Brenda Murillo Has Nothing To Prove

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Brenda Murillo sprints down the left wing with the ball at her feet, cuts to the inside on her defender, then sends a cracking shot off the left post before her teammate scores on the rebound. Minutes later, she’s running down the left side again, this time sliding her shot just inside the near post, leading her University of Toronto Varsity Blues to a 4-2 win over Ryerson University in their season opener.

It was a rewarding start for the third year striker, who has big goals for the coming season. “I want to help my team get to Vancouver,” says Murillo, referring to the CIS championships being held in Vancouver in November, “Especially because Vancouver’s home. It’s a really big deal for me.”

Murillo is keeping a close eye on the standings, but it’s her standing with God that is keeping her grounded and focused.

“A more personal goal,” she says, “is not to get caught up in all that. I have my eyes set so clearly on Vancouver that I need to know that even if it doesn’t happen, I’ll be okay. No matter what, I am a child of God and he’ll love me regardless.”

Murillo was back home in Vancouver this past summer where she completed a very different goal: on August 2nd, she got baptized in the church she grew up in, Primera Iglesia Hispana Del Nazareno – First Church of the Nazarene.

“I grew up in the Spanish church in Vancouver,” says Murillo, “but I had to miss a lot of church because my soccer games were always Sundays. As soon as I started playing soccer, I pretty much couldn’t go to church. We’d go at Christmas and at Easter because that’s when we’d have soccer off.”

“I never really claimed the faith to be my own,” she explains. “When I came to university it wasn’t a priority. I’m here to study and play soccer and that will be my life.”

For Murillo, her self-worth ended up dangerously revolving around her success in the classroom and on the field.

“I started soccer really late,” she says, “so when I started playing, everyone was already so much better than me, so I felt like I was always playing catch-up. There were a lot of people who said, ‘She’s just a project player, she’s never going to make it. She’s not good enough.’ I’d always use their negative comments and, instead of getting down about it, I’d be like, ‘No, I’m going to prove you wrong.’”

“But I didn’t realize how much of an effect that had on me,” she continues, “and then it transferred over into my studies as well. Whenever someone gave me negative comments, I’d be like, ‘No, I’m going to do this to prove you wrong.’”

“My motivation was never free. It was very much to prove people wrong, to prove that I was good enough.”

At the National Training Camp in Ottawa this past year, Murillo realized just how much this impacted her view of herself. “The theme for the week was Athlete Slave versus Athlete Saint,” she recalls. “We talked about being a slave to your sport. I realized how much of a slave to soccer I was and how much my identity relied on it and was dependent on it. One bad game would just shut me down.”

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“My biggest lesson was that your worth is not in anything except for Christ,” she says, “We don’t need to be an unreal soccer player or whatever else to be significant. We already are significant and we can do this through Him and to glorify Him through our sport.”

“There’s so much freedom in that.”

Murillo feels that her new perspective has made her a better athlete. “For sure,” she says emphatically, “Even just in practices I can feel it. The pressure is so much relieved. It’s not like I’m using God to get to soccer, but God is the focus and I’m using soccer to glorify Him.”

While Murillo strives to stay in the starting 11 for the Varsity Blues and provide the goalscoring punch to take her back home in November, her self-worth is no longer wrapped up in her success. Back in August, just before her pastor submerged her in the water, she summed up her new perspective and the freedom that comes with it:

“I will do everything as best I can for Him, but I don’t have to prove myself anymore.”

Athletes in Action is committed to helping athletes like Brenda experience freedom, victory beyond competition and find their worth outside of sport. Find Athletes in Action on your campus. #goAIA #VictoryBeyondCompetition