Last weekend my daughter Lucia had her first soccer game with a new team she joined for the spring season. She's only had one practice with the team and she wouldn't recognize the coach if he sat next to her on the bus. Lucia is a solid left mid. That's her jam. She's left-footed, likes to score, and has been in that position for years.
During this first game with her new team, midway through the game she got subbed out and I noticed her on the sidelines putting on bright orange jersey (her team was wearing green). "She can't be playing goalie", I said out loud. Her team was losing by a point and Lucia hadn't played goalie since the early days of rotating goalie on her old rec team. She didn't even have goalie gloves!
I watched as Lucia ran downfield towards the goal, switching spots with her team mate. There were another fifteen minutes left in the game, plenty of time for the other team to score, especially on a completely unexperienced goalie.
So many things were racing through my mind. What was Lucia feeling? How would it feel to be a brand new player on a brand new team being in a position of such responsibility? I had a moment of extreme gratitude for all goalies in the world.
The ball stayed on her end of the field, and I watched as she watched. Shot on goal. Boom. She saved it. Her team tried to move it upfield without success and again, shot on goal. A big jump and a swat batted the ball right out of the goal. This can't go on, I thought to myself, but it did. One more big shot on goal. Lucia blocked it.
Lucia did it. She played goalie, but only because her coach asked her to. She stepped into a place where she had no interest in going. I know it was scary and intimidating and stressful for Lucia to take this step, but she did it. The fact that she was able to prevent the other team from scoring was great, but it wasn't really the point. The afterglow of taking on an experience like that is part of what grows us as humans, what makes us feel alive and enriched, capable and competent.
Kids, because the don't have much control over their lives, are constantly put into positions where they have to feel scared, intimidated, stressed. They have opportunities to experience those glorious moments of doing something they were sure they could not do. As adults, we generally take comfort in the fact that we are in charge, that we don't have to do things we don't want to do. But what if we did? What if we made ourselves try a different sport? Travel to a country where we couldn't read or speak the language? Try a different style of yoga maybe (wink wink)? We'd get the same kind of afterglow, that feeling of doing something we were sure we could not do.