How do we teach student-athletes today that the real show in athletics begins after their playing career ends?
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:8
I don’t know about you, but I struggled to get to sleep last night. I felt a deep pit in my stomach. And the source of my illness was the show put on during and after the Oregon/Florida State national semi-final college football game. Did you see or hear about what happened?
After a costly turnover, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher visibly used vulgarity as he threatened to bench quarterback Jameis Winston on national television
After the final whistle of the game, over half the Florida State football team dashed for the locker room without shaking hands with their Oregon opponents
On the trophy podium, Oregon players engaged in an inappropriate chant, mocking Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston for legal allegations he faced last year
Forgive my bluntness…but SERIOUSLY? Two of the best teams in the country, on a national stage, and admiring kids across the country are observing and consuming belittlement and poor sportsmanship as the way the best teams and players conduct business. It both sickens and sorrows me to reflect on this.
So how do we fix this? What’s the problem here?
The problem is that these college athletes—and athletes of all ages across our nation—are being taught that the national title is the show. It is the end all be all. It’s what everything your whole life to this point has been about. This moment. This game. This is it. This is everything.
And nothing could be further from the truth.
No matter what your faith background or beliefs, let me simply submit to you one small Bible verse that I believe has great power. It’s 1 Timothy 4:8: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
Whether you are a bible-believing person or not, just give me a couple more paragraphs here. No matter what your stance is on the bible, I’d submit to you that it’s very difficult to argue with the logic of 1 Timothy 4:8. Physical training is of some value. Some. It’s a very valuable thing. But it’s not the only thing.
Don’t get me wrong. I personally believe athletics has immense value. I am convinced there is not a greater vehicle available to our youth today than sport to teach them values they will live by their whole life long. Things like: how to work hard, how to build relationships, how to set and pursue goals, how to delay gratification, how to handle adversity, how to lead and serve others, how to communicate effectively, how to succeed with grace, how to learn from failure, how to be a part of a team, and many, many more.
But when we make something of some value—athletics—become the ultimate value…watch out. There is severe trouble on the horizon. Our priorities have become mistakenly skewed. Because the real show in athletics—life—begins after an athletes’ career ends.
So what’s the answer?
While athletics has some value, 1 Timothy 4:8 says “godliness has value for all things.” Now…before you stop reading, hear me out. People get very uncomfortable with the word godliness. But let me offer a different perspective.
You and I will never be godly here on earth. Whatever you believe spiritually, there’s no disputing that none of us are perfect. We never have been and we never will be. So what does it really mean to be godly?
The Bible says that God is holy. That’s not a word we use much in our daily vocabulary, but to be holy simply means to be unique, different, and set apart. To be godly means to be holy, and to be holy simply means to be different. To be different than society. To stand out—not by winning trophies, having thousands of Twitter followers, and being loud and brash—but by living in a way that makes people take notice—doing everything with hard work, humility, and caring service.
So how do we instill this in today’s student-athletes?
This is what we do at the business I co-own—Next Level Performance. We exist to develop servant leaders through the platform of athletics. And in so doing, we are helping student-athletes discover their purpose, value, and worth. Our approach has three parts:
Discuss—We teach leadership and character development to student-athletes in a real and relevant way that connects with them.
Display—We do all we can to model and live as examples of what we teach our student-athletes. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Do—We give athletes a forum to put learning into action. Every training session with Next Level Performance has 2 parts—a focused leadership and character learning module and an on-field/on-court athletic session. Every Next Level athlete has the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned immediately to reinforce its value.
A couple weeks ago we trained a group of middle school quarterbacks from all over West Michigan at our Quarterback Academy. While every young man made great progress with their footwork and fundamental mechanics, our core focus was on running the S.H.O.W. As quarterbacks, they have a lot of responsibility—getting the play from the sideline, calling it in the huddle, making sure everyone lines up properly, knowing their assignment (and their teammates’ assignments) in its entirety, calling the snap count, and executing the play. But as they run the S.H.O.W. every play, we taught them how to do it in a unique way:
Servanthood—Putting others’ needs before my own Humility—Thinking of myself less Ownership—Always taking responsibility for my actions Work—Giving my best effort every time
At some point, the lights will go out on every athletic career. The show will end. But that ending is only the beginning of the real show—the game of life. And while athletics have some value, living the S.H.O.W. of life with servanthood, humility, ownership, and work will allow student-athletes to succeed on a daily basis, no matter what they are doing.
To learn more about the community of servant leaders Next Level Performance is building through athletics, click hereor visit our website atwww.nlathlete.com. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you share our vision, we hope that you’ll spread the word about Next Level and that you’ll send your student-athletes our way. We’d be honored to invest in their lives!
From his earliest days, Tim Hiller’s story consisted of three things: A boy, a ball, and a dream. The boy with a ball began chasing his dream by dodging imaginary defenders in his parents’ backyard and cutting out pictures from Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine. The pursuit of his dream continued through the ranks and record books of the Orrville High School and Western Michigan University football programs, where Tim re-wrote the standards in virtually every major passing category. And his dream culminated in the National Football League, where Tim spent time with four teams, primarily the Indianapolis Colts.