I was so sad to read this week about former WVU Mountaineer Boo McLee being arrested in Pittsburgh for robbing 4 banks. A few years ago he received probation for another offense and the judge told him he should be a role model. Now at 32 years old, he will be going to prison for a long time. I wonder if any of his former coaches ever think about what they could have done differently to change the direction of McLee’s life.
When my nephew Brad Souders was about 12 or 13 years old I remember him saying, “I’ve been on teams that have won every game and it’s been miserable and I’ve been on teams that have lost every game and we’ve had so much fun.” I don’t think he was saying that it’s fun to lose all the time, but I do think he was saying that winning does not guarantee a good time. I understand that the phrase, “Winning isn’t the most important thing” sounds like something that losers say. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s true. I’ve been part of teams that have won, and I’ve been embarrassed by the way they (and I) acted. I remember one particular instance when a team I was coaching won the game when one youngster on the other team struck out. I jumped and cheered and went to celebrate with our team. If I had it to do over again, I would have gone over to offer an encouraging word to that young person. And I could confess to more. So I do not write this as someone who is judging anyone else. But perhaps, as someone old enough to look back, I can remind myself and you who read this of what matters.
This comes to mind as a couple of high school football teams that I feel a connections to might be in for rough seasons. If I may share something I learned from Samaritan’s Purse mission trips, they say, “It’s not about the physical work you do, but it is about the people.” In volleyball, soccer, football, cross country, cheerleading, band, golf, and all the other sports & activities, it’s about the people (coaches too).
God makes it clear that our value to Him is not based on our performance. If His love for us was based on our performance, we would all be in trouble. But He loves us in spite of all our shortcomings and failures. Whatever happens in your life, however you fail or succeed, however people see you, those things do not define you. You must remember that you are so precious that Jesus hung on the cross for you.
The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. ~ 1 Samuel 16:7b
…for whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye. ~ Zechariah 2:8b
So when it comes to little kids, high school. or even college sports, I hope that we remember that nearly every one of those young people have long lives ahead of them. And their experience in these sports will play a part in forming who they become. We rarely have to be reminded that they need to learn about hard work and discipline. Sometimes we do have to be reminded that they need to feel valued as people. It can and often will make a difference in their lives long after the games are forgotten, for better or for worse.