Article from www.uslchampionship.com
Soccer is like my conscience. It guides me. Tells me how to live.
When I was young, for the most part, it kept me away from a lot of distractions like parties, girlfriends or getting in trouble, because I was so focused on achieving my goals. If something wasn’t going to help me achieve what I wanted to as a player, then I kind of stayed away from it.
Did I mention I was the first person in my family to play soccer?
My dad played American football but by the time I was four, it was game over. I wasn’t going that route. I had fallen in love with the beautiful game.
When I was around 11 years old, I had this coach, Mike McDonald. He was from England and was super important in my development. In fact, we still keep in contact today.
Mike just knew how to make soccer fun. Everything was about hitting goals. Whether it was juggling or another skill, there were always little rewards for improving yourself every single day. He really pushed me to become the player I am today.
And I’m thankful, because my soccer career has taken me to some amazing places. I’ve played in Germany, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, San Francisco, Cincinnati and now I’m in Indianapolis. I love it. It’s so fun to get to a new city and meet so many people from different cultures.
Because in meeting new people, comes new opportunities.
This past year with FC Cincinnati, I got to know Tim Pitcher, who works with Athletes in Action. He was leading an offseason mission trip to Ethiopia and Kenya and brought it up with the team at our Bible study. At the time, I thought to myself, ‘That sounds awesome. I would love to do one of those sometime.’ But I never really felt like I had the time.
To be honest, I’m occasionally prone to procrastination. Growing up, if I was studying for a test, I would wait until the last day to study. I would study until I was confident, even if that meant I had to stay up until three or four in the morning… I needed the pressure of it, I guess.
This adventure started the same way.
About a month before the trip, I decided I was going to go along. But I didn’t book my flights until five days before (it’s never too late!). My soccer life is so planned out for me that when I’m in the offseason, I like to go with the flow.
The night before I left for Africa, I was up late packing and making sure I had everything I needed. You know, the way procrastinators do. I was bringing stuff that I was donating, cleats and old gear, as well as my luggage.
The next morning, my teammate Nazmi Albadawi picked me up and took me to the airport in Cincinnati. From there, what seemed like the next 40 hours of my life were spent on an airplane.
I’m not going to lie, it was a lot of hours on a plane and at airports.
I thought to myself…is this going to be worth it?
Little did I know, this trip was about to change my life.
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we stayed at a nice hotel right across the street from the Ethiopian Youth Sports Academy where we were going to be putting on a coaching clinic.
It’s a very big city, very spread out. There are really nice houses guarded by fences with barbed wire and gates and all this stuff. Really nice houses that you’d find here in America. But they also have one of the biggest slums in the world.
In the slums, everything had a tin roof and was almost connected, like you would picture in Brazil. Tiny, close quarters, dirt floors…with so many people living in one area. I saw some kids washing their clothes in drainage ditches. They were standing there washing their clothes with rocks. I was just like…geez.
The second day, the head of the Ethiopian Soccer Federation came to talk to us about the coaching course we were supposed to lead. My FCC teammate Tomi Ameobi, Tampa Bay Rowdies chaplain Danilo Felix, Shea Groom, who plays in the National Women’s Soccer League, and I had to run this course for 60 professional coaches. To be honest, we didn’t really have much to go on. We didn’t know what level of coaches were coming, what kind of equipment they had or if they trained every day.
We were really going into this thing kind of blind.
We all started brainstorming and I kind of drew back on what I had learned from my past coaches. I’ve been blessed to have played for several amazing coaches, so I decided I was going to take my lessons from them and kind of do what they would’ve done.
I’m not going to lie, the first hour was a nightmare.
We show up and there’s like 30 coaches there just looking at us. So, not only were we putting on a coaching course for the first time, but most of them didn’t know what we were saying. Only a few of them spoke English, so we had to get it translated into Amharic. We’d say a sentence, then the translator would translate, and then they’d look at us again.
We may have needed some help in the classroom, but once the ball was dropped, we didn’t need much translation.
Tyler shared how the Lord makes a difference in his life
It was so cool because after the sessions, some of us just stayed to kick a ball around with them. Then, in the afternoon, we would go to local youth clubs to donate gear and work with younger kids.
Some of the kids we were playing with — their shoes were blown out, and they were holding their cleats together by having socks over their shoes or tying something around them to keep them together. Some were just in sandals or barefoot, but they were still so technically strong.
That’s the thing about over there, everybody plays soccer, so they would join in and it would still be a really good quality game. They’re good with the ball at their feet, so it was really fun. I feel like here, in the U.S., if you’re at a park or something and you saw somebody looking at you, I think you would hesitate to ask them to play because you don’t think that they’re going to be at the same level.
At the end of the day, the coaches really loved the course we put on. After it was over, they came up to us and told us we were the best coaches ever. It was such a cool feeling.
When I came back to the States, I thought a lot about my trip and some of the things that I had seen — the kids playing barefoot or in flip flops and the widows we fed through a local organization. I wanted to do more to help, so I boxed up a bunch of extra gear that I wasn’t using and brought it to Tim for them to take over the next time they go.
I’ve seen how little those people have and how any help can go a long way. It opens your eyes to really see how you are in the one percent of the entire world.
You may not feel like it in the U.S., but in the world, you have way more than anybody.
And while going to help people in Africa was rewarding, it doesn’t take going that far to make an impact. There are so many opportunities out there to make a difference in your community…
To take that championship mentality far beyond the pitch and put it into your everyday life.
To me, being a champion off the pitch is getting out there, meeting people and being available when those opportunities present themselves. You never know who can benefit from your story.
So, what are you waiting for?
Begin a relationship with Christ like Tyler.