Thursday, September 1, 2011

Forget scoring, I want the "assist"

Take a moment and reflect on some of the joys in your life. Think about the things that you love to do, the things that truly make you happy not because it will earn you money or prove advantageous to you in any way, but because you think it is a worthwhile activity. What do you come up with?

For me, playing soccer is one the joys in my life. I've played on my school team since 7th grade, and though at times there is stress and competition and pain involved, it's a sport I truly love to play. There's nothing quite like making a full sprint down the field for the through ball or solidly tackling an opponent to force the turnover, or beating a defender and just striking the ball in the perfect spot for that sweet upper ninety goal. But for me personally, the greatest joy comes from providing the key assist in the heat of competition for a teammate to score.

For non-soccer players, forwards (also called strikers) like to keep track of two things during the season: One is the number of goals that they score, the other is the number of "assists" they get. Whenever a goal is a scored, the "assist" is awarded to the player who passed the ball to the player who scored (the goal is obviously awarded to whoever last touched the ball before it went into the net). It could be a through ball that is placed neatly through the defense, or the brilliant cross that the scorer heads into the net. The "assister" helps directly before the goal is scored, providing the opportunity for the scorer to score.

So why would a striker like me rather get an assist than a goal? I played our first scrimmage of the year yesterday against a really tough team. We did well to keep possession and look for opportunities, but to tell the truth there weren't many. At one point during the game I was able to receive the ball and turn upfield against a few defenders. I pushed the ball through a gap to my teammate, who ran onto the ball and went one-on-one against the keeper. He neatly finished, slotting the ball into the lower left corner, and I just went crazy- I turned around and sprinted towards him, almost tackling him as I wrapped him in a big victory hug. That's what I love most, that feeling of elation of helping to score a goal, then celebrating with the scorer for a job well done. As the scorer in a game I don't like to celebrate that much. I guess I don't like to come across as boastful or arrogant. But when I celebrate with a teammate for an assist, it's the genuine joy of making a beautiful play and succeeding in what the game is all about- scoring a goal.

And the more I thought about it after the game, the more I realized I should apply that thought to real life as well. Oftentimes we don't "celebrate" enough with our friends and family, going crazy over the things that they do well in, whether or not you had a part in their success. I actually feel very satisfied whenever I can "assist" someone in life, whether it's contributing my time, effort, or knowledge to aid them in their endeavors, despite the lack of "fame." I mean, goalscorers always get their name in the paper. They are the ones that people notice and remember. This isn't always the case for the "assisters," key players who brought about the opportunity but just didn't participate in that final glorifying moment. Defenders, I'm sure, know exactly what I'm talking about. And it's the same in real life, we don't always get recognized for that brilliant pass or discreet aid. But that's okay. As Christians we should seek to serve others as Jesus did, supporting people in ways that aren't always noticed. We should share the joy of others who succeed, and truly being happy for them, not just offering them congratulations and a pat on the back. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being the goalscorer from time to time. But other times we must learn to be proud to be the washer of other people's feet, to be the goal assister or defensive MVP of a game that often goes unrecognized.

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