It was a chilly, misty night as Hudsonville faced Rockford in the conference quarterfinal soccer game. After eighty minutes of regulation time, thirty minutes of overtime, and twelve penalty shooters, the game remained tied at one. This moment was a time I anticipated yet dreaded.
I was the next player selected to shoot. I walked toward the goal, knowing that I held the fate of nineteen players and two coaches behind me. I positioned the ball carefully on the white line and looked up at the goal, visualizing my shot hit the back of the net. As I stepped away, I glared at the one person who stood between my success and failure: the goal keeper. The crowd seemed to simultaneously stop breathing; however, my focus drowned all evidence. A high pitched whistle interrupted the silence. My vision focused down as I struck the ball with determination toward the right side of the goal. I glanced up, just in time to see what I had dreaded: The goalie dove to his left and blocked the shot.
Sauntering back to half felt like a mile trek and I watched as Rockford’s next shooter scored his penalty kick. Hearing them celebrate their victory compounded my frustration. My teammates tried to make light of the defeat, yet I knew they were as disappointed as I was. I trudged back to the team bus with my head and spirit down. In the darkness, I didn’t notice my younger brother approach. “Great game Jake,” he said briefly with a bright smile on his face. His cheerful gesture of kindness echoed in my mind. Three simple words, but they meant much more.
I believe in encouragement above all else.
At a time when I was filled with deep distress, my younger brother offered the opposite. For a moment, I lost all thoughts of disappointment, defeat, doubt. A simple, effortless comment, yet it filled me with immense peace.
From that day on, I have recognized how great an outcome simple encouragement grants. Simple encouragement, perfectly timed, is a most powerful gift. Whether it’s picking up a teammate, cheering on a family member, or supporting a friend, I attempt to seize every opportunity to encourage others as my younger brother once did for me. My hope is that these simple acts of encouragement provide others with the same result.
I believe in encouragement especially on the coldest and rainiest of days as it may bring the warmest of words.