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