I Cor. 14:20
“For the Kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.”
Playing soccer, and playing it well, isn’t about talk. It’s about showing up. It’s about working harder than anyone ever believed you could, and committing yourself to a desire deep inside of you.
When I was thirteen and trying to win a spot on an ODP team, a coach pulled me aside and said, “Son, what you have is work ethic. If you keep working, good things are going to happen for you down the road.” That was the encouragement I needed; I wouldn’t just talk about my dreams of playing pro soccer—I would show up. I would compete harder than anyone else, and I would see how far my dream could go.
Competition is in my blood. My grandfather and great grandfather played D-I football and both were captains at Auburn University. My aunt is in a Tennis Hall of Fame and I have a few cousins who played college tennis as well. As I write this, my brother, Dawson Zimmerman, has finished his punting career with Clemson University, and briefly, with the Atlanta Falcons.
My other brother, Carter, is an intramural legend at GCSU. My mom and dad also claim that they were athletic. The jury’s still out. But the emphasis here, which I think is important for any athlete, is the importance of constant competition. Competition raised me. There were nine other guys on my street, all older, faster and stronger. My goal was never to be chosen last when teams were picked.
But in embracing competition and hard work and trying to get better as an athlete, there came a time when I made the discovery that I could add something more to showing up and working hard. The best athletes are the ones who lead. This is the other side of athleticism that’s easy to overlook. A guy’s fast, a guy’s talented, and he can change a game. But how do his teammates think of him? Is he a leader? Does he actually care about his teammates, not only so that he can win, but because he’s actually part of the team? For me, caring means showing up for people and loving them like Jesus would. A team that genuinely cares about each other has team chemistry. It’s a formula for winning.
So, for me, being a pro athlete is using the most of my God-given ability to win and to compete and to enjoy the journey of my career. But it’s also something just as important. It’s about selflessly impacting the world. The arena of athletics is unique. It’s easy for anyone, whether you play in college, on a high school team or just at recess, to get caught up in the idea of having all eyes on you. There’s glory in running out on the field in front of fans, of scoring a goal, of feeling the chills as the time runs off the clock with your team in the lead. I love soccer, and I love competition. But I also love the opportunities that soccer brings to lead, to care for other people, and to learn what it means to be selfless. If you’re an athlete, or even if you’re not, compete. Work hard. Enjoy the work. But also recognize that you’re part of a bigger plan and a bigger picture. I don’t know how long God has for me to play, but I intend to not just talk, but actually show up every step of the way.