As a former coach, I have lots of stories. Some happy, some sad, some exciting. I remember one in particular . . .
My team, ranked in state, had to play another team in our conference that was ranked above us. Both teams had a “feature” player. Both teams had a solid core of talent. By any account, it was to be an exciting game and as you can imagine, the gym was packed.
While the junior varsity team played their game, I wandered into the locker room and was surprised to see “my star player” sitting on a bench in front of a locker by himself, holding his head in his hands. I thought he was just getting himself ready, getting himself fired up.
I sat down next to him and asked something like, “Are you ready?” He took has hands away and I noticed he was weeping. He said, “Coach, I think I’m going to choke.” Not what I had expected to hear. Not what any coach wants to hear, especially just before an important game- one that would eventually decide the conference championship.
He was honest and sincere. He was also genuinely afraid. And yes, in his own words, he choked. Probably his worst game. We got killed. Not just because of this young man. Not at all. The team we played had a powerhouse, a juggernaut that went on to compete at the state tournament. But we got killed and this young man didn’t play well at all.
You might say he lived up to his expectations.
Remember the story about David and Goliath? I don’t know if it is or was a true story, but like many such stories, there is a point to it and one can take something from it . . . if one chooses to, that is.
David was just a boy. He volunteered to take on this beast, this giant of a man. David tried to wear the king’s armor, but because David was so small, nothing fit. The armor would have been more of a hindrance than a help, so David went into combat only wearing the simple cloak he had on.
Not sure what weapon Goliath used. Spear or sword, perhaps. As big as I picture Goliath to be, perhaps just his bare hands.
David’s weapon? A slingshot and a few stones. Hmmmm . . .
Not sure what the king was thinking. Not sure what Goliath’s king was thinking. Not sure what Goliath was thinking.
Mostly, I’m not sure what David was thinking. A boy vs. a man. A little guy vs. a big man. A slingshot? Really? You’ve got to be kidding, right?
As a coach, I went into games with the crew I had to work with. As I look back, we mostly did all right. Actually, far better than just all right.
However, there were those games when, honestly, I sort of felt like how David’s king must have felt.
But that got me thinking . . .
Goliath was David’s second battle. I think David had a much tougher battle before he ever fought Goliath.
I think David’s First Battle was a battle with himself. He had to face, confront and defeat his own fear. Sometimes fear is a very formidable opponent. Fear is insidious. It sneaks up on us and takes us by the throat and throttles us mercilessly. It incapacitates us. Renders us weak, befuddled, ineffective. Fear renders us powerless, sometimes freezing us in place preventing us from moving forward or backward.
But David won his First Battle. He overcame his fear. He defeated his fear. And as the story is told, he defeated Goliath and saved his nation. Probably saved his king a ton of embarrassment, too.
Oh, and the young man I mentioned earlier who wept before the big game?
He might have lost that battle, that first battle. But he overcame it a second and third time, not just one time.
You see, he went on to receive a football scholarship to a huge Midwest Division One college team that you’ve all heard of. He went on to get himself drafted into the NFL. He went on to play for two teams and had a nice career as a linebacker. A very gifted athlete this young man was. Who had to, at one time or another . . . just like each of us has to at one time or another . . . win his, win our, First Battle. The battle over fear. Something to think about . . .
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