When I came to Chico State three weeks before school started for pre-season soccer training, and tryouts, I never imagined that soccer would not be my path. I had been playing soccer since I was four years old, and had been playing year round soccer as soon as that was an option. I made every all-star team that I could, and played every minute of every soccer game for my high school team, with the exception of one game for a broken thumb, one game for a small fracture in my elbow, and a few minutes for an in the box yellow card. I was dedicated, obsessed, and looking forward to a future that included collegiate soccer.
When I arrived at Chico State, nothing seemed to be going right. We practiced three times a day, and everything felt unnatural to me. I was making terrible passes, getting beat by people that should not have been able to get by me. And it wasn’t because these girls were better than me, or I wasn’t good enough to play college ball. My heart just wasn’t in it anymore, and I was so confused.
To top it off, all I wanted to do when I woke up in the morning was go for a run to clear my head. In my senior year of high school, I had run cross country and track to “stay in shape for soccer,” and because my Dad was the coach and I thought he was pretty awesome. I had mildly successful seasons, but nothing monumental that made me think of anything beyond staying in shape. So every morning, before those three practices a day, I laced up my running shoes and went for a run.
And every night as I tried to sleep, I turned to my bible, and asked God, what do you want me to do? Why am I here? Why can’t I play any more? Unfortunately, there are no verses in the Bible that said “Ondi you were not meant to play soccer, you were meant to run.” I had to listen, and pray, and wait.
One night the team all went out to a party, and I opted to stay in the dorm, and get some sleep. One girl from the team opted to stay home, too, and we got a chance to talk. She told me to not get used to skipping out on the parties. She had tried in the beginning not to party either, but they made her life miserable until she agreed to drink and party with them. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I explained that I wasn’t going to drink until I was of legal age, and that I was also not planning on “partying” in college. She literally laughed and said “If you want to be a part of this team, you’re going to have to drink.”
Now I know that sounds ridiculous, and obviously they could never have forced me to do anything that I didn’t want to do, but that conversation made me realize what the Lord was leading me to do. I could have continued with my plan of playing soccer, and just ignored the promptings, but what kind of life might that have been? And, furthermore, what was God calling me to elsewhere that I wasn’t even aware of? After this conversation, and the more I prayed, and listened, and ran, I thought, “What if I run in college? Can I do that?”
I distinctly remember making the call to my parents about changing my plans. I was walking back and forth behind the track at Chico State, and was incredibly nervous about how they’d react. We had put so many years, and money, and effort into my soccer career, and here I was, switching up the plan. I explained all that I had been thinking about, and praying about, and my amazing parents just said “Okay, do what you need to do.” And there it was. What did I need to do?
And the Lord’s plans were even more clear as I walked down the sports building hallway after that conversation, and the cross country coaches office door was wide open. He was actually there, on a summer morning, out of season, in his office. I hesitantly went in and explained who I was, and that I wanted to run, and how would that work. (I had sent him an email the previous fall explaining that I was going to be there to play soccer, and could I do both, so he had seen my name before.) And to my surprise he said “We’d love to have you. Camp starts in two days in Tahoe, can you make it?”
I immediately said yes, and thanked him profusely. I went to the soccer coaches office, and thanked her for the opportunity to try out, but my heart just wasn’t in it any more, and I was going to run. She was gracious, and wished me luck. And my parents drove up the next day to drive me home, I repacked my bag with running clothes, and off to Tahoe we went.
And the rest is history. My experience as a collegiate runner at Chico State was better than I ever could have imagined. I consistently improved, and the team became a family to me. I saw success in my running career, and also got to be a part of some of my best friends achieving amazing things in running. I started an athletes bible study on my team, which lead to an FCA chapter being established at Chico State, and serving Butte College as well. I met my husband on the team, and some of my best friends to this day are from the days I spent as a Chico State runner.
I cannot imagine what my life would have looked like had I continued on the path that felt comfortable, and easy, and like what I was supposed to do. The Lord knew my plans better than I did, and I just had to seek Him to find them. I had to seek counsel from my parents, and from friends, and I had to know in my heart that the Lord would take care of me no matter what I chose. And even more than those things, I had to trust that the plans I had made for my life, were not the plans that God had made for my life. I had to give up my hopes of being the next Brandy Chastain, and trust that the Lord had bigger plans than that.
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9
I had so many plans in my heart, but the Lord knew the steps that would lead to me living a life that glorified him. I had to step into a sport where I wasn’t the best, and I had to trust in Him that it was the right choice. In this process, I never heard the audible voice of God, but he was there speaking to me every step of the way, and I was open to listening, even though it was so hard to give up on the sport I loved for years.
What are the plans that you’ve made in life, and how might you need to let go and listen to God so he can determine your steps?