Wins are Great, but They Aren’t What Really Matters
Jim Van Dellen - Milwaukee Lutheran Soccer Coach
In light of the relative success of our season to this point – including the exciting win vs. Homestead on Tuesday, it would be easy to lose sight of what really matters in the ministry of athletics at MLHS – but I just have to share and brag on my players a little.
As you know, players got together on Tuesday and Thursday evenings this summer for informal “pick up” games. Both boys and girls would show up at Madison Park for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours and do some ball skill work and just play.
One evening, probably early July, there was a young man by himself on the field when we showed up. He was juggling a soccer ball and shooting into one of the goals. We had over 20 players there, and were a little annoyed because he didn’t show any signs that he was thinking about leaving. One of our players went over and told him we were going to play, and asked him if he wanted to join us – which he did. After we were done, we learned that his name was Fernando, and he had just moved here from California to live with his uncle a week earlier after graduating from high school. He didn’t really know anyone yet. We told him that we would be back on Thursday if he wanted to join us again.
He was back Thursday, and every Tuesday and Thursday following that. At one of our early practices, he mis-hit a ball and swore at himself. One of the players simply said, “We don’t use that kind of language here.” Fernando apologized at that point, and, while it took awhile, the language issue went away.
When our kids started playing in the 7v7 league, Christian would often pick Fernando up and bring him along. While he couldn’t play, he was often there with the team for the games.
When official practices started, Fernando asked if he could be a “manager.” I know that it isn’t normal protocol, but I told him that he was welcome to show up and I would find ways to help us out. He has been coming to virtually all of our practices, and most of our home games. At games, he was generally sitting in the stands, until a couple weeks ago when I told him he was welcome to join us on the bench if he wished. Homestead was the first time he joined us on the bench.
In early practices, when we would end and pray, Fernando would kind of wander away and stand at a distance. As time went on, he edged closer and closer until, the past three weeks or so, he has been kneeling with us as we pray. Early on, he would stand at the edge when we did devotions. Lately, he has been sitting with us and listening.
About two weeks ago, Fernando told my son that his mom was going to have surgery soon. He shared that he was pretty worried about the whole thing. At practices, we started praying for Fernando’s mom.He was surprised that we would do that for him. Early last week, he told us that he had decided that he was going to return to California to be with his mom for the surgery. Yesterday was the last practice with us as he is leaving today.
We prayed for his trip, and for his mom when practice ended. When we prayed for his mom, he said, “Yes, Please, Lord.” At the end of the prayer, he thanked us for praying for him. He had to have a picture taken with the team – then he shook the hand of every team member and thanked them (hugging some.) He hugged me, and thanked me for letting him be a part of the team. He said that he feels like he’s more a part of this team than any team he’s ever been on. When I said that it was really awesome the way the whole thing came about, he replied, “It’s really a blessing.”
He also said that he wanted to give the team the ball that he had been using the day that we first met. In his words, “It’s the team colors (black and red) and the design on it reminds me of a cross.”
Christian went to pick the ball up from Fernando last night. When he did so, Fernando showed him a necklace that he had bought. It was black and red and had a cross on it, as well as Joshua 1:9. He said he went to the Christian Book Store to get it to remind him of the team – that he remembered a devotion on that verse.
Sharing Jesus, Shaping Lives, Teaching Truth, What Really Matters: Take your pick. These boys have won far more that soccer games this year – the rest is just icing on the cake.
In Service to HIS Children,
Jim Van Dellen, Milwaukee Lutheran Head Soccer Coach