Ready: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11
I love coaching for many reasons, but there is nothing quite like being in that big match with a cross-town rival. You wake-up thinking about the match, anticipating that first whistle. I remember one particular season when we were supposed to be the team to beat. In the preseason rankings we were ranked 10th in the state and, needless to say, were pretty confident coming into this particular match. I have learned through the years to almost dread those high rankings early on because they almost always set us up for a fall. No matter how much we talk about the rankings not meaning anything, that we have to earn it on the court, it inevitably seeps into our subconscious creating complacency and arrogance. In addition, high rankings can create anxiety because we are expected to win and when we get in a close match against an opponent that we are “supposed” to be better than, a panic often sets in causing us to play to not lose rather than to win.
Well, this was one of those nights. As excited as we were for the match it seemed nothing could go our way. We began to panic on the court and even started turning on one another. We were hoping for our opponent to make a mistake rather than taking control of our own destiny. We lost the first two sets and by the third our opponent’s fans were chanting, “OVER-RATED… OVER-RATED…OVER-RATED…” Instead of firing us up, we crumbled being swept in three. We were devastated and humiliated. However, that loss was the wake-up call we needed. We had grown complacent and were resting on laurels that we had done nothing yet to earn. We had been blessed with great talent, yes, but talent without work and dedication accomplishes nothing worthwhile. We refocused and reset our goals for the season, going on to win a state championship. If it hadn’t been for such a painful and very public loss I don’t believe we would have ever accomplished what we did as a team.
Someone once told me to thank God for EVERYTHING. At times that is so difficult, but I have found both in life and in sport, the most painful losses often yield the most plentiful results.
As athletes, what are the dangers that come with being ranked very high?
How in life can we be ranked high in a dangerous way?
What are the consequences for God’s kingdom if we as believers are considered “over-rated?”
“… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Go: Think of a time when God allowed you to experience a loss or “wake-up call;” what were some of the blessings that happened as a result?
Workout: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
Overtime: Dear Lord, We ask for your forgiveness in the times that we rest on our God-given talents and fail to put forth the effort on our end to develop and use those gifts to your glory. We thank you for blessing each and every one of us with the talents that we have and ask that you help us to humbly serve you with them. We pray that when we may be put on a platform that we remember to honor you and to act in a way that would never cause believers or nonbelievers to say that we are over-rated, making you seem over-rated. Please use us despite our sinful and prideful nature and help us to graciously thank you even in our losses. Your plans for us are greater than anything we can imagine on our own. Help us to trust the process always keeping our eyes on the end goal to hear you say, “Well done.” In Jesus name, Amen
About the Author: Lean Slayton is the Varsity volleyball coach at Liberty High School