Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with the Collierville freshman football team. Coach Kyle Reed invited me to speak to the boys. He was also Trey’s coach in 9th grade. Kyle told me the boys needed to be motivated. When I first agreed, I asked myself, “How in the world can I motivate a bunch of 9th grade football players?” Then I realized it was not up to me to do the motivating. It was up to God.
I read them this quote. “Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” The author of that quote was Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Green Bay Packers. I went on to say, I can’t talk about the game itself because I do not play. I can’t talk about what it’s like to be a boy because I am not one. But I can talk about what it is like to persevere.
On their helmets they have a sticker – 1:2-3. That’s all it says. It stands for James 1:2-3. I asked WHO put the stickers on their helmets. Usually, the coaches or parents will stripe or decal the helmets for the players while they are practicing. I was glad to know that THEY put the stickers on their helmet. I think it will mean more when they put their helmets on. They were aware that James 1:2-3 were Trey’s verses that he claimed during his illness.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I was impressed that many of the boys knew the verses. I was more impressed when I asked the question, “What does perseverance mean?” It means doing something despite how difficult it is. Playing football is not easy. I asked how many of them wanted to quit at some time. It took them a minute but eventually a few, then more, raised their hands. Why? They said because it’s hard! I informed them that they were not the only team that had players wanting to quit. Trey wanted to quit at that age. Collin wanted to quit. As a parent, you don’t let them quit. What does that teach them?
I asked the team if the coach announced that he knew they would not win the game they were about to play, what would they do? Would they quit? They said NO! They would try harder to prove him wrong. Exactly! Dedication, hard work, and sacrifice. When Trey was diagnosed, he did not quit. If anything, he tried harder to do what God had called him to do, be a disciple. To win his game.
I think they got a little confused when I asked as they grow older (through the years of football) will it get easier. They said yes. I said NO! They’ll have MORE coaches that will yell at them, they will be lifting weights, trying to gain or lose weight, more practices, all-in-all it will take MORE dedication to the sport they love. They might not be first string like they are now. They might fall to second string. But they will need to stick to it through the hard times.
I really laughed when I asked the guys how many of you hate it when your parents yell at you from the sidelines. I think every player raised their hand. The point I tried to make to each of them was that no matter how much a parent tries, no matter how much a coach tries, they cannot make them BE aggressive or BE mean to be on the line. They can’t make them WANT to go to practices. We tried and tried to make Trey aggressive. He could take a hit, but aggressiveness just wasn’t in his character. We were told, it will come.
Sometimes it does come, but not in the form you would like. Trey became aggressive in his fight against his cancer. It was what mattered to him. We didn’t have to tell him, God instilled it in him. Trey won his game. I told the players I wanted them to remember every time they put on their helmet what perseverance means – doing something despite how difficult; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
The last scripture I shared with them was 1 Timothy 4:12.
“Do not let anyone look down on your because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”
As a team, I believe they have a responsibility to set this example. I was so proud of them. Coach Kyle Reed should be proud of them. They were attentive, responsive, and respectful. I told them do not let anyone tell them they cannot do something – as in on the field. Set their mind to it, work hard, be determined, and they will persevere. My Trey did. Healthy in heaven. Missing my buddy on and off the field, but healthy in heaven.