Healthy Soul/Lessons Learned/My Life/Teen Life Finding the Middle School Athlete in You by Emily Pellarin I don’t mean to brag, but I was a middle school athlete. I had grown up watching people play soccer at recess, but I had never signed up, until the summer after third grade. That’s when I joined my parish’s all girls soccer team. August rolled around that year, and I got all excited: I was on a team. I was going to play soccer for real. From fourth grade to the end of my freshman year of high school, I played on my parish’s soccer team. I was by far the smallest, least talented player on the team but that didn’t stop me from loving every minute of it. I would make sure that in the middle of my busy sixth grade schedule that nothing, not family dinner, not orthodontist appointments, and definitely not homework, would get in the way of my soccer schedule. Looking back on that time of my life, I am surprised by how many sacrifices I was willing to make as an entirely mediocre soccer player. Not only did I schedule time for weekend games, I willingly chose to make time every week to practice, do drills, and be coached. And I am realizing now, that the passion and commitment I had to soccer as an 11 year old, can actually teach me some things about how to be a better follower of Christ now. Let me explain. Committing to a Team To be a soccer player, I had to be part of a team. Pick up games and backyard scrimmages were great, they only satisfied my desire to play soccer for a little bit. but there was no replacing an actual team. I’m realizing it’s the same way in the faith. Praying to God by yourself is a great thing, but it can never replace being a part of the Church. Personal prayer should flow from and go back to Sunday Mass and youth group. That’s when we when we join with our team (the Church) and show up to the game (aka the Mass). It’s the best. Going to Practice I loved my soccer coach. You didn’t have to be the best to play on his team, but you had to show up. You didn’t show up to practice, you didn’t get play time. It made sense. If I didn’t go to practice I wasn’t prepared to play the game. I’m realizing the same is true about Church. If I’m not spending time throughout the week “training” to go to Sunday Mass by showing up praying throughout the week and connecting with other people from Church, I won’t be ready to actively participate in the Mass. That’s when I don’t “get anything” of the Mass. Being Coached This was probably the hardest part about playing soccer for me. My coach would watch me at practice and keep track of how I would play in the games and then pull me aside the next week to point out my where I needed to grow. It was so hard to hear that I needed to work on strengthening my kick, or learning where I needed to be on the field during a throw in but it helped me be a better player. The same is true for growing in my faith. Giving someone I trusted permission to call me out on my weaknesses and challenge me to keep growing has been huge in my own life. Sometimes it was a youth minister, sometimes a Core Member, a teacher, sometimes it was my mom… So basically what I’m saying is channel the middle school athlete in you. Commit to a team. Your Church. Go to practice. Your youth group. Find a coach. Your youth minister.