MLS winger, Shea Salinas: “No matter how well I play he loves me”

Liam Flint caught up with San Jose winger, Shea Salinas, to talk about how he found pro soccer and also a God worth playing for.

As a young guy, was football always your passion or were there other sports that fought for your attention?

“I played almost every sport when I was little. As I got to High School I focused on track, cross country, and soccer. I actually thought I would run in college, but at the last second I decided to play soccer instead.”

How important was playing College Soccer in terms of getting you to where you are now?

“It was extremely important for me! I was a late developer. I was not the best player on my college team by any means. College allowed me to grow physically and mentally. By the time I was a senior in college I had developed into a much better soccer player. Thankfully I was drafted into the MLS out of college.”

What would you be doing if you weren’t a pro soccer player?

“I think I would be a physical therapist. I graduated college and had planned to go to physical therapy school. I love helping athletes get healthy and fit.”

You got your big break when you were signed by San Jose, how did this move come about?

“It was a total surprise! I was a no name player coming out of college. My name was never mentioned in any of the mock drafts. I went into the MLS combine with no pressure. I literally just tried to take guys on every time I got the ball. When I was drafted by San Jose I was so shocked. It was really exciting.”

How excited are you about the rising reputation of the MLS and the players it is attracting?

“It has been amazing to watch this league grow in my 8 years as a pro. The quality of play rises every year. It has been really cool playing against some of the best players in the world.”

Who is the best player that you have ever played against? Why?

“That’s tough. Henry was amazing, Kaka is a legend, but the player that has impressed me the most is Robbie Keane. He is the smartest player I have ever played against. He is tricky and he pulls things off that I would not even think of.”

Do you still aspire to represent the US national team?

“Of course! It would be such a blessing to play for my country. It’s not something I think about often but I would be extremely humbled to get that opportunity.”

Shea, tell us a bit of your testimony of how you came to know God.

“I did not grow up in a Christian home. I went to church for Christmas and maybe Easter. In high school a girl asked me if I was a Christian. I answered honestly and said, “yeah, I believe in God and that Jesus existed.” She said, “So does the devil…” Ouch. It struck me in the heart instantly, “What is a Christian?” I learned that being a Christian is having a relationship with God and admitting your need for Him. Like any relationship, at first I did not know much about God and his will for me, but as I have talked with Him more and read his word more I have learned a lot about peace, hope, and joy. I am thankful for Jesus and his counter cultural way of being the King of All.”
What has God been teaching you since becoming a pro soccer player?

“The first thing I learned was to not find my identity in my performance on the soccer field. When I played well I would have pride and when I played poorly I would be really down on myself. I have learned that God gives constant grace, undeserved love. No matter how well I play He loves me and wants me to represent Him well. I focus on playing as hard as I can and giving thanks for everything.”

Do you ever share your faith with your team mates?

“Absolutely! I shall my faith verbally every now and then and I share my faith with actions more. Thankfully we have some other believers on the team. I have enjoyed building real relationships with my team mates and sharing the gospel through those relationships.”

Your Twitter bio reads, “I am thankful for God’s grace (undeserved love)”. Can you tell us what you mean by this?

“Grace is a word that I heard a lot in church and other places but I never really knew the meaning of it. My heart wants to define what is good and evil instead of listening to what God says is good and evil. I want to rule my life and do things for my benefit. I constantly turn from God and His will. As a perfect creator God has the right to punish me for this, but he doesn’t. He gives me love that I do not deserve. He is the perfect father. All he asks of me is to see my need for his love and then he gives it freely.”

Do you think that soccer players should be more vocal about their Christian faith?

“Yes, but not out of obligation or guilt. Sharing about your faith should come from overflow and excitement. It’s like seeing a great movie. You get home and want to tell everyone about how awesome that movie was, because you want them to experience it as well. It’s the same with sharing about Jesus. Once you experience his love and how freeing a relationship with Him is, sharing should come naturally.”

What is it like being a Christian in professional football?

“It’s been amazing. Of course there are constant trials and temptations, but those are also in any work place. I have felt extremely blessed to be able to do what I love for a living and even more blessed to be used by God while doing it.”

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