Sunset Reflections

The sun is setting on Elliot’s years of involvement with the soccer program at Kent Roosevelt High School. I know this language suggests I’m waxing poetic and sentimental and perhaps a bit clichéd. But he played his last home game last night, under a spectacular sunset! So it felt poetic and sentimental… and sweet.

We had fifteen people join us for our tailgate party and cheering section last night. Even some international fans! And Kent even pulled off a 1-1 draw with one of the top ten teams in the state! It was a great way to end the Rough Riders’ last home stand.

Combined with everything that happened last Thursday, I’m very pleased with the way we were able to celebrate Elliot and everything he and his team have worked so hard to achieve over the last four years.

I’m glad that Elliot played high school soccer — but I’m also glad that he’s almost done playing soccer (he’s got a few more road games to close the regular season, and then the playoffs).

High school soccer has been a refining experience for Elliot. It’s often felt like he’s been overlooked. He’s logged heavy minutes for the practice team and light minutes for the varsity squad. And since he didn’t get regular repetitions throughout the course of his years with the team, he fell victim to a vicious cycle of “lack of experience” and a lack of opportunities to build self-confidence that would have made him more valuable to the team.

Even though there have been challenges with Elliot’s soccer team (even more than I can record here), I’m genuinely glad he stuck with the sport. Because it’s taught him perseverance. Endurance. “And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:4). I’ve genuinely seen how Elliot’s character and sense of his true identity has grown through his experiences with the soccer team. At the beginning of this season, without any input from me, Elliot took a Sharpie to his cleats and wrote a remarkably concise summary of the lessons he’s learned.

On the front, he wrote, “God gets the Glory.”

And on the back, he wrote, “I am who You say I am” (referencing a worship song that talks about submitting one’s identity to God).

Isn’t that amazing? I love that he’s learned these things — perhaps in spite of soccer, perhaps because of soccer. I also love that he’s learned to build relationships with his teammates. And that he’s learned the value of physical discipline and mental toughness. He’s learned to submit to — and even learn from — authority figures who don’t always feel fair or friendly. There are so many ways that Elliot has grown through his years with the soccer team that I’m genuinely grateful for all the afternoons and evenings at the stadium we’ve gotten to spend cheering him on, even when he didn’t get on the field all that much.

I’m also especially grateful for all the friends and family who surrounded Elliot over these last two soccer games and affirmed him for all the right reasons. It was wonderful to cheer when he was exhibiting his quick feet and tenacious toughness on the field, during the surprisingly-meaningful minutes that he got to play. But it was also wonderful to cheer at the end of the games, at the end of the nights, at the end of the home stand — with the rest of Elliot’s life in front of him. I look forward to cheering him on for many years to come.

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