Being a pro athlete is exciting and fun, but it can also be intense. We’re paid to play well; it’s our job. With that pressure, it can be really discouraging when you don’t play well. You can easily get caught up in the results and allow that to determine your self-worth. That being said, I try to be a good voice to my teammates, helping them to not get tied up in their personal performance. Instead, I focus on encouraging them in their effort, character and other qualities that make them a lovable person.
Last season, we won two out of the 24 games. It was pretty demoralizing for all of us, but I had to believe God had a plan for it all. I was choosing to trust Him, knowing He’s working all things for the good of those who love Him, despite what others may think or say about our team.
But that didn’t mean each loss wasn’t difficult. After each game I would ask God, “What are You doing with this?” It was tough in training the day after another loss, when a coach blamed me for a goal scored against us, or when I felt like I wasn’t being appreciated for what I had to offer. I had to ask the Lord daily for the strength to keep pressing on. I so desperately wanted to see some purpose and goodness, but I also knew we might not have a turnaround. We can’t judge God’s goodness on our outward circumstances. Wins, championships and awards don’t measure our worth or God’s goodness.
Last season I, along with my teammates, experienced so much internal growth, which ended up being immeasurably greater than any win. Maybe that didn’t look like success as others would measure it, but to me, it’s even more valuable. I was able to grow in greater dependence on the Lord because things were not going well. Often, when everything is going as I hoped it would, I am tempted to think I don’t need God, or that I’m the one achieving greatness. But I find myself relying on God’s strength more when I have none.
First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I definitely didn’t want to rejoice, and it didn’t seem like I had much to be thankful for at the time, but God commanded us, as His children, to do these things in all circumstances. Ultimately, our identity is not in our performance, but in the fact that we are children of God.
Everything on this earth is temporary, and I’m grateful for every day I get to step onto the field. This is where God has me right now — in this city, on this team, in this role. Thinking about what God is doing, and is going to do, is nothing short of exciting.
— Aubrey Bledsoe, NWSL’s Washington Spirit goalkeeper
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