Chapter 27 from The Youth Truth
Blink and Sports are GONE
Make Your Mess Your Message
So many kids struggle with identity and resilience through adversity because these two truths have not yet sunk in…
- Your mess becomes your message
- Your are more than an athlete
Eight years ago I started working with a lacrosse player named Lara. She went on to play at a major D1 school. In early 2018 she learned her career was going to be cut short. She was forced to medically retire due to a long-term injury that finally took its toll on her.
She was devastated. Lost. Confused and lacking clarity of purpose and direction. She had incredible, supportive parents, however she was still shook up and in need of guidance.
Despite parents who told her otherwise, her identity HAD been tied up in sports for the previous 15 years of her life. For more than 75% of her lifetime, she had identified herself as an athlete. But can you blame her? It is tough to because of these three statements:
- Our value and sense of purpose comes from what gets rewarded and prioritized in our lives.
- Our identity and self-worth comes from the things we get praised and recognized for.
- We give full ride college scholarships worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to kids who are good at a game. (soap box moment, bare with me)
I applaud the student-athletes who recognize their gift of athleticism that God gave them and then choose to turn it into something more. However, there is ONE CRUCIAL POINT that needs to be addressed here if you want your son or daughter to avoid a common pitfall amongst young adults. The fact that our society values sports, even COLLEGE sports enough to give 10’s to 100’s of thousands of dollars to ONE KID, makes those kids very financially lucky. I hate using the word “lucky”, because they are NOT LUCKY FOR BECOMING GREAT at their sport. I would never minimize the sacrifice and hard work that they put into their sport.
HOWEVER, and this is a big however...they did hit the lottery in the sense that we as a society place a higher financial value on sports than just about anything else.
I believe all student-athletes need to be reminded of these 2 things:
- BLINK, and sports may be gone. Just like they were for Lara.
- The prestige, money, fame, honor, and whatever else your child might receive from sports is only as beneficial as to the extent they are willing to “give it away” and use that power to help others.
If this message fails to slip into the mind and heart of your son or daughter, they may end up leading empty, unfulfilling lives...always chasing after the next carrot and wondering why they don’t “feel happy”.
So I sent Lara the following message. It is one I should have been reminding her of long, long before.
“You know, I was thinking about you today and I came to a conclusion that maybe you have not considered…your TRUE STRENGTHS are:
#1- Your crazy hard work ethic (passionate stubbornness at times :-) )
#2- You innate ability to be a leader...you’ve never been afraid to step up and away from the crowd.
#3 Your infectious personality. That fact that people like to be around you. That you are a great conversationalist and aim to help other people.
For so long you have used those things for sports. How awesome is it going to be when you figure out what the next “thing” is that you are supposed to use those gifts for? Pray. Ask God for guidance. He smiles when He sees you use your gifts to help others.
Maybe it’s coaching? Idk, but all I do know is that you are a rockstar of a person. You are far more than just an athlete. You have always amazed me.
Have a great weekend, keep inspiring others. :)”
Her response back:
“Thank you so much. Really needed that. Even thought I couldn’t play, I brought an entirely new attitude to practice today after reading that.”
She is going to go on and be successful in whatever she does for the rest of her life. Not because of what I said, but because she has a support group that is pouring into her right now, reaffirming to her that her value and identity has never been in sports alone. Her true strengths are what allowed her to be great at lacrosse.
An exercise that every love-powered coach will take their athletes through is this one. True strengths versus sports skills. It is as simple as sitting them down as a team, each with a pen and paper, writing down what their true gifts, strengths, and talents are.
Do all you can to become the best you can be, athlete. Use what you have been given for good. Just don’t forget that you are more than an athlete. You have so much good to give the world.
Sports are simply a vehicle to use and develop your gifts, to bring joy to your life, and to help others.
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Dedicated to transforming the lives of millions of student-athletes around the world,