This I Believe

Blake - Dearborn, Michigan
Entered on April 21, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

Always Play in a Tough League

Soccer is my passion. I play it, I referee it, I coach it, and I watch it. I condition my body to compete, refine my skills and technique through practice, strategize plays, and captain my teams to victory and sometimes to defeat. Through soccer, I experience the exhilaration of competition and the satisfaction of giving my personal best.

But above all, soccer has given me a philosophy of life: Always play in a tough league. It’s my personal belief that to excel you must compete and measure yourself against the very best.

I first learned this lesson on the soccer field years ago at age 11 from my coach. My team, the Rockets, had just come off a winning season, jubilant over the trophies and fanfare that come with taking 1st place. Coach Barry decided to move us out of the local league, into a state-wide premier league. To say that the next season was tough would be an understatement. It seemed a disaster at 11 losses and 1 tie game. Facing 16 disheartened and tearful kids and twice as many parents, Coach Barry listened to their demands that the Rockets return to their former league where they could be winners again. Facing this daunting opposition head on, my coach expressed his philosophy, “We can step down and win a trophy, or we stay where we are and get better.” He explained that the Rockets would only improve their skills if they played tough teams, if they were challenged to play to the best of their abilities. Coach Barry concluded by noting, “A good season can’t be measured by winning or losing a trophy, but by development. If all the boys develop their skills, you’ve had a good season.”

Through my high school years I have found Coach Barry’s words to hold true over and over. When I ace a class, I find I may have earned a good grade but learned very little. It has been from those tough teachers that I learned my lessons–those teachers that made me think, analyze and demanded that I produce work of substance. And the employer who accepted a mediocre performance did nothing to prepare me for the working world where punctuality, appearance, customer service and results are required. I believe that it was those challenging coaches, those demanding teachers and those strict employers that have given me the tools and the self-assurance to attain future success.

Back at the field seven years later, Coach Barry is still my coach. It’s been a rough but rewarding six years. The Rockets may not have a bedroom full of soccer trophies to show for it, but, better than that, they have confidence and ability. Some are aspiring to play on collegiate or professional teams and maybe even on the Olympic team. Myself, I’m looking at studying and playing soccer at one of the best and most competitive universities in the country. Why not? I’ve played in tough leagues before.