The Soccer Lesson
by Elizabeth Wrobel
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“I’m quitting the team!” Danny Taylor announced to his family.
“Danny, you can’t quit,” his twin sister, Rachel, whispered. She looked as if she were about to cry. “Tonight is the championship game! If we win, we get a trophy. We’ve worked so hard for this.”
“You worked hard for this,” Danny told her. “My behind just got sore!”
Danny wasn’t always this angry about soccer, in fact, Danny lived for sports--specifically soccer. He had been playing soccer since he was eight years old and every year on his youth soccer team, he was the goalie--every year, that is, until this year, when Rachel came along and stole his position!
Rachel and Danny might be twins but they didn’t have very much in common. Danny knew lots of girls that liked sports. As far as he knew, Rachel wasn’t one of those girls. She loved shopping, reading fashion magazines, talking on the phone, pretty much anything that doesn’t mess up her hair. The only time they ever really spent together was family dinner and church on Sunday morning.
It took Danny by surprise when she asked him to teach her how to play soccer. Teaching Rachel how to play soccer wasn’t the problem, in fact, they actually had fun together.
Then Rachel asked permission to register for youth soccer so she could try out for Danny’s team. Danny didn’t think that would be a problem. He thought since they had fun when Rachel was learning how to play soccer, they would have fun playing together on the same team. Boy, was he wrong! That’s when the problem started. When they tried out for positions on the team, the coach made Rachel the goalie, and Danny, he mastered the art of bench warming. During practice and during games, Danny watched his sister play goalie--his position! He couldn’t take it anymore. Quitting the team and quitting soccer for good was the only thing left to do.
“Danny, you’re still part of the team, even if you aren’t the goalie,” his father explained. “Everybody on the team contributes to its success. You should be there with them for the championship game.”
“I don’t do anything to contribute to the team! Even if I get a chance to play, it’s not for very long. That’s why I have to quit and that’s why I’m not going to the game tonight,” Danny said.
“But, Danny, you have to come!” Rachel shrieked.
“Why? So I can watch your team win? Forget it!”
“It’s supposed to be our team,” Rachel said quietly as she got off the couch and ran upstairs.
“Daniel!” his mother said in a very stern voice.
Uh-oh. Danny was in trouble. When his mother used his full name instead of calling him, Danny, he knew a lecture would follow.
“You’re not doing yourself or Rachel any good sulking,” she told him. “Don’t you realize what you’ve done?”
“You turned your sister into a soccer player,” Mrs. Taylor explained. “You were such a good teacher that she became good enough to become the goalie, and she helped the team make it to the championship. I’m a teacher. I feel good when one of my students accomplishes something.”
Danny didn’t care anything about being a teacher. All he cared about was soccer and because of his sister, he didn’t have it anymore.
“Aren’t you proud of Rachel?” Mrs. Taylor asked.
“No, I hate her for being so good!” Danny ran upstairs to his room. After he slammed his door, he felt really bad for saying that he hated Rachel. It wasn’t even true and he wished he could take it back, but it was too late.
Danny sat alone in his room for the rest of the day. Nobody bothered him. It gave him plenty of time to think about how he was acting and how God wouldn’t like it at all. The Bible said to be kind to others. The Bible said not to be selfish. The Bible said not to be jealous of anyone or anything. Lately, Danny hadn’t been doing a very good job of following the rules in the Bible.
It was already five o’clock, an hour before the game was going to start. Danny figured Mom, Dad, and Rachel had already left so he went down to the kitchen to get something to eat. At the door, he heard his mother and Rachel talking. He froze right there in his tracks.
“Rachel, how come you’re not dressed?” Mrs. Taylor asked. “Your game is in an hour."
“I’m not going,” Rachel whispered.
“Why not?” Mrs. Taylor asked touching Rachel's forehead. “Aren’t you feeling well?”
“I feel fine.” Rachel pushed Mrs. Taylor’s hand away. “I’m just not going to the game, and I’ve decided to quit the team.”
“What’s gotten into this family? First Danny quits and now you’re quitting.” Mrs. Taylor sighed. “Why on earth would you quit right before the championship game? Don’t you want the trophy?”
“I don’t care about the stupid game or the stupid trophy!” Rachel shouted. “I don’t even like soccer.”
“Then why did you want Danny to teach you how to play?”
“Because that’s all Danny cares about.” Rachel started crying and Mrs. Taylor held her. “He likes soccer more than he likes me. I thought if I did something with him that he liked, we might be able to be friends.” Rachel sniffed. “I prayed all winter that I would make the team so Danny and I could practice together, go to games together, talk about soccer, work toward the championship together. The summer was great but when youth soccer started, Danny was so
grumpy and mean to me, it wasn’t like I thought it would be at all. Then Danny said he wasn’t coming to the game and I don’t care about playing unless Danny’s there with me.”
Danny couldn’t believe what his sister was saying. All along she hated playing soccer and never said a word. Danny hated sitting on the bench and complained enough for the both of them. That was another thing that made Rachel and Danny so different. All Rachel wanted to do was spend time with Danny and all Danny wanted to do was be the star of the team. Rachel toughed it out when she didn’t get what she wanted, but Danny made a big deal about it and took his anger out on Rachel. There was no reason why they couldn’t have practiced together or why Danny couldn’t have cheered for her at games. They were still brother and sister and that was more important than soccer itself and more important than who had what position on the team.
Lord, I’m sorry for all the hurtful things I said and did to Rachel. She didn’t deserve it. I wish I’d realized that at the beginning of the season. I promise I’ll make it up to her. Just so you know, Rachel’s a good sister. I’m the one who isn’t doing so well at being a brother. But I’ll try to do better. Amen.
After the prayer Danny realized it was getting late and Rachel had a game to play. Actually, they both did. Even though Danny wasn’t on the field during the whole game, he still got to play sometimes. This time he couldn’t wait to sit on the bench. It was best place on the field to cheer for Rachel!
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” Danny stormed into the kitchen. “We have to be at the soccer field in twenty minutes and you’re not even dressed yet.”
“We?” she asked smiling.
“Yes, we! You, Mom, Dad, and me. Now come on. I will not tolerate laziness! Go change into your uniform and meet me out front in ten minutes!”
When they got to the soccer field, Rachel stopped behind the bleachers where they were away from everybody.
“Will you pray with me, Danny?” Rachel asked.
Danny nodded. He needed to start doing that more often.
Rachel and Danny both lowered their heads and closed their eyes. “Dear God, please help Danny and I play our best today. Please help us not to let our teammates down.”
“And if we could win that great, big, heavy trophy--it would be really great! Thanks!” Danny added with a grin.
“Same goes for me, too, God.” Rachel smiled.
Then, at the same time, they said, “Amen.”
Rachel ran onto the field and Danny went to sit with their other teammates who were waiting for their turn on the soccer field. This time, instead of sulking, he cheered for Rachel. In fact, every time their team scored, he cheered. They won the game! Danny was proud of Rachel.
Maybe his mother was right after all. Danny ran out onto the field and gave Rachel a big bear hug then they both helped the winning team hold up the big and heavy championship trophy while they got their pictures taken!
As the other players grabbed their stuff and went to find their families, Danny tapped Rachel on the shoulder. “Follow me.”
They walked over to the edge of the soccer field where nobody was standing. “I heard everything you told Mom about why you really wanted to play soccer.”
Rachel didn’t say anything.
“Sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes your sister steals your position on the soccer team and sometimes your brother acts really grumpy.”
Rachel smiled a little. “Then you know that I don’t want to register for soccer next year.”
Danny grinned. “Good, maybe I’ll have a chance to be the goalie.”
“I’ll help you practice and I’ll come to every game and cheer for you,” Rachel promised. “Maybe that would be a better way for us to be friends than for me to do something I don’t enjoy, because then it’s not any fun for either of us.”
“Just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you have to hate everything that’s cool,” Danny teased. “I’m sure we could find something that we both enjoy and do it together.”
“I’d like that.” Rachel smiled.
“Here you two are,” Mrs. Taylor said as she and Mr. Taylor walked up to them. “How about if we go out for pizza to celebrate?”
“Pepperoni!” they both said at the exact same time then started laughing.
“See.” Danny smiled. “I told you we like plenty of the same things!”
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