Soccer, still a kick in the grass: men’s Bible-study, and “movement off the ball”

Stetson Men’s soccer team, fall of 1977  (I’m #10)

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…” Hebrews 10:23-25

STETSON SOCCER: Several people have asked about my brief look at Stetson University’s new athletic training facilities during our visit this past week. I posted a photograph on Facebook that featured me with new men’s soccer coach Ernie Yarborough, and the best question I received was, “Did he know who you are?”

Okay, that’s funny. It’s been over 35 years since I played a collegiate soccer game; any “#10 in action” pictures probably came off the wall in the early 80’s; and I’m sure the records established during those years have long since been eclipsed!

with coach Ernie Yarborough
with coach Ernie Yarborough

But, impressed as I was with the new field, the lights, and all the accommodations, those details are simply window dressing compared to what really happens when you put a team together, and when a vital, mutually encouraging community is formed.

I might have received wide recognition as a player, but nothing happens out on the field in isolation. Team-mates, coaching, knowledge, practice, drills, accountability, conditioning, passing, support, encouragement, fundamentals, and – likely the most crucial element of play as well as the most difficult concept to grasp, “movement off the ball.”

Movement off the ball refers to what the other 10 players are doing when one player has possession.

My approach (as an attacking midfielder), was to pick up the soccer ball, dribble long enough to attract the attention of two or three (sometimes more) opposing players, create some anxiety in the defense, and then distribute the ball to someone who was taking advantage of the space/weakness I had created. None of that would have been even vaguely possible if the other guys had stood around admiring my skills.

recent alumni "scrimmage"
recent alumni “scrimmage”

Movement off the ball is my devotional tie-in this morning. You see, I just returned from my Saturday morning men’s small group Bible-study, and we are no team at all if one guy talks and everyone else sits around and nods like bobble-headed dolls.

I once explained my understanding of learning in the context of church like this: A faith-community is a place that is more concerned with asking great questions than it is about distributing easy – or tidy – answers.

That’s what God does all the time in our small group Bible-study. God challenges us and we respond.

Fact is, there’s a lot of movement off the ball: it takes the form of sharing from our hearts, of rephrasing the question, of giving examples from our own lives, of confessing where we trip up and fall, of learning the scriptures, of learning to see the big picture, of bringing our doubts to the group – as well as our assurance, of praying for one-another, of encouragement; “Team-mates, coaching, knowledge, practice, drills, accountability, conditioning, passing, support, encouragement, fundamentals…”

IMG_7467This is how I grow; this is how I build faith; this is how we take the good news of the Gospel of Love into the world.

Peace – DEREK

(“Gallery” – a few more pics from the new facility)



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