BOSTON — U.S.
team member Stephanie Cox spent much of her time on the bench at the Women’s
World Cup in Germany.
The lack of playing time — she played in two of the team’s six games, for a
total of 67 minutes — was frustrating. But it also served as a reminder to Cox
of her responsibility to her teammates, no matter how much she was on the
Cox, a defender, began to see “that God has me there for a bigger purpose than
for me to excel at my sport, or just wins and losses. It’s more about the
effect I can have on my teammates. My responsibility is to show them Christ.”
Cox said she tried to cheer loudly for her teammates, supporting them and
encouraging them in persevering through the competition. In doing so, she hoped
they could see her love for them — and Christ’s love in her — shining through.
“Eternity’s worth more than playing every game,” Cox said.
A native of Elk Grove, Calif.,
Cox grew up in a Christian home and was a member of First
there affiliated with the North American Baptist Conference. She made a
profession of faith at a young age and took several mission trips with her
family as a youth.
As she grew older and became more involved with soccer, Cox often struggled
with figuring out how the sport could fit with her life as a Christian. “How
could God use my role as a soccer player?” she asked herself.
She often felt during high school as if soccer competed with her relationship
with the Lord. Her commitment to the sport often caused her to miss youth group
events or other church activities. But when she began her college career at the
University of Portland,
she discovered something important about the connection between soccer and her
“When I got to college, some other girls on the team were Christians, and I
realized you could find a community of Christians wherever you are,” said Cox,
who plays professionally for the Boston Breakers. “I’ve been trying to seek
after communities on my teams ever since. That’s an encouragement to my faith
and my relationship with God — because often you can’t go to church on Sundays.”
During her time in Germany
as part of the U.S.
team, Cox said she could see ways in which God was moving on her team. She and
several Christian teammates often prayed for team unity, and Cox said they felt
God bringing them together.
“We were just so grateful that He was writing a bigger story than we could
have,” Cox said.
They held regular Bible studies, and on one Sunday they gathered to sing
worship songs and listen to an online sermon.
The tournament’s outcome was heartbreaking for Cox and her teammates, who lost
to Japan in the
championship game. But Cox said the World Cup experience has given women’s
soccer more exposure — and given her and other Christian teammates a greater
platform to talk about their relationship with Christ.
“So even though we lost, I feel so honored to be a part of a team that so many
people were watching and so many people were taking notice of,” Cox said. “I
almost feel like we won, in a way.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports and director of news and media
relations at Union University
in Jackson, Tenn.)