Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Since becoming a coach last spring, I have learned quite a bit. I am used to being the athlete but now I get to be a part of a team from an entirely new perspective. Right now, I'm trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible from other coaches that I respect. I am constantly asking questions, learning how other people coach and manage their teams, and I pick up bits and pieces from each coach I talk to. I think we all define 'success' in different ways and I also don't think there is one 'key' to attaining it.

My dad is also a soccer coach. I was just asking him about this past season and what he focused on. We talked about a bunch of stuff and he gave me a lot of good coaching 'gems' (as he likes to call them, haha)...just things he has learned over the years. We both agreed that EVERY SINGLE DAY that we coach we learn something new.

The one thing that we talked about that, I would say, is the single most important thing in creating a 'successful' team is getting them to BELIEVE in what I am trying to do. In order for this to happen, I need to believe in what I'm trying to do.

I started coaching a U16 team last spring. After the first tryout, I didn't want to do it. I tried to quit, haha, but the club owner wouldn't let me. I didn't think I could do it. I didn't believe. This, clearly, was not a good attitude. How can I expect my team to follow if I don't even know where I'm going? Someone recently told me, "You must let your 'yes' be yes and your 'no' be no. TRUST YOURSELF." (Now, I eventually had more confidence in what I was doing as the season went on- so I wasn't quite this drastically unsure of myself).

Let me first talk about my version of 'success.' A lot of coaches just want to win. Obviously, that's the ultimate goal but I believe that there are more important things. I don't talk to my teams about winning, (ok, maybe I did a few times haha, but it won't happen again). I talk to them about hard work. I told them about a hundred times this season that "nothing replaces hard work." Walking off the field- whether its practice or a game- with absolutely nothing left because you gave 100% effort. THAT is my version of success. I set an impossibly high standard of this success knowing full-well that they will never achieve it. Why? Because you can always work harder, so it's never ending. But I do this in order to push them so that they have to dig deeper than they even thought possible. Success is not walking off the field with a win...success is walking off the field empty, because you left it all out there. how do I get my teams to do this? How do I get them to believe in me and what I'm trying to do?

They don't have to like me...they just have to respect me. It's my job to push them mentally, emotionally, and much that it's going to be painful at times. They need to be challenged like this at each and every practice so that when they get to the games, its almost easy. While challenging them in this way, I also want to be giving them confidence and encouragement. I need to get them to be passionate, intense, and competitive in a way that is loving, compassionate, and respectful. I think John Wooden put it best, "The greatest strength is in gentleness." Unfortunately, this balance is a lot easier said than done. I'm only human and sports bring out emotions like anger and pride, so it's hard to be patient and understanding. But it's also necessary. When you treat people in a challenging yet respectful way, they start to respond and trust and follow your lead.

Now, I obviously want them to believe in me. This past season I found that their belief in me was initiated in my belief in them. It was amazing what happened just because I BELIEVED IN THEM.

Winning is how the world defines success. I define success with my heart: Did we give it everything we could? How can we get better? I can teach my teams all the skills and all the tactics there are to teach. But with a little patience and trust and confidence and BELIEF in those I'm leading...they start to follow.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Party in my mouth.

I can't think of too many things that are more amazing than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Pure joy for my taste buds. People will argue many different ways to create a PB&J. I, however, am the Yoda of this simple yet glorious sandwich. Just to clear up some confusion: 1. you must use wheat bread, 2. you must use strawberry jelly, 3. any peanut butter will do, but you must use at least twice as much peanut butter as jelly...peanut butter is the star, you have to let him shine. :)

I now appreciate PB&J in a whole new way because I ate it every single day during my 3-week trip to Los Angeles. I had the privilege of enjoying this meal for 21 days with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. So, now, every time I eat a PB&J it takes me right back to sitting around a table with my new brothers and sisters, surrounded by a love and community that I miss more and more each day.

I would also like to take the time to mention one of the greatest inventions known to man. It, like PB&J, is a sandwich...on a whole new level.

Diddy Reise's. Better known as "Diddy's."

Wow. The name just makes my mouth water.

Diddy's is an ice cream place in L.A. It is a small business, with a line going out the door and down the block. You get to choose two homemade cookies, they can be the same or different. You then choose an ice cream flavor. The Diddy's experts place the scoop of ice cream between the two cookies...making a beautiful sandwich. And it's only $1.50! Absolute brilliance.

During my first experience at Diddy's I had, not one, but TWO of these masterpieces. Yeah, no worries...I can throw down. We then proceeded to eat Diddy's 4 or 5 more times during the last week.

One night at 11:42pm a craving for Diddy's overtook a few of us. Now, Diddy's closes at midnight and on a normal drive it takes about 20 minutes to get there. Nothing was going to stop us. We jumped in someone's car and risked our lives on the highways of California to make it to Diddy's in EIGHT minutes...getting there in plenty of time to order and fulfill our need.

Peanut butter and jelly. Diddy Reise's. My amazing sisters.

Sounds like heaven to me :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My little bro.

I am an athlete. This doesn't define me and it's not who I am but it is a part of me.

Something is missing. Summer seems kind of weird right now. I'm used to setting my alarm clock every morning to go running, lift weights, and play soccer, preparing for the upcoming season. I'm used to feeling the pressure of having to get my body into the best shape of my life in order to pass fitness tests and earn a spot on my team. I'm used to having the excitement building up as August approaches, eager to play against some of the best competition in the country.

All of this is gone. I don't have a team anymore. I don't have a 'season' to prepare for. I miss the burning in my lungs as I finish the last shuttle in a sprint-workout. I miss my jeans being too tight because of all the power cleans and squats. I miss setting distant, seemingly impossible goals like winning a conference championship...and then achieving them. :)

As I said...I am an athlete. This doesn't define me, but the pain and privilege of being a college athlete has come and gone. Not many people can say that they survived 4 years of a college sport. It has been the hardest and, at the same time, most enjoyable thing I have ever done. It breaks you down until you have nothing left...but you must find more.

The cool thing about this, however, is that I get to see new people enter into a lifestyle that I am now leaving. One of these people is my little brother, Aidan. He is going to be a senior in high school. He has started looking at schools where he can play college soccer. He has seen me go through the ups and downs (some of those downs were rough, haha) of college soccer, which I think makes him a bit apprehensive. I, of course, am in full support of him playing college soccer. I explain to him that it's not easy but that it will teach him valuable things about himself and about life, in a setting that will force him to dig deeper and deeper, finding more than he ever thought possible. It's not just about those Friday night games in front of thousands of people. It's about having enough courage to sacrifice many things to do all the lifting, running, and training that is required to prepare for those games. Hopefully I haven't scared him too much :)

Anyway....I would like to give a little shout-out to my bro right now. As he looks ahead to playing college soccer in a year, he surely can't overlook this upcoming week. His club team, Everest, won the US Youth Regional Championship. They beat one of the best teams in the country, from Missouri, in a shootout, to win the championship. Unfortunately, I was not at the game but I was on the phone with my mom when they won....screaming and jumping up and down on a street in Los Angeles, (if anyone was watching they definitely thought I was nuts).

Next week they travel to Arkansas for the National Championship. I am not missing this one! My brother is a center midfielder on one of the top 4 boys U17 teams in the COUNTRY. Dang! That is just so cool and I am really proud of him. He likes to give me a hard time asking, "Hey Kels, have you ever won Regionals?" Knowing full-well that no, I haven't. So I like to joke back, "Hey Aidan, have you ever won an SEC Championship as an underdog, beating one of the best teams in the country?" All in good fun, though, haha.

So as I sit here feeling bad for myself that the 'glory days' are over, I now get to see my brother achieve something that millions of kids can only dream of. I get to see my brother train everyday in preparation for Nationals. I get to see my brother face the toughest competition he has ever faced. I get to see my brother go out onto a stage where he will have to dig deeper than he ever has.

I am still an athlete. Now I get to learn all kinds of new lessons from watching rather than running and lifting :)


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pick up your thimble.

During my time in Los Angeles we had the opportunity to hear a few excellent speakers and also watch and discuss some movies that deal with the very issues that we could see living on Skid Row, at our ministry sites, and just about everywhere else in the world.

One of the movies that hit me like a ton of bricks was called "Born in the Brothels." It is a documentary about Calcutta, India and the children that are born into the brothels. A 'brothel,' as defined by Wikipedia is "a whorehouse; an establishment specifically dedicated to prostitution." In Calcutta the brothels were not simply a house. They were a huge apartment-like structure with hundreds of women, generation after generation.

There's more. Want to know the worst part; the part that broke my heart? The children that were born into these brothels. The CHILDREN. Born, not by choice, into a place that they can't get out of. They know nothing else. So that by age 14 these girls are in the same line of work as their mothers and grandmothers: selling their bodies to stay alive. Mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual chains. As far as they know, the 'brothels' are what the whole world is like. They know nothing else.

Those children could be super-star athletes, doctors, teachers, artists, lawyers, CEO's.....

But they will never be those things. They aren't allowed to dream like we are.

What does this have to do with me? with you? with us?

Understanding the Gospel is crucial to understanding what is really going on in the world. We have simplified and molded the Gospel to look just the way we want it to…but we miss some of it. We think that we just need Jesus and we are “saved” and that’s it. Well I hate to break it to you, but it’s not about ME and it’s not about YOU. It’s about God and how He wants to use us to build His Kingdom. And by ‘build His Kingdom’ I basically mean change the world. It’s not about us and our salvation…it’s more about what we are doing NOW while we are here on earth. Our world has enough hurt and hate. As Ghandi said, “YOU must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important that we first know Jesus and understand that we are sinners and He died so that we might live. What’s even more important, though, is that we understand that it doesn’t stop there. It’s not about “getting better” or “achieving success” for God; we don’t have to earn anything…it’s about loving because we understand His love for us. We must start to live like Jesus and have a heart like Jesus and begin to see the world through His eyes.

One of the speakers at Project gave us this analogy to what “changing the world” looks like: IT'S LIKE TRYING TO EMPTY THE OCEAN USING ONLY A THIMBLE.

Talk about discouraging. Well I guess I will just give up now, what’s the point…right? Wrong. That’s the attitude that most people take but, that’s also what I was just talking about with the whole ‘understanding the Gospel.’ We like to be selfish and justify it with that fact that “I can’t make a difference.” Take the brothels, for example. Look at all the brokenness going on there...and then realize that is only one small place on earth. There is so much hurt going on, all over the place.

Let me say it again: it’s not about ME and it’s not about YOU. It seems hopeless. As individuals, we will barely make a dent in the big picture. We will hit walls and adversity.

But we have a choice: Will we be part of the cure or part of the disease? In everything we do, will we bring a little bit of heaven to earth or a little bit of hell?

No, I might not be able to directly help those children in Calcutta. And no, I can't answer why I was born in Westlake, OH and why those little girls were born into a whorehouse. But I can tell you that, because of where I was born and because of the resources and abilities I have now, I am going to do what I can, where I'm at. I am going to do this with LOVE. In hopes that other people will see that and begin to understand and to follow as I have chosen to follow.

Let me grab my thimble...I choose to bring heaven.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

716 West 28th Street

Hi everyone! I just returned from three weeks in Los Angeles at Urban Project. To sum it up in one word...AMAZING. I didn't want to leave and I miss it already. I have so many thoughts going on in my head that it is really hard to make sense of them. Once I get them all organized I will be writing multiple blogs about all the different stuff I learned and experienced. Be patient with me...there is a lot to think about.

Right now I want to talk about COMMUNITY.

When I first walked into the fraternity house that I would be living in for three weeks, I'm not gonna lie, I freaked out a little bit. I slept on an air mattress, on the floor. I had 2 roommates. There was no air conditioning. There were 4 stalls and 4 showers for nearly 20 girls. We ate peanut butter and jelly every single day for lunch, on $1 bread. We at some sort of fried meat every night for dinner, and all the side dishes had at least 3 sticks of butter in them. I quickly realized how spoiled I am. The food made me pretty sick for the first 5 days. After I got over my illness and then, more importantly, after I got over myself...that place became home to me. Now...I have a new appreciation for food and I kind of want to sleep on an air mattress for the rest of my life. It was a simple, less cluttered lifestyle.

Ok, enough about the living conditions. The PEOPLE are what I am missing the most about my time in L.A. It is hard to put into words the amount of love and community we lived in. We weren't there to "get ours" and compete with one another. We were there to look out for and take care of each other. We were there to sacrifice for the sake of the family. We lived life TOGETHER. We all understood that "it's not about ME," but that we were there to serve each other. These people who I spent only three weeks with are now my brothers and sisters. I already know that some of them are now my best friends for life. It's amazing how fast we bonded and just loved each other without hesitation.

Let me tell you about one of my favorite nights. A bunch of us girls climbed up onto the roof of the frat house to have a dance party. It was hilarious and we probably looked ridiculous. After thoroughly wearing ourselves out, we blasted worship music and laid our heads together in a circle, staring up at the stars. We didn't talk at all, but we just laid there. Do you ever have those moments when you just feel safe and content and accepted and loved and at home? This was one of those moments.

Why can't the world be like that? I can guarantee you that if it were, it would be a much better place. The reality is that it is far from that type of community. Instead, it is full of hate, anger, bitterness, jealousy, pain, competition and, ultimately, selfishness. It is because of all of these things that our world is becoming more and more evil and twisted. This is what makes it so challenging to leave that environment and return to the real world.

Living like that for three weeks was a glimpse of heaven. I know that it was not "reality" as we know it but...why can't it be?

By the last day, we couldn't stop crying and hugging each other. We knew that we were leaving behind something special. Something that we may never experience again. Now, this new family of mine is dispersed throughout the United States on our respective campuses. It is sad and it is frustrating, but it is now up to each of us to try and create that same community throughout the world. Impossible? Maybe. But that doesn't mean we aren't going to try.