest son.
His first word, believe it or not, was football. Not “mom”, not “more”, not “dad” but "football". I remember wondering what kind of kid did I give birth to? How weird is this?!
(Don’t get me wrong- I love football. I love having it on my tv in the fall, listening to cheering crowds, and making bets in my head of whether the offense will pass or run. I don’t even have a favorite team- I just love the atmosphere it brings into my home.)
What is the significance of "football"?
When Alex was about 5, he was introduced to soccer. He tolerated playing it but asked me every year if he could play football.
No way was my kid going to get a concussion from another kid slamming his helmet against my perfect kid’s head (yes, I do sanely know that soccer is dangerous too. I don’t claim to always make rational decisions concerning my children.) Bless his sweet self- he just kept plugging along playing club soccer through 8th grade.
In 9th grade, he wanted to be part of the local high school's soccer team so he tried out, but didn’t make it. I’m not sure he really thought he would make it but I commended him for trying.
Next, he decided he wanted to play basketball so he tried out for the 9th grade high school basketball team. Here's the level of courage he exhibited: he had never played on a basketball team and didn’t know a soul at tryouts.
I WAS PETRIFIED FOR HIM!
What kid just throws himself out there like that? Is he gonna get teased? Taunted? Embarrassed? I kept my fears to myself and supported him as he explored. (I wasn’t perfect- I know I muttered a few statements like, “are you really sure you want to do this?” or "maybe we wait another year?") When he didn’t make the team, he just shrugged it off.
Hmm. The psychology side of me processed that response. Was he in denial? Hiding his emotions? Depressed?
But, no. He seemed pretty ok and I started to notice a common theme in this man/son/kid. In both situations, he didn’t know anyone on the team- or really anyone at the high school (he was homeschooled) but he overcame every ounce of fear and self doubt to try out for both teams.
He challenged himself in spite of overwhelming odds.
For the rest of 9th grade, he went back to playing club soccer. After playing for years in the field, out of the blue, he decided to be the team goalie. He wanted to try something new. Truth be told, he did ok. Not MLS bound, but decent.
He challenged himself.
In 10th grade, he tried out again for the high school soccer team (remember he didn’t make it in 9th grade?) and he made the team as the goalie! Dream fulfilled for my guy – now he was part of high school, for real. Real uniform, real team colors, and real team.
As a player, he was good and fair. He never cussed or cleated another kid even if they were vicious to him. I’m not gossiping about him, by the way- I suspect he would agree with me.
But he still loved football.
He watched it, read about it, quoted an amazing variety of random statistics, knew which quarterback went to which college, who won what game when and where- the knowledge he has in his head concerning football would challenge any sportscaster. It was uncanny how he remembered everything related to football. It’d be nice if math formulas worked the same way…
His sophomore year was 2019-2020 and we can thank COVID for shutting down the world.
For the 4 months of shutdown, I watched Alex focus on getting his body ready for his junior year of fall soccer. He worked out every day, started eating healthier and showed determination to be mentally ready for the upcoming soccer season. While I became exasperated by the restrictions of COVID, Alex actually embraced the time to better himself.
(Let me reflect for a moment on my 10th grade year... it was, "who’s having the weekend party?" and "how can I get there without my parents knowing?" Sorry, mom.)
As summer tryouts for soccer approached, the kids were finally freed from the confines of terrorized parents, and Alex shot back on the soccer field as a junior. He tried out again for the high school team- in shape, in a man body.
Except, this time, he didn’t make the team.
And, oh, did my mama heart weep for him. As a junior, I knew this meant he would need to review what his goals were for high school sports. After umpteen years in soccer, this career came to a screeching halt.
I knew he was disappointed but he shrugged it off like he did with basketball.
And again, I questioned why this child wasn’t either raging or a puddle of tears. Was he really ok or just stuffing everything away?
But, he challenged himself again.
This is where life comes full circle.
In August of 2020, after he didn't make the soccer team, I picked him up from hanging out with his buddies. He hopped in the car and said,
“Mama, I’m gonna play football. I’m gonna be the kicker.”
And just like that, he joined the football team as the back up kicker (#62). No experience, just raw courage.
At 10 months old, he had a dream. That first word “football” became his reality in his junior year of high school. He wears leg and shoulder pads, hangs out on a football field, has a special helmet, and is part of a team he believed was his destiny at 10 months old.
He had the tenacity to pick himself back up every time life slapped him in the face. He did it with grace, dignity and a resignation that the Lord had his back.
I want to be like that. When I get knocked down, I want to rise with the calm steadfastness he did and continue to pursue the dreams God has put on my heart.
So, I will be like him.
I’m not the spitting image of Brené Brown (I just can’t seem to figure out how someone writes a book that feels like every sentence should be highlighted), or a feisty women’s rights advocate, but I’m me. And I think that’s ok. My experiences, my knowledge, my unique history, my spunkiness, my humor, my candor, and my joy are good enough.
Fear will not immobilize me.
I don’t know how to throw a football but I do know how to listen and honor women's hearts. They will get "real" from me. True encouragement and support. I understand the dark days. I also know what it takes to get through them.
"Do not let the distance between where you are and where you want to be scare you out of simply moving forward."
(I don't know who wrote this.)
...but that is what Alex did.
As an end note, Alex suffered a major injury the beginning of his senior football season and he has only been able to play in 3 games. But he continues to show remarkable fortitude and a consistent, faithful perseverance.
Yup, he's a keeper.
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