Life as we know it has changed. Ask any athlete, and they’ll probably tell you that their life looks completely different now.
I recently watched a documentary on ESPN that featured head coach Dawn Staley and the University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team. For the Culture highlighted Coach Staley’s ability to successfully build a championship-caliber team for the 2019-2020 season.
The documentary focused on the planning, preparation, training, and ultimate journey of this talented group of young female athletes, which included the number one recruiting class in the country. By all means these young ladies were positioned to achieve the goal they collectively worked towards since the start of season — to win the NCAA championship title. They were undoubtedly ready for the win...that is...until their season was interrupted.
The news of a player testing positive for COVID-19 led the National Basketball Association (NBA) to suspend the rest of its season on March 11th, 2020. A few days later the NCAA announced that it was cancelling all championship basketball games, effectively ending the highly anticipated March Madness before it could even get started.
It seemed as if suddenly the world of sports was collapsing before our very eyes as there were even more suspensions, and eventual cancellations of professional, college, high school, and local sporting activities all across the country. And to top it off, the unimaginable happened…the 2020 Olympic Games were being postponed.
For some, this interruption resulted in a loss of income, for others it was the loss of an opportunity, and even the loss of a dream.
My heart breaks for the college seniors who lost their final opportunity to play competitively. I grieve for those athletes who spent most of their childhood dreaming of playing their sport professionally, working diligently every day to meet their goals, only to have their dreams deferred, and possibly even denied.
I mourn for the high school seniors who saw sports as their only chance to attend college, and now feel as if that life-changing prospect has been lost.
And what about that adolescent child who felt that sports was the only thing they were good at, and the one thing that made them feel good about themselves? Or the child for whom sports provided an escape from a difficult or abusive life at home?
This coronavirus pandemic has caused major interruptions that have impacted the lives of young competitors across our nation and the world.
When you teach them to respond with prayer, they will be strengthened and equipped to win, even in uncertain times.
As the mother of athletes, I have witnessed the emotional disappointment that young competitors may face when suddenly their lives and dreams are halted. My very own daughter, who following a devastating knee injury, just completed a second round of rehabilitation and was looking forward to finally kicking off her high school track and field career after missing her freshman season. I know what it is like to try to provide hope and encouragement for young sports enthusiasts.
In this month of June, recognized as Sports America Kids Month, I believe that not only do we need to do what we have always done, which is encourage young athletes to participate in sporting activities for the purpose of promoting a healthy lifestyle, as well as to develop positive behavioral attributes, but in this month we should do our part to help them navigate this season of interruption.
The coronavirus and resulting COVID-19 disease interrupted all that sports represented — the good and the bad. Unfortunately, there are many young athletes who are completely devastated by this disruption and have no idea what do to next.
If you are a parent, loved one or a friend of a young athlete I encourage you to point that “gifted one” to the best Playbook ever written…the Bible. As you guide them during this time of uncertainty, guide them towards the only Book that can provide clear directions, understanding and lasting hope.
Remind that gifted one that the unexpected will happen, but when interruptions occur, they can respond in the following ways:
1. Praying - Do not be anxious about anything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)
When your young athlete is feeling anxious, and uneasy, teach them how to present their requests to God in prayer. Our children need to be reminded that God is concerned about them and that prayer grants them access to God’s peace. This is the best time (since you have their attention) to show them the power of a simple prayer and thanksgiving to God. Teach them to pray with a sincere heart. Teach them how to lay their burdens on the Lord. Teach them how a simple, “Lord I need You” is one of the most powerful prayers that they could ever pray. In the midst of life interruptions, anxiety may attempt to overwhelm our children, but when you teach them to respond with prayer, they will be strengthened and equipped to win, even in uncertain times.
2. Being Still - Be Still and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10 NIV)
Athletes are used to being on the go. They are used to having grueling schedules, so help them to understand the importance of being still. This is the time for them to become discipline in the art of resting in God. Teach them how to steady themselves in the Lord, rid their minds of all destructive chatter, burdensome worries, and fear-inducing thoughts. It is in stillness and rest in the God who controls all things, that the feelings of depression and devastation will be lifted. Help them to find a new outlet in the art and discipline resting and stillness in God.
Help them to take hold of God’s promises – believing in the divine good character of an all-powerful God.
3. Trusting God - Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5 NIV)
In a world that has taught young people to investigate everything and trust no one, trusting God may not be easy, but it is necessary. Help your athlete to understand the power of trust. Show them how to fully place everything in God’s hands and trust Him with the outcome. This is important because fear and worry will always try to attack their minds, but when you introduce that young woman or man to a the omniscient God – the God who knows all; the God whose understanding is beyond our finite human comprehension; the God who sees all – who sees what we can’t see, then trusting God becomes easier. Remind them that nothing in their life happens by chance – but the Lord has orchestrated every situation. Remind them that God’s plans for them are for good, in spite of what the situation looks like. When interruptions occur remind them that they can wholeheartedly trust and put their confidence in God.
4. Hope in God – And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 NLT)
Hope is what keeps us all from succumbing to despair, and your athlete needs hope now more than ever. Regardless of the interruption, we all can find strength in hope in God. To hope is to confidently expect God’s blessings, in spite of the circumstances. Help your athlete to expect God to reveal His love and goodness regardless of the external circumstances. Hope in God will help them to keep their heads up and maintain a positive outlook on life. Hope in God will help them to maintain joy. Hope in God will keep them believing and expecting God to work out all the confusing and unclear situations in their lives. Although they may not be able to see past their current circumstances, God has a perfect plan for their future. Hope will anchor their souls to the God who is for them, is with them and will never leave them, nor forsake them.
5. Take Hold of God’s Assurance - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)
This is one of my absolutely favorite scriptures in the entire Bible. Romans 8:28 is one of God’s wonderful assurances for the believer, especially in the most challenging times. God promises us that “all things” work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. In the midst of this interruption help your young athlete to understand that it will all work for their good. Help them to know that no matter the problem, difficulty, or challenge the end result will be beneficial to them. They may not be able to see it now, and they may be grieving the loss of normalcy – they may have even questioned God, but assure them that God’s assurances; God promises are irrevocable and God’s love is immutable. Help them to take hold of God’s promises – believing in the divine good character of an all-powerful God. Teach them how to take hold of God’s assurances and not let them go. Even when interruptions threaten to shake and rock their life, remind them to take hold and keep holding on. God is faithful to His Word and faithful to see them through it all.
If you are the parent of an athlete there is no better time to guide them towards an intimate relationship with God. This is the perfect time to show them how to handle life’s disruptions with faith and grace. It is my prayer that every “gifted one” would know that God has the best for them, even in the midst of interruptions.
~Tonya May Avent
Tonya May Avent started Destined 4 the Dub Ministries, which focuses on ministering the gospel through a sports lens, on the premise of 1 Corinthians 15:57: Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.