After that first practice, power soccer quickly became an important part of my life, and I don’t know that the word obsession is too strong to explain my excitement. As a kid, I had always loved sports. I had always been involved in sports. I had been a statistician for several years, and I worked as a journalist at the end of high school. I loved to be around the field, but this was a different experience altogether.
There is a difference between being an observer and being an active participant. Although that might seem obvious and probably is rather obvious, I think that CS Lewis has something valuable to say about this distinction in his essay, “Meditation in a Tool Shed.”
“A physiologist, for example, can study pain and find out that it ‘is’ (whatever is means) such and such neural events. But the word pain would have no meaning for him unless he had ‘been inside’ by actually suffering.”
Obviously I do not consider power soccer to be suffering, but this illustration vividly points out what it was like for me to be actually on the field competing. For years, I had been watching other people play, and I was pretty good at providing commentary on how I thought the game was going. I knew a lot about sports as an external observer. When I was watching a basketball game, I knew when it was good to transition from man-to-man to a zone defense. When I was watching baseball, I knew the optimal time to hit-and-run with a particular hitter at the plate. I knew these facts about sports, and they were the result of studying sports for years.
I didn’t know what sport felt like. I didn’t know the frustration that you have to handle when a weak shot slips by you and really shouldn’t have. I didn’t realize the excitement when you finally crack a hole in the opposition’s defense and have an opportunity to break down the court in the opposite direction.
I had observed these types of behaviors in other athletes for years, but it is much different when you feel these emotions inside yourself. It gives you a new level of appreciation for what it really means to be an athlete.
I can remember before I started playing that I never really understood why players make one bad decision and then spiral downward into an overall poor performance for the rest of the game. As an external observer, I didn’t quite understand why it was so hard for athletes to put bad decisions behind them and move on with the game. I didn’t understand the psychological effects because I had never felt them.
Trust me, after years of playing power soccer and making plenty of mistakes, I understand that now. There is a part of the experience I had a hard time appreciating until I actually had the experience myself. Power soccer gave me that, and I am incredibly grateful.
 C. S. Lewis, “Mediatation in a Toolshed” in God in the Dock (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 214, Kindle Edition
Photo credit to Ashley (although a different Ashley than last time)