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Getting A Kick Out of Life!

by Michelle Rambo

All you could hear on the hot soccer field, besides the thumping of dancing feet making contact, seemed to be voices shouting "Matt!…Hey Matt!…Over here Matt!"

At first I thought it was selective hearing on my part. After all, it was my assignment to seek out this Matt Lawler character, an agile and versatile athlete whose roles as Junior Captain of the soccer team, kicker for the football team, and straight-A student, crown him with the title of all-around-great-example.

It didn’t take long to see why everyone incessantly called his name while chasing the spinning globe. He has speed, strength, and a real involvement in the dynamics, energy, and execution of nearly every play. "He’s the leader of the team . . . as far as intensity goes," said Cam Capurso, head coach of the Sedona Red Rock High School soccer team. "He really directs the play on the field and leads by example through his effort."

Matt takes his role as captain, and position (as center-midfield) seriously, yet retains a sense of lightness, ease, calm about him. "Bringing leadership to the team means hard work all the time, every day," said Lawler. "People respect and look up to me for that. But the game has to be fun . . . that’s why we are all out there."

His aim, as an example to teammates, is to demonstrate pushing the limits and playing from the heart. "When I play hard, I see that others push themselves as well," he said. It’s a chain reaction, it can spark a whole team - with gratifying results. The team is strong this year, possibly the best that Matt has ever seen, he said. Currently undefeated in conference play, the team has the ability to win them all, said Matt, "because there is so much dedication."

A native Sedonan, Matt started kicking around a ball at the age of five. He claims he wasn’t born with a natural gift or propensity towards sports (he makes the same claim about academics), but rather has achieved his hard-won excellence through years of discipline and determination.

Born first was his passion for soccer. But word of Lawler’s skill and kicking strength spread to the football field, and first-year Scorpions head coach Jim Cromartie was eager to work with him. "It took me about five seconds to teach him everything he knows," Cromartie jokes. "His kicking ability is extraordinary." Beyond that, Matt isn’t afraid of the mad rush. "He has extreme confidence and the ability to back it up," said Cromartie.

When asked how he juggles it all, how he finds balance, Lawler smiles humbly, shrugs, says he "just does." He appears at ease with life, totally present, in love with NOW, with all that he is doing.

He tells me his parents have been the greatest support, and then is suddenly taken back to a time last year when he played a soccer match against Grand Canyon and then drove for hours immediately afterward to kick in a football game. There is electricity, an excitement when he speaks about football.

"Football really draws the fans. That would have to be the best part - playing in front of crowds," he said. And even here, he reminds me that it’s ultimately about having fun, retelling times he told jokes on the sidelines to ease tensions.

Coach Cromartie too remarks on Matt’s enthusiasm for the game. "Matt brings a real freshness because he’s never played football before, so there is a thrill as he discovers the little things in the game."

Matt’s engagement with life, that "freshness" he lives on the field, spills magnetically over into all rooms of his life. He is an excellent student, again as a result of diligent effort and setting priorities. Advanced-Placement Biology is currently his favorite subject of study.

And even though he jokes about his minimal social life (during the week anyway), his candidacy for the Homecoming Court tells me a lot of people acknowledge and admire his endeavors and his positive attitude.

It all appears effortless somehow.

Sure it is work: long hours, focus, practice. But always quick to a warm, beautiful smile, Matt appears to be enjoying it all immensely - his classes, his friends, his family - and playing two sports simultaneously.

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