We have written before about the soccer program we have at our youth center in Juarez, Mexico. After attending class each Saturday, the young people gather for practice and to play. We have a few rules for anyone that plays on our field: 1) no bad language, 2) no fighting – and our volunteer coaches are quick to enforce that. If anyone swears or picks a fight, they have to sit out on the sidelines. And no one wants to do that too often, so the players have learned to watch their language and curb their tempers.
The discipline these kids are learning from being part of a team, working together and following the rules is helping shape them and equip them for the challenges of life. They see that they don’t have to resort to violence to work out conflicts and that they can control their impulses and reactions. Growing up in an area rife with gangs and street fights, these are vital and life-changing lessons.
Recently we were invited to play an experienced team at their soccer field in a different part of town. They had beaten us badly the last time we played them. During the game this other team cussed nonstop, picked fights and didn’t play fair. But our young men exercised great self-control and did not curse back or fight. “Keep going,” our coach encouraged. “You play well and set a good example.” Our boys did. And we won!
“These boys have changed so much,” said one of our teachers, “They are developing character and have learned to control themselves – even on the field when emotions run high and it is highly competitive. We are so proud of them.”