Soccer season has just ended for my daughter, Zula. Her team wore blue and the little 3 to 5 year-olds on it were appropriately named, The Blueberries. Here she is posing in her new uniform:
She always came with tons of excitement and played her little heart out. Her top three favorite things about soccer were: 1. Bringing the treats, 2. Cheering for the other team at the end, and 3. Breaks.
…I’m not sure soccer is really her thing.
But what I’ve seen that IS her thing are these little gems I’ve had the maternal privilege to observe as she’s played soccer: 1. She might not have ever kicked the ball on purpose, but she purposefully selected the treats she wanted to bring when it was her turn and passed them out with great enthusiasm, 2. She stopped running when a player fell down and stayed with them until they got up again, it didn’t matter which team they were on, and 3. Her only criticism from the coach was to “take a break from holding hands.” She could play a whole game hand in hand with another girl player – I’m not sure she would care which one.
Zula had Emma, another little friend, over to our house recently. They were playing in the backyard and wanted to race. The course was set; they were to race from me to the swing set and then back to me. Emma is a little older, faster, and pretty much athletically superior. The outcome of the race seemed certain, but I was happily surprised when Zula finished first! Emma, however, was not so happy and, when she saw that she wasn’t going to win, veered off into the yard and began to cry. She was very sad for a good 20 minutes, but they are good friends and soon resumed playing and having fun.
Zula is pretty sensitive, so her friend’s reaction was hard for her, but I thought she was fine about it since she happily announced to my husband that she was faster than Emma (at least until they race again…). The experience was forgotten until weeks later (weeks, with an S, like two+ full weeks, which really is a good percentage of the life of a 3-year-old), completely out of the blue, Zula said to me, “Mom, the only way me and Emma can both win is if we are holding hands.”
Like all of us, Zula didn’t want to lose. Like all of us, she really liked winning. But in her mind, the excitement of the win doesn’t have to be for just one person and there was a way for everyone to have that feeling of victory.
I get it that in soccer, basketball, lacrosse and all the other sports, to have a winner you need a loser. That’s just how it goes. And you know, my initial excitement of being a soccer mom has been happily dashed as I have had a front row seat to a major life lesson in charitable living from a three-year-old.
She taught me that life really does have winners – and they aren’t necessarily the ones who are the fastest, best, or who practiced the most. The winners in life are the ones who are excited to show up and willing to slow down so they can take the hand of a teammate, even if just to run side by side with them for a while. The winners are those who love cheering for their opponents and bringing the treats to sweeten the efforts of their friends. She taught me that if life was a game, this is how it should be played.
So while we may have different positions, our goal is the same – we all want to win. But let’s take a tip from a tyke who’s seemed to have this game all figured out and reassess what it means to be a winner. And play our little hearts out.
Keep on Rollin’,