I have always wanted to represent my country playing the sport I love. It’s been a dream of mine since I laced up my cleats and hit the field for the first time. In fact, probably a little bit too much of my focus and mentality was given to my dream that I lost track of what was most important to me.
To be honest, I often struggled with my “why,” or the reason I play the game. At the end of the day I sometimes wonder, why did I wake up at 6 a.m. over the summer to see my trainer? Or drive two hours in D.C. rush hour traffic just to get to practice?
I will always be grateful to my parents, who introduced me to my faith and helped instill in me that the reason I play soccer is to bring glory to God. In high school, the foundation my parents laid really made me think. In the heat of the moment when I was giving everything I had just to get acknowledged by a collegiate coach, was I really trying to glorify God? Or was I playing for myself, trying to prove the world wrong – that I was good enough to play Division I soccer? Or better yet, was I trying to maintain my popularity and uphold my reputation tied to being good at my sport? I knew in the back of my head that I wanted to play soccer to glorify God, but I don’t think I fully understood what that exactly meant.
After every high school game, I remember I couldn’t wait to look at the county Twitter page, or the Washington Post, so I could share the article containing the stats report on how great I played.
“Sergi with another goal to help push Broad Run to a state title.”
I loved it.
I was finally getting the recognition I thought I deserved. Why? Because I thought I was working hard. Being in the spotlight brought about a sense of fulfillment but, looking back at it now, it was so temporary.
I guarantee you, no one remembers anything about my individual high school soccer stats or how many goals I scored. Why? Because it’s not about me.
One of my all-time favorite books is, “Purpose Driven Life,” by Pastor Rick Warren. It is the best selling hard copy book in history, second only to the Bible. The first sentence of the entire book will always stick with me…
“It’s not about you.”
Before every high school home game, I used to watch my best friend play softball. She wore number 24 and played third base, right next to the open bleachers I used to spend some time by myself before I played. I would crack jokes and try to get her to smile, but she would never budge. She was the fiercest competitor on the field every game. She hated losing, and wouldn’t let anyone stand in her way, even playing pickup basketball with the boys on my street. I loved that girl. She had my back during every trial and decision I had to face through life, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Sadly, she passed away during my senior year. It was one of the hardest things my friends and I ever had to go through.
As a college freshman, the first thing I did when I walked onto the practice field at Xavier was ask the coach if I could wear number 24 during my tenure at the school. I wanted to play for Madison, thinking that it should be all the motivation I needed to work hard, compete, and be fearless, just like she was everyday.
Writing this today, I look back at that decision and think, Madison wouldn’t want me to play for her. She was the most unselfish, loving friend I ever knew. She would want me to go out on the field and give everything I have. And I know, she would be in the stands supporting me every step of the way. No matter what.
So instead of playing for Madison, every time I lace up my cleats and put that number 24 jersey on, I remember how blessed I am to have another 24 hours to use the gifts and talents God gave me to glorify Him, with everything I have.
Madison helped me find my “why.” It’s no longer about Samson Sergi, or how many goals I score, or how much attention I get from the outside world. It’s all about Jesus.
As an athlete in Christ, I should be the hardest working player at every practice and game. I’m not playing for my coaches, teammates, friends, or even my family; I’m playing because I am grateful to have another 24 hours to bring all the attention and glory to His kingdom. I play for an audience of one.
I miss Madison everyday, and I know she is smiling down on me every time I put that jersey on. If she was here, I would thank her for helping to show me why I play the game, and how to use every opportunity I get to make an eternal impact on those I compete with.
You see, number 24 is special. It is a constant reminder that this sport is way bigger than just a game, how many goals I score or how much recognition my team gets. It’s about using my gifts as a platform to deflect the attention away from me, and shine the spotlight on Jesus, making every effort to live and love like Him.
Samson Sergi is a redshirt senior forward for the Xavier University Men’s Soccer team.