The awareness of depression and mental health in athletics has been on the rise with many "big name" players committing suicide or other acts after retirement from their sport. I have seen research stating that 25% of retired athletes admit to battling depression (the keyword is admit). I think the better estimate was stated in an ESPN article: "[When]asked how many retirees suffer from depression, former Packers offensive lineman Aaron Taylor says: "It'd be easier to start with which ones do NOT have depression. Observationally, it's a significant percentage. It varies by degree, obviously, but everyone struggles." This seems like it makes so much sense when you think about the time, hours, and energy these athletes have put in over their lifetime dedicated to their sport. Athletes have worked their whole life for the 1-12 years they may get to enjoy at the next level of competition. It becomes such a part of their life and who they are. In my opinion, the fear of the unknown of life after sports keeps so many players close to the game via coaching, announcing, or analyzing, as they seek for their new identity.
I often remind my athletes that every decision they make, has an effect on their future. So, whether they choose to pick up the Xbox controller for a few hours, or go work on footwork for a few hours has an effect on what kind of athlete they will be. According to social sciences and research author/speaker Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours of a skill or task to achieve word-class status. That averages out to (leaving two weeks of vacation or off time) 3 hours a day, 20 hours a week...for 10 years! That's a lot of time. In fact, that is 11.4% of your life in those 10 years. When you consider that you will sleep about 33%, and got to school for about 13% of those 10 years; that number seems even bigger. Have you ever heard the saying "you get out what you put in?" Well, it's true. The more time you dedicate to training, the better player you will be. There is no denying that fact. No athlete got to world class status by sitting on a couch. It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes discipline. If you are not willing to give those things, then you don't really want it. So, my question is, how bad do you want it?
When you dedicate your life to something, it's hard not to find your identity in it. Whether sports, parenthood, friendship, fitness, cars, or even church...whatever it may be- all of these things fade. At some point your athletic career will end, your kids will get married, friends will move away, your body deteriorates, cars rust, and the church is full of broken people who will fail you. There is only one thing in this world that has remained the same since before time began and that's God. There is nothing wrong with the things we listed above, in fact, all of those things have been God given for us to steward. However, when we allow those blessings to become a god, we will fall. We will fall so swiftly and gracefully that we won't even realize it until it is gone and our face smacks the concrete- That's what Satan wants isn't it? To distract us just enough that we think we are looking to Christ, but in reality our feet are getting planted on termite infested wood. Where if we are not inspecting our priorities (the wood) closely and consistently, we may not realize it until the floor gives out from under us. Colossians 3:1-3 says:
1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
We need to listen to Paul's word's here. If we are Disciples of Christ, then we need to make sure our minds and thoughts are on His Kingdom. We were created by God, for his purpose. Take a look at Psalms 139:13-14.
13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
God gave each one of us specific talents and skills that we are to use for his Glory. So, if God has given you the athletic ability to play sports- Then play them. Give everything you have to honor Him through it. But, don't forget we are to Glorify God through what he gave us, and if he gave us the ability to shoot a basketball really well, then we need to use that as a platform to point people to Christ. We need work so every action on and off the court gives glory to our Savior. It is by setting our eyes, mind, and heart on Him and planting our identity in Christ that will help us avoid the dangerous slope of an identity crises and wondering what our purpose is. Your purpose is to spread the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ. Keep in mind though; we are broken people in a fallen world. So, if that crisis arises in you-remember that we have a God who is a Mighty Warrior. In the end we win; but in the mean time-take heart and endure the battle. Cling to Him, and reach out to the people God has placed in your life to point you to him. So, our challenge for the day is: In what or whom do you find your identity in? What checks and balances do you have in place to ensure our feet are planted on solid ground?
Watch this video by Right Now Media and Tim Tebow for encouragement on keeping your identity in Christ!
"He's Christian, he gave his life
But he still ain't satisfied in the savior Christ
Still finds his identity in looks and cars
If he only knew that he ain't have to look so hard
If he looked in God
It may seem odd
But he be so satisfied, he can leave it all
I'm not the shoes I wear
I'm not the clothes I buy
I'm not the house I live in
I'm not the car I drive, no
I'm not the job I work
You can't define my worth
By nothing on God's green earth
My identity is found in Christ, is found in Christ"
Lecrae (feat. Da Truth and J.R.)-Identity
My freshman year of college, I was playing tackle football with a group of friends. I was playing quarterback and we planned a designed QB run play. I sprinted down the right middle field and the defender came up to tackle me. I lowered my shoulder into him, and as he fell over he grabbed onto my leg, like any good defender would. As he did so, everyone (including myself) heard three loud pops. Clutching the grass agonizing in pain, I knew something happened. After a little while, I composed myself and the guys helped me up. I noticed my leg didn't feel right. As I held my leg off the ground, it just wobbled in the air like a punching bag (don't worry, I was really smart back then *sarcasm* and kept playing as the QB and safety. I just hopped on one leg). Turns out I tore my ACL, MCL, lateral meniscus, and fractured my Tibia (good thing I kept playing right?). The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is a very important ligament required in the stabilization of your knee joint. With much rehab and training, a non-professional or non-collegiate athlete can maintain an active life style without their ACL. However, the importance of the ACL in competitive sports cannot be denied. It is critical for the integrity, strength, stabilization, and foundation of the knee joint.
You see, in sports, having a strong foundation in your body is vital-and having all of your ligaments is important too! You don't hear of elite athletes like Le'Veon Bell, Bryce Harper, Lebron James, Patrick Kane, or any other athlete you can think of playing their sport without an ACL, or without a strong enough lower body to compete in their game. If you take away the power in Lebron's legs, you take away Lebron's game. If you remove the speed from Le'Veon Bell's legs, Le'Veon Bell would not be the running-back he is. Without strong legs, without a firm foundation under you, you wobble. You stumble. You feel weak. Have you ever worked out your legs so hard that you can barely walk straight? That feeling that if anyone or anything caused you to get slightly off balance your legs would fold like a wet paper towel? Well, that shows the importance of strong legs, a strong foundation. Now, lets say an athlete tears their ACL, gets reconstruction surgery, then tries to play the next game. Is that going to work in their favor? NO! It's going to be disastrous. They need to go to physical therapy, train, and build up their their foundation again to make them able to take the impact and wear that an athlete goes through. As an athlete, you are expected to prepare your body to be able to handle the unexpected changing circumstances of your environment. If your legs aren't strong enough to make that cut, go for that jump, or push a little farther....then you won't make it as an elite level athlete. What training are you doing to strengthen your legs? What steps are you taking to make sure your foundation is firm, not to be altered by your opponent?
On Saturday night, my wife was out, the kids were in bed, and the house was quiet. So, I thought "I'm going to have some quiet time." I reached for one of my Bibles that was located on the far left side of the book shelf, about three or four books away from the end. As I pulled the bible out of it's spot, all of the books to the right of it fell over like dominoes. My "...oops" turned into a "...hm" as I thought of the truth behind the scenario that had just played out. Just as the bible on the book shelf was holding all of the other books up, the Word of God is designed to be our foundation. When we remove it from our life, when we remove it from our world....things seem to fall apart. Now,they may not literally being falling apart. But, without the daily Word and Truth being spoken into us through the bible, our view or our perception of our circumstances may be distorted by the worlds ideas. Looking at Matthew 7:24-27 or Luke 6:47-49 we are told by Jesus about the importance of having a firm foundation through the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders.
“24Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV).
The Word of God needs to be our foundation. It needs to be the truth that we seek, and the wisdom that we crave. But we cannot just read our bible just to read it. We need to put into action what called has called us to. We need to strive (through many fall-backs and short comings) to act on his word and to seek Holiness. If we read our bibles, go to church, go to youth group...but do nothing with what we are being taught; what makes us any different than the athlete who tore their ACL, had surgery, and played the next game? Nothing. Like an athlete that needs to go to physical therapy after surgery, so do we need to go into spiritual therapy everyday with the Word of God. Build your foundation on Christ, and seek to pursue Holiness.
When the ground beneath my feet gives way
And I hear the sound of crashing waves
All my world is washing out to sea
I'm hidden safe in the God who never moves
Holding fast to the promise of the truth
That You are holding tighter still to me
The Rock won't move and His word is strong
The Rock won't move and His love can't be undone
The Rock won't move and His word is strong
The Rock won't move and His love can't be undone
The Rock of our Salvation...
"The Rock Won't Move" by Vertical Church Band