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“I’m open, Lucas, pass the ball!” Justice cried out as they both ran toward their opponent’s goal. Lucas and Justice had played soccer together since the 5th grade. Although he was his best friend, Lucas had always been a ball hog and a hot head. Lucas ran the ball to the weakly guarded net and scored easily. He threw his arms into the air and ran around shouting, “I am the best player on this team! Why should I pass the ball?”
Their coach and parents stood on the sidelines shaking their heads in near unison. Only Lucas’ dad cheered him on, “you’re the best, Lucas!” he shouted as his wife turned to him with her jaw slowly dropping in disbelief. The father’s encouragement of such a lack of sportsmanship surprised her. Lucas’ eyes met his father’s, and Lucas beamed with satisfaction and validation.
The team’s coach blew his whistle and called the team in for a huddle. “Great job making that goal, Lucas, but let’s not forget that we’re a team. Teams work together for a common goal. That means passing the ball and running the plays we’ve worked so hard to learn together,” the coach said. There was genuine concern in his eyes—concern for Lucas’s character and concern for the feelings of the left out team members. He watched as Lucas’s smile shrunk and melted into an angry scowl. His face turned bright red with embarrassment. “I told you to pass,” Justice chimed in. With that, Lucas focused his anger in his best friend’s direction and stormed off from the huddle before the team could throw their hands in the middle and shout, “Go Tigers!”
The next weekend, the team gathered at their school’s soccer field for the first game of the district soccer tournament. The coach spotted Lucas and reminded him of what it means to be a team player. Lucas agreed to stick to the plays they practiced all week, but when the two teams took to the field, it was a different story. Right off the drop, Lucas snatched the ball and began running it to the goal. He ignored the first play and went down hard just before attempting to make the first goal of the game. He picked himself up with the echoes of laughter coming from the opposing team. “That’s what happens when you’re a team of one,” they said through their chuckles. Justice ran to his friend and gave him a hand up. “Pass the ball,” Justice reminded him. Lucas pushed his friend aside and ran back into the action on the field.
Lucas tried again to run the ball in the second half of the game, ignoring his coach and teammates’ cries. The game ended 0 – 3 and the Tigers were out of regionals before it really began. In the locker room, Lucas stood on a bench and asked for the attention of his fellow players. They were filled with disappointment; it was difficult to raise their heavy heads to meet Lucas’ eyes. “I blew it,” Lucas said with a shaky voice, “I blew the entire game and took us out of District. I don’t know how to say how sorry and embarrassed I am.”
“You can say you’re sorry by showing up to practice and running the plays. Actions speak louder than words, Lucas. You need to trust the abilities of the team and pass the ball,” Justice said. “We worked really hard to get here and your haughty attitude and pride cost us a chance at another trophy.”
“You’re right, Justice. And not only that, but I was not a good friend to you. I won’t let my pride get in the way of our team or our friendship again.”
Note to Nibble: Put away pride and be a good team player—both on and off the field.
Weekly Bible Verse: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. -Proverbs 16:18 NIV