A few weeks back, we took our daughter to a tryout for the “travel” team.
For those unfamiliar with the hierarchy in youth soccer, there is a “recreational” league open to everyone, where she typically plays. Then a more competitive “select” team you have to try out for. Then there’s “travel”…or what I like to refer to as “the elite.”
Just watching the other girls warmup as we arrived, I knew my daughter felt intimidated. And I was having one of those moments, that many parents can relate to, where I showed a big smile on my face but in the back of my head was wondering…did I do the right thing? Was it a smart idea to bring her to a tryout two levels in advance of where she normally plays? But after a quick pep talk, she reluctantly made her way to the field.
The tryout was rough. These girls were clearly on another level. They were much faster, more skilled, and she could barely keep up. My heart would wrench when the ball would hit her in the face or the stomach, or when she would stumble and fall.
The other girls weren’t particularly nice to her either. They didn’t say much to her, no encouragement, no high-fives, no helping her up when she fell. On the sideline I eagerly watched, cheered her on, and had her water ready for her when she needed a break. At the first break, she was visibly upset at me for bringing her there. I thought she was ready to leave, and honestly, so was I. But she went back on the field. She struggled some more and her abilities were pushed to the limit. But toward the end of the tryout…something happened.
She was keeping up with the other girls. She was gelling with the other players. She was kicking harder, passing better, and most importantly, playing with more confidence. She was challenged, pushed out of her comfort zone, but motivated to play at a higher level. Over the course of those 90 minutes, while playing with the best…they made her better.
As I sat their watching, I started wondering about the role that sangat plays in our lives. What does Guru Sahib mean when he refers to the “Saadh Sangat”, or those Waheguru-connected souls. I always thought my sangat were the people who lived their Sikhi like me, who had similar views, similar aspirations, who applauded me when I showed strength, and ran to my defense in times of weakness.
But maybe I had it all wrong.
Perhaps the sangat I need are those who challenge me, who push me out of my comfort zone, who motivate me to live at a higher level…and make me better.
I wonder that in my fear of being “judged”, I have avoided bringing that sangat in my life. But what I’ve since learned is that it’s my own haumai (ego) that decides what is truly “judgement” and what is “tough love” from my sangat, who are only trying to bring me closer to the Guru.
A coach of mine once said “The company you keep will bring you up or they will bring you down…there’s nothing in between. Because even if they keep you where you are, you’re not growing.”
So it begs the question…is my sangat truly bringing me closer to the guru? And would I be receptive to “tough love” from my sangat without fear of being “judged?”
And am I being the right kind of sangat to those around me? Or do I avoid the tough conversations in fear of not sounding “judgy?”
Guru Sahib is clear in the role that sangat plays in our life, so what is preventing me from fully realizing it?
As for the tryout, I’m not sure if my daughter will make the travel team, thats not up for me to decide. But as parents, we felt it was important she go to the tryout. At a minimum, she now knows where the bar is set, she knows what she has to do to make it there. And as for me, I will eagerly watch, cheer her on, and have her water ready for her when she needs a break.