“Practice did not go so well,” Jacob tells me. I was not able to go to practice because of mission group obligations. I had heard that Mario, one of our best players had a very bad attitude and did not treat people well. This then rubbed off on other people and people were complaining and blaming each other.
Jacob and I talked about speaking with him before the next game. This soccer team for the young men we serve is built to build men of valor and integrity. Yes the team wants to win our games, but we reinforce that it is more about using soccer and its experiences as a vehicle to drive home life/biblical lessons. This was a perfect opportunity for Mario to show a contrite heart, humility, and a dependence on his brothers/team to help him.
As we were warming up I ran next to Mario and asked him how training went and he said, “Just fine.”
I laughed and said, “That is not what I heard.”
Mario said, “Well, I was upset.”
I said, “That is fine bro, we have hard days. But, you know what we do when we act poorly and make mistakes. We ask for forgiveness and give our apologies.”
Mario became a little flustered and started giving excuses for his attitude as well as blaming others who may have been involved. I stopped him and said, “But, did you have a bad attitude and treat your team poorly? Lets not talk about anyone else. We need to talk.”
Mario gasped, “Yes…okay how about next week?”
“Tonight” I said
“Tomorrow” he said
I said, “Tonight Mario, before we play.”
He signed again and said, “Okay.”
As we spoke before the game and I finished giving our pre-game talk I stopped and invited Mario to speak. Mario said he was good and he did not want to say anything. Just then Camilo spoke up. Camilo has been in this situation with our team many times so he knew the drill, “You gonna say sorry?”
The guys laughed because it came from Camilo. I let it be and we started playing. Right before we started the game I walked up to Mario, put my hand on his shoulders and asked him, “Can I trust your word when you give it to me?”
Mario said, “Jed can I do it next week?”
I said, “Tonight after the game, bro. I need to know when you tell me you’re going to do something you go and do it.”
Mario said, “Yes you can trust me. Okay I will.”
We played, had fun, scored goals and after the game we gathered again. We spoke and as we came to the end I introduced Mario to speak. He made a joke but then he went on, “No but seriously guys, how I acted at practice was not good, I was frustrated and I acted out, and for that I am saying sorry.”
Just then the guys started clapping. I was astonished as everyone celebrated his humility in apologizing. Rewind 2 years ago, guys would get in fights with each other, blame each other, play for themselves, and now they feel safe to apologize without anyone laughing at them. But even more, they feel celebrated when they do the right thing and show characteristics of a man of integrity. I reiterated after the moment that this is what our team stands for. I told them how proud we are of them, especially in that we have a team culture that celebrates true manhood, humbleness, honesty, and forgiveness.
The other coaches and I were so amazed and thankful that God would show us this fruit from our labors. That these young men chose, without direction from the coaches, and are still choosing to be a different kind of team and to be a different kind of man. A man that changes their family legacies and fights for true integrity and character.
And with this family and God driven culture in the last 2 years we have multiplied around 2 fold. Check out the difference of the quantity of people in this picture from February of 2016 to December 2017 at the same taco place. Went from 16 to 28 people. Glory to God.