“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us — they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” — Romans 5:3-5 (TLB)
It’s Not Supposed to Be Easy
If you’re a coach or a parent of an athlete, you’ve no doubt seen the evolution of the travel sports industry. It’s been the subject of much debate, and I have typically ridden the fence on this issue. However, I can say that as much as I don’t love the notion of an athlete playing a sport year-round, there’s one primary reason I am an advocate of travel sports over rec that was never an issue when I was growing up: the level of competition.
My younger son is a freshman in high school now, but several years ago we were faced with making the decision of whether to stay in rec ball or make the jump to travel baseball. He was 9 years old at the time, and I will honestly say that he was a good player, but wasn’t a superstar. He was easily the best pitcher and catcher on the team, and was probably the second-best hitter. He consistently threw strikes, and while he had his fair share of strikeouts on the mound, there were times the ball was put into play, primarily routine grounders on the infield – balls that should have been outs, but that were nearly always booted. At the plate, he did well, but there were also times when he would hit a grounder to second base that would be bobbled, and he’d reach on an error. At the end of that season it was clear he needed to move on to the next level and be pushed harder to continue to improve.
Our experience is not unique. It has become the norm, as many parents have begun to sign their kids up for travel sports as early as age 7. To me, that is far too early, but I do understand why many families make this decision. Those opposed to travel ball will often say, “Travel sports have taken the fun out of the game.” But how can this be? Is it truly “fun” for a kid to reach base on a routine ground ball that isn’t fielded cleanly eight out of 10 times? Is it “fun” for a pitcher to mow down every hitter, because those kids lack the skill to make solid contact?
To me, it was always more fun to face the best teams and the best hitters. I wanted to see if they could hit my best curveball, or if I could hit theirs. I wanted to make the diving play to rob their best guy in the lineup. That was far more satisfying than blowing a fastball by a kid who, quite honestly, didn’t need to be on a baseball field.
And I believe God designed us this way – to get far more out of our experiences when we are challenged. You’ve likely heard the expression, “If it was easy, then everybody would do it.” But I beg to differ. If it was easy, far fewer people would want to do it, because it wouldn’t bring satisfaction – at least not REAL satisfaction.
When things are difficult – whether in life, or on the field of competition – we may not experience joy in the moment. In fact, it may be downright brutal. But when you prepare in life, and when you prepare on the practice field, you’ll reap what you sow. And it will all be worth it in the end. Just ask David, who poured out his heart to the Lord:
I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.
3 You brought me up from the grave,[a] O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
4 Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30: 1-5 (NLT)
— C.A. Phillips – NorthStar Church, Kennesaw, Ga.
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