At some point in the past few weeks I was watching the Copa America Centenario (that’s a pretty significant soccer tournament being hosted by the USA during the month of June) and somebody (I think a former US National Team member), while commenting about some member of some team, in some game in the tournament said something that stuck with me.
The player being commented about had scored an absolutely amazing goal: the pass came in and he headed the ball down and into the goal. Had he headed it any other direction, the goalie would have made an amazing save. But, because he headed it down, it was a goal.
What the color commentator said, in effect, was that you really don’t know what you are thinking...actually you probably are not thinking...instinct just takes over when you’re in that situation.
The play-by-play guy laughed at him for “thinking like a player” in answering the question with “I don’t know.”
But, really, the color commentator was right. As one who has played soccer (not quite at a National Team level) I can assure you that if you have to stop and think about what you’re going to do in a game, by the time you make your decision the opportunity you were thinking about will be gone.
Practice is for thinking. Practice is when you do countless hours of drills and exercises. Practice is where you hone your skills and your body...so that, when you’re in a game, you don’t have to think: it’s all instinct...you just act.
Soccer isn’t the only sport where this is true. Really in all sports you think at practice and you play at the game. But such is not just the case in sports.
In our Christian life, we have practice times (or training times). When we come together to sing, study, pray, etc. this is our time to think and prepare ourselves for action.
When we walk out of the doors, though, it is “game on!” Satan is going to hit us with everything in his arsenal. If we have to spend time thinking about how to resist his temptation...suddenly we’ve lost the battle and we don’t know what or how it happened.
When we are out in the world, our instinct needs to take over when we face temptations. And that instinct needs to be to get as far away from it as possible, and to do so as quickly as possible.
That kind of instinct only comes from assembling every time you have opportunity with your fellow competitors to train and to “practice.”