The Theology of Soccer
Every person on the soccer field is worth dying for: teammates, opposing team members, coaches, even the referees. That’s half of the “theology of soccer,” according to Jake Smith, North Central University’s Men’s Soccer Coach. The other half? God is omnipresent.
The “theology of soccer” helps athletes to remember that Christ is there on the field with them as they play, Smith notes. Jesus is the 12th player on the team. Soccer, then, is not just a game, but it is a brotherhood or sisterhood. Winning and losing are important facets of playing, Smith acknowledges, but a player can win a game and still be a loser. So while the athletes want to win, they do not want to win at any cost.
Instead, North Central’s athletes are coached to play their games “for the 12th” player: a game that Christ Himself, who is there with them, would enjoy watching because they are not just sacrificing money, time, and passion, but they also are honoring each other, glorifying Christ, and ministering through sports.
“The world speaks soccer,” Smith says, and because of this, the soccer team has the opportunity this summer to travel to India, coaching and playing the game. After completing the requirements for an Advanced National Diploma in coaching from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, Smith is training 11 North Central soccer athletes to coach. They meet at six a.m. every Wednesday to hone coaching skills they will practice in Jaipur, India, where soccer is growing as a sport.
Each morning in India, the women will train girls ages eight to 14, and then teach them trades in the afternoons. The men will teach boys from 10 to 14 years old, as well as older, premier teams. At the end of the 10-to-12-day trip, they will host tournaments, during which the teams they’ve coached will compete with each other.
There is a shortage of soccer coaches in India, where for years cricket has been the dominant game. Offering training and coaching is something that Smith believes will not only fill a large need in the Indian culture, but also give North Central athletes an opportunity to experience the significance of soccer outside of the normal season, to grow in brotherhood and sisterhood, and to play for the 12th player.