My son walked off the wrestling mat with tears in his eyes and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
It was his first yer on the varsity team. He was so excited when the season started; however, it didn’t take long for him to become discouraged. The practices were great, his teammates and coaches affirming and fun to be around. However, he was getting his behind kicked when he competed against other teams. Match after match my son tried not to cry as the referees declared his opponent the winner.
Every time he lost I had to hold myself back from running up to my son to hug and kiss the crushing disappointment away.
Despite my experience with the sport, it was hard to see my son struggle with so much emotion. I wanted to make it easy for him. I wanted to rescue him. To say, “It’s okay, take off a season, wait until you get better so you can come back stronger.”
But, avoiding a hard thing is not a solution.
I spoke to his coach and we decided that he should wrestle some JV matches to get some wins under his belt and build his confidence. What a brilliant idea!
It worked at first but, even after a few victories, my son started to lose his nerve. At a local tournament, he refused to wrestle. He became nasty and rude and said he wanted to go home. I didn’t understand; he was winning matches, so why was he so upset? As soon as we were alone, the tears started to flow. He said, “mom, I am scared to lose, and if I lose I will cry, and if I cry I’ll be embarrassed.”
I asked him, “Where does fear come from?.. God?”
He replied, “No, mommy.”
God didn’t give us a spirit that makes us weak and fearful. He gave us a spirit that gives us power and love. It helps us control ourselves. — 2 Timothy 1:7 NIrV
I got fired up! I told him he didn’t have to put up with fear. Yes, it was going to come, but he could learn to fight the fear with God’s Word.
In fact, some of Jesus’ most common commands are rooted in “fear not.” He calls us to live a life free of fear, worry, and anxiety and to put our trust in Him!
When we got home he grabbed his prayer cards on fear, read the verses, and prayed the prayers, inserting the word wrestling where it fit. He did this each night the following week.
That day of the tournament I reminded him that almost all athletes come up against obstacles and setbacks, and that he would get through this, with God’s help. He found it encouraging to hear that and asked me to tell him about a time that I refused to give up when I was an athlete.
That’s because stories matter. They allow us to see the world in new ways and from other perspectives. Stories teach us lessons they we might not otherwise have learned on our own. They extend our view into the future. They let us know that if others can overcome hard things, then we can too!
If you have young athletes in your home, A Walk in Our Cleats is an inspiring book that will encourage them to persevere against all odds! This is an inside look at 25 notable NFL players, the obstacles they faced, and how the power of Jesus Christ made a difference in their lives. While each player’s circumstance was different, faith played an integral part in all of their journeys. What I love about this book is the eye-catching photographs and short, personal entries, relevant messages, and favorite Scripture passages written by each player.
It is the perfect book to share with young athletes to encourage and motivate them in their own faith journeys.
I am happy to let you know that the following weekend my son wrestled two matches without hesitation. Even though the rest of the season still had its bumps, my boy never walked away from an event without competing.
There will be many others times when my son will come up against a situation that he will not be able to face in his strength or wisdom. But because he trusted in God to get him through this, he will have the confidence to over future obstacles. On and off the mat.
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Do your children play sports or compete in other activities? How do they handle losing? How have you tried to show them how to persevere through adversity? We’d love to hear you thoughts in the comments!