I woke up the other day to a memory I had not thought of in a very long time. I was still in high school playing on our school’s soccer team. There was a moment where I was at the top of the penalty box about 25-yards away from the opponent’s goal. A pass came in quickly from the right wing and I kicked the ball first-touch towards the net.
As a player, I was certainly no Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. But I must admit, at the age of 17, I had the capability to put a fair amount of power into a shot. And on this particular strike, I connected perfectly.
My timing was spot on as all the energy I could muster went into my right leg, which moved into my right foot, and then transferred into the oncoming ball. With my momentum carrying me through the strike, my left foot came unplanted after my swing followed through. The ball came exploding off of my foot with zero spin—the kind of shot you would see in slow motion on a sports highlight. I had never kicked a ball so hard—the goal keeper had no chance at stopping it.
There was pure satisfaction in that kick. And I remember feeling good about it. But in that moment I never would have thought the memory would continue to stick with me years afterwards. It might be because a little over a year later I became wheelchair bound. Or perhaps it is just nostalgia and me vicariously living through a high point from my youth. I’m not sure. I did love playing soccer. And I still enjoy watching the game in person or on the screen.
My trip down memory lane then got me thinking. “Wait... the European Championship, Copa América, and the Olympics are scheduled this year!” And then I snapped back to reality. The COVID-19 Coronavirus...
The European Championship is postponed. The Copa América tournament is postponed. The Tokyo Summer Olympics are postponed. And list after list of other major events, minor events, public events, private events and everything in between are getting postponed or cancelled altogether. Who would’ve thunk.
I took pause; then thought back to that skipping soccer ball I kicked. My teenage memory brought light to all that is currently happening around us. We each have so many variables coming our way on the daily—even more so now given the added layers of uncertainty. And with each challenge that gets served up, we have the choice to kick or not.
When I kicked that ball, I hit it with everything I had. And it took everything I had because the ball was coming in fast. When a ball connects with one’s foot, the force from the foot strikes the ball causing the ball to deform. As the ball recoils back into its original shape, the ball will accelerate in the direction the foot points it. When a ball is already in motion towards the kicker, the ball deformation will be greater when struck, which in turn generates more acceleration upon recoil. This of course is only possible if the foot maintains its velocity through the kick. And that kick may cause a bit of pain; hence, the need to kick hard.
The term unprecedented gets used a lot these days. A quick flip through any news source is enough to drag us down. But despite all the variables, the uncertainty, the emotion, the frustration, you name it... when an opportunity comes rushing in we need to be ready and have the courage to commit. Granted, the new opportunity may trigger some initial discomfort, but we need to overcome that discomfort by giving it everything we got. We need to anticipate. We need to focus. We need to put our energy into a proactive step and take the shot. It will feel good.
But of course if that epic and memorable shot ends up ricocheting off the crossbar, as did mine, do not give up. You are part of a greater team that extends beyond yourself. Your team needs you. Stay in the game.