My sophomore daughter hung in the goal, on high alert during Tuesday’s high school playoff game against a rival team. She and her team made it through four over-time periods, with 20 minutes of overtime and 10 minutes of sudden death.
Neither team flinched.
It came down to penalty kicks – the ultimate in high stakes and high pressure for a keeper (and yes, also for all those who love that keeper).
Hannah got loose and stepped into the goal, looking calm.
Ball after ball came by. Some went in, some did not. She continued to look eerily calm, staring with intensity at each kicker, ready to explode with force in a hair trigger moment, a split second after the ball made contact with cleat.
The kicks continued, both sets of parents screaming maniacally. Some people chanted our daughter’s name. “Go MAVERICKS!,” could be heard echoing through our side of the stadium, as though if we screamed loud enough, we could influence the outcome through sheer desire. Others, mostly moms, couldn’t even bear to watch, the tension so high for both teams.
My girl stopped the ball. One of our players scored. Sudden death penalty kicks. The game was over.
Fans started to rush the field, screaming and waving their arms. “MAVS!!!!”
Hannah stretched and for a second, got back in the goal.
The referee looked at our daughter, puzzled.
“The game is over,” the referee said, smiling at her.
“Wait, you mean we won? That’s it?” she asked, a broad smile crossing her face, her eyes focused now on the friends and family pouring through the gate.
After rounds of congratulations from teammates she came to find us.
“I didn’t know we’d won,” she said after a moment. “I was just focusing on stopping all the balls.”
I smiled widely. Sometimes life is like this. In moments of high pressure, confusion, tension or anxiety, we have to step back from the big picture and focus on the next right thing.
Stop the ball.
Love your family and friends boundlessly.
Do ridiculously good work.
Care for and serve others with abandon.
You will look up one day and see that the game is over. And you’ve won.