Everyone makes mistakes. Inevitably, there will be conflict on every team. But how can we give grace and move forward in a way that makes sure the same mistakes aren’t made and relationships grow stronger as a result?
Teams are made up of imperfect people; you have to deal with a lot of different personalities each season. When you’re in a leadership role, it can be difficult to separate what’s best for the team and your personal friendship with a teammate who may be in the wrong. What I’ve found is that the best way to navigate such situations is to learn about your teammates — get to know them, who they are, what they struggle with, what their strengths are, and what they react to best. That way, when a conflict arises, I know how best to approach them in a way that will speak to them most appropriately.
When conflict comes up between a teammate or teammates on my team, I try to give myself 24 hours to cool off, to keep from reacting in any emotional state, and then I pray about how God wants me to confront the situation, if it’s even my place to do so. I have to ask myself, “Why did my teammate do this?” I try to have really strong relationships with each person on my team so that they are able to respect me. The best way to lead is to lead by example; no one will be receptive to what you have to say if you haven’t earned their trust.
There have been many times throughout my years playing soccer where a teammate moves in one direction and the team in another. Whether it’s an issue on or off the field, you have to deal with issues that come up. It’s never easy; it’s always uncomfortable to address your friends and teammates. Sometimes they are receptive, sometimes they aren’t. But if they know you’re coming to them out of love and respect for them, and they know you have both their best interest and the best interest of your team at heart, they will eventually listen. You can’t control the outcome, but you can always have extra grace ready to hand out.
Both as a person and as a teammate, we are all held to a certain standard as a professional athlete. It’s our job to hold our teammates accountable for their own good and the good of the team as a whole, but that doesn’t mean it’s fun. I try to live my life in a very consistent way and treat everyone and every situation with grace and wisdom. But sometimes it’s hard to know how best to do that. I make sure I surround myself with other Christ-followers, whether on my team or not on my team, whom I can go to and gain wisdom and advice from. These people are those in whom I see the character of Jesus. I want to represent Jesus by how I handle these situations; I want to act out of love. No matter what, I want to show my teammate that they, as a person, come first.
When I think about how I can represent Christ in a tough situation, I am drawn to the Bible story in John 8. In this story, a woman was caught in adultery and all the people around her wanted to punish her, but Jesus simply said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). The people slowly walked away.
I’ve been given grace by others so many times throughout my life and soccer career. Whenever someone has come alongside me to help me through a situation, I’ve come out stronger on the other side. This story shows us that no one is perfect, and Jesus wants us to respond without condemnation but with grace and forgiveness. To know and experience the forgiveness and grace of God is life-changing. I want to show the same to others so they can see Christ in me and desire to experience Him for themselves.
—Anna Beffer, professional soccer player
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