July 20, 2011 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
"The Beautiful Game"In 1998 I had the honor to meet soccer stars Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Briana Scurry and the rest of the United States Women's Soccer team that would go on to win the World Cup in 1999. They were playing an exhibition match in Milwaukee and because I was coaching my twin daughters' soccer team at the time I was able to take our team to a reception to meet the US women. I will never forget how humble and gracious these women were. They talked at length to their adoring young fans--and their adoring older fans, too, I might add. In the world of professional sports, where large egos are on display, these women were just the opposite. They patiently signed every autograph they were asked to sign and acted as perfect role models for the hundreds of young girls that were there.
Women's soccer has come a long way in the last twelve years. As much as things have changed, I am delighted to say that throughout the recent women's World Cup tournament that concluded this past Sunday, I saw the same gracious and ego-less spirit from the 1999 team in full display. As we hear today about the NBA and the NFL facing possible walkouts over financial issues, it was refreshing to see these professional athletes who make very modest salaries (most of them in mid five figures) play with all their hearts and souls.
The true spirit of a team is revealed when they have a heartbreaking loss, as the US team did against Japan in the finals. Here's what two of the US players had to say after the game:
"We lost to a great team, we really did. Japan is a team
that I've always had a lot respect for, and I truly believe
that something bigger was pulling for their team. As
much as I've always wanted this, if there was any other
team I could give this to it would have to be Japan.
I'm happy for them-- they deserve it." Hope Solo
"I think we played well and we fought and we had heart.
That's what matters. Hats off to Japan. They just made
their country extremely happy and brought joy to
somewhere that was needed and that's the bigger
picture." Lauren Cheney
These responses reveal a genuine humility and a genuine respect for a bigger view of playing a game. The nickname around the world for soccer is "the beautiful game." The US and Japan women showed us just how beautiful indeed a game can be.
When it comes to personal and family wellness, there are many lessons that we can learn from these women. For me, the most important ones are:
Do what you love.
Do it with all your heart and soul.
Do it with courage and grace.
Do it in an selfless manner, thinking about your teammates as well as yourself.
If we do these things, we will always be successful, even when the score might imply otherwise.
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