High school sports – there’s nothing quite like ’em.
I have spent much of my life playing, coaching and now regularly attending high school athletic events. I was on the swim team and played field hockey in high school (and college too). As a youth pastor I attended high school sporting events all over the city to cheer on the kids who attended our church. I faithfully sat in the stands almost every Friday night for three years as my fiance and later husband, Dan coached a local high school football team. When I began to work as a teacher at a Christian High School I got talked into coaching the Varsity Girls Volleyball team (which thankfully my dear darling hubby took over later – and did a far superior job!) and for the past 21 years of working at Christian high schools we have been in the bleachers cheering wildly for countless sporting events.
While I have enjoyed watching my girls (and I am sure all to soon, the boys too) playing youth soccer, swimming on the neighborhood swim team and playing city league softball, I loved going to college football, volleyball and basketball games and I thoroughly enjoy attending a professional baseball game (when we can afford it)….there is still nothing quite like high school sports.
The emotions run higher – the victories more thrilling and the losses more devastating. The friendships formed often create a bond for life. The fans are more connected to not only the team and the school but to one another as well. The coaches (who get paid very little) are there because they love the kids and they love the game. The entire atmosphere is electrifying.
This past weekend we got to experience yet another exciting high school athletic competition as we attended the softball section finals for our area. Our beloved Lady Eagles from Jim Elliot were in the championship game for the fifth consecutive year. Our team was down by one run in the bottom of the seventh with the tying run on second and two outs when the player at bat hit a triple and then ran home to win the game on an overthrow error. The screams, whistles, wild cheering, hugs, tears of joy, jumping up and down went on for what seemed to be eternity. Just several feet away, the other bench felt the agony of defeat after being so close to beating this powerhouse team. The sobbing, down on bended knees, hitting the dirt, consoling in one anothers arms, looks of shock and dismay equaled the emotion of the championship team. For those talented teams, dedicated coaches and devoted fans, it will be a day not too quickly forgotten.
For the vast majority of athletes…that final high school game will be their last time in competitive sports. A few will go on and play in college and then four years later, they too will close that chapter of their lives. But the lessons learned through athletics will be with them for life! These lessons are some that could benefit our families, our marriages our businesses and our lives.
- You learn the power in having a positive attitude
Every good coach or trainer will tell you that the athlete who wins is the one who believes he is going to win. The single best predictor of success when two athletic teams have equal ability and talent is what is in their minds before they compete. We hear it over and over again…but when will we start being diligent at putting positive things into our heart, mind and spirit. It is the difference maker!
- You learn that any team can win on any given day
What a great way to live – knowing that no matter what hand you have been dealt, no matter what the odds, no matter what the gloomy prediction – you can win, you can overcome and you can beat the odds!Unfortunatly this lesson can also work against you – that same softball team that won the championship on Saturday learned this lesson the hard way last year when they lost in an agonizing defeat to their biggest rivals who they had beat decisively several times earlier that same season. They came in with the a relaxed attitude and a bit lazy, knowing that even if they had a bad game they could easily win the section championship. They did not play their hardest, they made stupid mistakes, they were a bit arrogant and they were not on the offensive costing them their fourth consecutive section championship and the number one ranking in the state. You have to live life on purpose, on the offensive and always ready to give it your all.
- You learn that you must stay focused even under incredible pressure
This perhaps is one of the greatest lessons competitive sports can offer us. When the pressures of life come, you must not fall apart but remain calm and focused. With two outs and the team behind by one, the batter up was under an incredible amount of pressure. If she had concentrated on that pressure instead of being focused on hitting the ball, she most likely would have failed. In the same way when the third baseman, on the opposing team, was under extreme pressure trying to prevent the winning run from scoring, she lost her focus and overthrew the ball resulting in the game winning run. How often do we do the same thing when under pressure with often disastrous results. Extreme pressure has destroyed many a marriage, caused businesses to close and contributed to many health ailments and damaged relationships all because we crumbled under the pressure instead of focusing on the fundamentals and keeping a cool head.
- You learn that the long hard practices pay off when you win the game
Face it – no one likes to practice. It is hard work, causes pain, takes lots of time and energy and equires discipline. It is for the love of the game that people spend hours daily practicing and training. Yet 90% of an athletes time is spent in practicing and training. But the 10% is worth it all. This is not much different than our businesses. No one loves the hard work, the phone calls, the rejection, the paperwork, the hours spent with seemingly no results….but we all love the pay days, the incentive trips and the rewards of being a business owner. Our relationships often take lots of hard work, practice and self discipline too. But what a great reward in the love of a child, a strong solid marriage and life long deep friendships. Almost every area of life takes a large measure of hard work, personal discipline and practice but the rewards are worth it all!
- You learn that it takes more than individual talent – it takes teamwork
No matter how talented you are – you can’t win on your own. In order to win a championship, you need a team who will work together towards a goal. A team that is committed to the same end. A team who will support, encourage, challenge and hold each other accountable. In life, in business, in marriage and family – you need to be a team! You cannot win on your own.
- And on a Christian school team you learn that the most important thing is to glorify God!
Last year when the team lost the section championship and this year when they won – the game ending cheer was the same – “Good game (the opponents), thank you officials, Glory to God!” The most important thing we can do in our businesses, in our marriage and family life, in our jobs or careers, in our friendships and in our lives is to bring glory to God. Whether we win or lose, whether we are number one in our field or just barely hanging in there, whether or marriages are strong and healthy or we are struggling to stay together…the most important thing is that we look to glorify the Lord in everything. We don’t have control over all the circumstances in our lives (and those that we do have control over we need to do something about) but we do have control over our response to the circumstances. Are you praising or cursing God? Are you calmly trusting His will or panicking and stressing about life? Will you give God glory no matter what the outcome of your current crisis? Is what you are doing glorifying God?
Congratulations Lady Eagles on your fourth Section Championship. May the lessons you have learned during your years as a high school athlete be a foundation for a life of excellence.