Little did I know that the start of my collegiate soccer career was actually the end of it.
I had been playing soccer since the age of 4 and had the very big dream of playing professional soccer. I used to think being recruited to play in college was only the beginning of my career, but God clearly had other plans. I went from being committed to play Division I soccer, to tearing my knee and receiving a career ending concussion. Thankfully at the time I realized my relationship with God is more important than my success in soccer, and that you can’t try to prioritize both. But before that, I never truly understood what it was like to put my relationship with Christ first and my relationship with soccer second.
When all you know is soccer and you start to prioritize your career over your eternity, things can get messy and it did for me in High School. I had been playing club soccer on a nationally ranked team since I was 7, so you could say my expectations to succeed were high. While growing up in a Christian home and being involved in church and playing competitive soccer, I had to choose between which to attend. Soccer was always the answer. I constantly asked myself the question, “How am I expected to put church first when I’m trying to play in college?.” Because I never prioritized my relationship with the Lord like I needed to, I started to struggle. I didn’t recognize that devoting myself to a sport would actually pull me further away from it. That didn’t change my perspective though and I continued to put all my time and effort into soccer. By my Junior year I got the results I wanted. I committed to California State University Fullerton on a scholarship. I finally made it. God finally gave me what I wanted, so I was happy about it. But, I soon learned that even though He gives you want you want, it’s not always what you need.
Since I got what I wanted, or so I thought, I eased up a little bit on soccer. I took a week off and decided to go to a summer camp called Hume Lake, where things finally clicked. The whole week I continued to ask myself that same question, until I got to a point where I broke. I was telling myself that I can do both, value soccer and Jesus, when in reality I was choosing soccer over and over again in my heart. I had the fear that if I chose church over soccer I would lose it, without recognizing the even greater loss of not following Jesus. I was reminded in Luke 16:13 that “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” I was doing exactly that, and it was made clear that I needed to rethink. I rededicated my life to Christ, and told myself that the more I continue to put soccer first, the further away from God I will get. I’m not saying you have to quit soccer to follow Jesus, but you do need to choose which is more important.
Jump forward to summer of 2015. I received my sixth concussion while serving on a Junior High house boating trip, ending my collegiate soccer career. With what seemed like the end of the world, I was then able to use my personal experience to coach. Having to end soccer was nowhere near easy, but with having my worth and priorities in Christ comforted me in knowing that he has plans for me better than I can ever imagine.
God and soccer can’t both be your #1 priority. You are going to have to choose. My encouragement: Choose God, because soccer won’t be there forever.
My name is Nicholle Frei, I am 21 years old, and I am a senior at Cal State Fullerton. I am passionate about sports, ministry, and spending time building relationships students. I currently work part-time in both Children's Ministry at Grace Fellowship Church and as an Assistant Coach for LA Galaxy Orange County. I am in the midst of pursuing everything I love to do while trying to be obedient to where the Lord has me!