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I wait all year for the high school soccer season. In California, we play soccer in the winter because there isn’t any snow or frigid weather to prevent us from being out on the field. It’s always a blast to be out with my friends, bonding over our love of competition.
At the beginning of our high school season last year, though, our team wasn’t looking so good. The year before we’d been the favorites to win the league, but coming into this new season, we weren’t even seen as contenders. Throughout the season, my team overcame many obstacles. However, there was still something missing. The two forwards on the team—another player and I—were playing well and creating many opportunities for other players. But we could never seem to score a goal.
Every time we missed an opportunity during a game, we would beat ourselves up about it.
At first it wasn’t too big of a deal, but as the season progressed, it began to cause serious problems on the team. Other players were upset, but we were more upset with ourselves. We both became very self-critical and self-condemning, and this distracted us from playing well. It seemed like every time we missed an opportunity during a game, we would beat ourselves up about it. This made it almost impossible to score when the next opportunity rolled around—trapping us in a cycle of self-loathing and misery.
The self-loathing continued to get worse until one day, I decided to talk to my Christian Science Sunday School teacher about it. In the past, I’d always told him how much I enjoyed soccer and playing with my friends. So when I told him I’d become very irritable on the field, he reminded me of how much I love the game. He explained that playing on that soccer field was not about my team and me trying to destroy the other team, but about both teams expressing God. My Sunday School “homework” that week was to look for all the spiritual qualities that my teammates and I expressed during our next match, and to know that God was the source of those qualities.
When the next match rolled around, nothing seemed to have changed. The team vibe was not good. Once the game started, however, I began to do what my teacher had suggested. When one player kicked the ball really far, I immediately thought about how that was an expression of God’s strength. I recognized other plays as the intelligence of Mind in action. I could perceive divine Love expressed in clear, supportive communication between players. As I did this, my whole perspective shifted—about myself, my team, and even the players on the other team. I started to feel much better when I was playing, and I noticed a shift in my teammates’ approach to the game, too.
My games became much less me-centered and much more God-centered.
Over the next few games, not only did our team have a complete change in attitude, but we also began to play a lot better. The other forward and I were able to move on more quickly if we made a mistake or missed an opportunity, and to express joy for the game and for being able to play. My games became much less me-centered and much more God-centered.
At the end of the season, all of the players on the team were content with the way the season had ended up, and we even finished much better than most people in the league had expected us to. But the bigger takeaway for me was the realization that focusing on mistakes doesn’t speed you toward progress, but focusing on expressing God does.