In sports, when it comes down to the last second of a game for a player to make a shot or miss, he often feels like a hero or a failure, responsible for losing the game. Increase the pressure by making it the last game of the season, the last game of the boy’s high school career and the state championship game. This is what my son faced last week. He was one of five players in a shootout to win or lose the Minnesota State High School Soccer Championship.
As I’m watching him go through this, I recall when I was a senior in high school. The worst year of my life. The school I had attended since third grade closed that summer and for my senior year I was in a new school. I went from a class of 50 where I knew everyone in the school to a class of 250. And I knew one person. In that transition, my four-year relationship with my boyfriend also ended. But I had my family. I thought. At Christmas break, when my older siblings were home from college, my parents shocked me with the announcement that they would be separating, immediately.
Through high school I had been working at a movie theater. After the movies I’d hang out with my coworkers and there were opportunities to party. During my time of distress, it sounded like a good idea to me. I chose to drink and try some drugs.
In the spring my sport season started. I was a runner and was used to doing well. But that was a small school and at this level I was untested. I went out for track and practiced with the team. I didn’t know if I could race down the track over the hurdles and have a time that was good enough. The morning of the first track meet of the season, I quit. I quit, because I was scared, alone and couldn’t face not doing well.
Back to my son, Jared. Ever since he was four, he was always kicking the soccer ball, if not on the field, we would pass back and forth on the sidelines. We would keep a soccer ball in the trunk of our car so we could stop at any soccer field and Jared could “shoot on the net .” Then hours and years of practice to get to this game.
In the semi-finals of the state tournament he played really well and the coach moved him to a position where he would defend against the attacking strikers. Wayzata beat the first ranked, undefeated team Eastridge.
In the championship game it was cold and windy, we had the wind at our back and scored in the first half. Anoka scored in the second half. The teams went through two ten minute overtimes and still remained tied. In a soccer tournament, to determine the winners, they go to a shootout where five players of each team are chosen to shoot at the net with just the goalie defending. Jared was one of those five. The first three players of each team all scored. Then Jared came to the line. He kicked, the ball hit the upper crossbar – and bounced out. He fell to his knees, collapsing in disappointment. The rest of the players made their shots and Anoka went on to win.
The team was supportive of Jared. The community was supportive. And I hope he felt support from his family. He didn’t want to talk about it for a couple of days but now he can and went to go to the soccer banquet to celebrate their success of getting 2nd in the state.
After the game, during my meditation, I had an image come to me. It was of Jared as an adult leader or coach. He stood talk, confident and erect, referring back to this challenging time in a meaningful way.
Over the years I have gradually left behind that timid teenager. Since I have been doing Tantra, I have jettisoned into another level of empowerment. I have been stepping up. For public speaking, for taking more of a leadership role, for expressing my feelings more vulnerably and bringing more passion into my life. When Jared dared to step up to that line, he became my hero. He honorably faced one of the hardest challenges that an athlete of his age can face.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is hard to fail, but is worse to have not tried to succeed.”