An Assist Is An Act of Service

Soccer is a game of small assists

[Original post from Quarter Turn’s predecessor, You’re So Venn]

Every Sunday night during the spring and fall, and on occasional Sundays in the summer, I play recreational soccer with what I like to call my “old lady league.” We’re all over 35 and have fun; we have careers and better things to do than get injured. It’s good to still be able to take the field.

Before I got old and slow(er) though, I played competitive soccer for 20 years.

And, aside from the first time I took the field as a high school freshman and promptly ran into—and knocked down—our star player in a fit of nerves (sorry, Meredith), my favorite memory is an assist.

We were tied with a rival in the state championship final

on a beautiful November evening made for games under lights. From the right sideline I made a long pass to a teammate who, with one touch, put the ball in the back of the net for the winning goal.

That evening will be a highlight reel in my memory for the rest of my life. I was always best at the assist, and in a career full of them that one is my favorite.

Soccer is an everyman’s sport. It requires neither great height nor great speed, and goals are often the product of a series of individual efforts. Tackles, passes, runs. Each person doing their job.

Soccer is a game of small assists.

The dictionary calls an assist “an act that makes something easier.” Really, though, an assist is an act of service.

In sports, and in life, it’s an act of service to someone: a teammate, a customer, a stranger, a team.

Sometimes the player who scores is just the last one to touch the ball. Goal scorers and spotlight players often don’t like to hear that, but it’s true. If you trace the plays back, you’ll see how everyone else chipped in on the way down the field.

Some people would point out that life, though, isn’t a team sport.

And they would be right. And wrong (and cynical).

While I can’t rely on a team the way I could on a soccer field, it’s important to me to put the things into the world that I most want, or need. Being generous to others tends to result in useful people showing up and being generous in return. Maybe not always. Maybe not perfectly.

But they are out there, the other people assisting.

I hope to always be one of them, long after my knees decide I’m no longer an athlete.

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