Most fans see only the glamorous side of athletics. Aspiring athletes dream of playing their sport at the highest level. Those of us on the inside, know that there is much more to playing college athletics than championships, shiny trophies, and roses. While it definitely has benefits and perks, it took me a long time to learn the lessons from my less than fulfilling college basketball experience. Given what I know now, I wish someone would’ve told me that:
1) Your coach is your coach, not God, not your parent, not your aunt or uncle, not your big sister or brother, not your best friend, and not your enemy. At some point, and most certainly more than once, your coach(es) will lose their mind and blow up at you. DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Yes, this is easier said than done, but now you know to expect it, so be prepared!
2) DO NOT GIVE AWAY YOUR POWER! Your value does not come from your stats, playing time, or lack thereof. Your value comes from God. No matter what happens, how many mistakes you make, how bad you get yelled at, or how awful you feel, ONLY GOD HAS THE RIGHT TO DEFINE WHO YOU ARE!
3) Your sport is NOT your identity. Ask yourself this question… “Who am I without (your sport)?” Write your list. Write as many gifts, characteristics, & skills (none that have anything to do with your sport) as you can think of. Pick your top 5 answers and focus on giving those gifts to your team daily.
4) No matter what happens, win or lose, always ask yourself what you can do to be better for your team, whether you played the game or not.
5) Have a purpose. Go into every practice and game with a clear purpose. What do you intend to give & what do you want to learn?
6) Don’t worry about the big picture, or even the outcome of each game. Instead, focus on the little things you can control…
- a. Attitude – Make sure it is great, especially when things aren’t going your way. Young, impressionable minds are watching you. Be an example to be proud of.
b. Effort – Give your best in every practice and on every play, even if you’re not in the game.
c. Self-talk – Be good to yourself. There are plenty of naysayers ready to point out your faults, don’t be one of them. Use your name when speaking to yourself. Develop a go to “praise phrase” and repeat it daily, especially throughout practice & games.
7) Be the BEST teammate ever! How? Support, inspire, find value, encourage, love, respect, & lift up your teammates. If you are the best player on the team, make the person who rarely sees the floor feel like an all-star. If you never play, push those that do to their limits. And always show your love & enthusiasm for the game and your teammates.
8) Have a life outside of your sport. What? I know, I know, this sounds impossible, but it is very important to your mental health! Even if it is one hour per week, spend time with friends outside of your sport, go to church, attend a prayer group, get a hobby, joy read (trust me there is such a thing), or volunteer.
9) NEVER COUNT YOURSELF OUT. You may have an injury, you may not have played much (or at all), you may think your coach hates you, but NEVER give up hope. You may have to put more time and effort into improving your skills, but if you REALLY want it bad enough, KEEP GOING! Your time is coming. If God put it in your heart & you’re honoring him, he WILL use you & reward you in his glorious way.
10) DON’T QUIT!! Get motivated! Find someone or something to play for… God, a teammate, friend, relative, or for the little kid who fell in love with the game. Ask for help & support from teammates, friends/family to persevere, but don’t quit. You have a finite amount of time to play. We rarely regret the things we’ve done, rather the things we didn’t do when we had the chance.
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Thanks for reading & God Bless,