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Let Your Light Shine

Let Your Light Shine                                                           

By Greg Kozera

It was 20 years ago this month that we began teaching leadership to the seniors on our high school soccer team. We always talked about “senior leadership”. We assumed somehow when our boys became seniors they would figure out how to lead. I approached Bruce, the head coach at the time, with the idea to actually teach them leadership. After every practice, I would meet with the seniors for a “Leadership Minute”.

After about 3 weeks I taught them the importance of vision for a leader. A leader must first   know where they are going if they expect to lead others. In the Bible Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I said, “Gentlemen, what is your dream? Where do you want to be at the end of the season?” BJ, our captain and only returning starter said, “Coach, we want to play for the State championship.” Not what I expected. In 1999 West Virginia had only one class in high school soccer. To get to the state tournament you had to play and beat the biggest and the best schools in the state. We were a small single A school. We had never even won a sectional championship. As coaches, we never talked about championships.

What BJ was aiming for I thought was totally unrealistic. We had to beat Capital and George Washington, two large and talented AAA Schools in order to win our section. BJ also didn’t know that we had never in the history of our school beat Beckley, another large AAA school. They would most likely be our opponent in the Regional Championship. I was going to tell BJ that he should aim a little lower. For some reason instead I said, “OK. We have a lot of work to do.” In addition to having only BJ as the lone returning starter, we only had 4 seniors. BJ was able to convince me and the other 3 seniors that his dream was possible. Together we convinced Bruce and the rest of the Team.

After every practice, I talked about our goal for the next practice or game. Then I would jump into the air, throw my arms up and scream, “What’s the Dream?” They boys would all yell at the top of their lungs, “To play for the State Championship.” The Team began to believe it was possible. They began to practice like to was possible. They began to play with more intensity.

We beat Capital. We beat George Washington. We won our section. We destroyed Beckley 5-0 in the Regional Championship. When that game ended the entire Beckley, team sat down in place on the field. Maybe they were stunned by what had just happened to them. We went to the State Tournament for the first time in the history of the school. That year it was in Wheeling where we met our arch rival Huntington St. Joseph. They were another team we had never beat in soccer.

We were behind 0-2 at half time. Bruce talked about the things we needed to do tactically to come back. I can still remember my half time talk. It was all about belief in themselves and in the Team. I ended with, “If anyone doesn’t believe we can still come back and win this game, you need to stay in the locker room.” The second half played like a Walt Disney movie. We had key players injured. BJ got hurt and then got up and limped back into the game. Our fans were incredible. They stood and cheered the entire second half.

BJ scored the tying goal late in the game. Then Huntington scored to put us behind again with only minutes to play. With less than 10 seconds to play, BJ had the ball in front of Huntington’s goal. Instead of shooting he passed to ball to little Kenny, a freshman. Kenny was on the field because the upperclassman playing that position got hurt in the second half. Kenny shot and scored with just 1 second left in the game to tie it! We won in a shoot-out and moved on to play Morgantown High in our first ever State Championship Game. BJ’s Dream had become a reality!

We lost to Morgantown the next day but had broken through a barrier. The boys now knew it was possible to play for the State Championship. Since 1999 our Teams have won 14 Regional and 5 West Virginia Boy’s State Championships. The boys have gone on to do great things with their lives. The young man who scored the winning goal in the shootout is now my wife’s cardiologist. I’m not creative enough to make this stuff up.

The Boy’s success inspired me to write the first of my four books. Those young men and the others that followed taught me how to dream again. It is scary to think what might have happened if I had told BJ to aim lower.

Marianne Williamson in her book Return to Love said, “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your, playing small does not serve the world. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”

Let your light shine. Aim high. Believe. Do the work. Persevere. All things are possible.

Thoughts to ponder.

© 2019 Shale Crescent USA

Greg Kozera, gkozera@shalecrescentusa.com is the Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering who has over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert and the author of four books and numerous published articles.