As a youth pastor living in Columbus, Indiana, I spent many hours of my free time attending high school sporting events. To support members of my youth group, I often traveled to cross country invitationals, cheering on the girls team of Columbus North which was usually perfect leading up to the state meet. Unfortunately, Kokomo’s team, just east of Indianapolis seemed to have their number, falling a few places short of perfection. Across town, Ashley was on the fast track to make the Olympics, never losing a high meet until the state finals her junior year, swimming for Columbus East. Winning all of her qualifying races, Ashley was invincible until 1 bad flip turn cost her, staring at the scoreboard revealed a 3rd place finish, heart broken and perfect no more.
Several years later, I had the pleasure to coach high school golf for 10 seasons. My first crop of athletes were destined for greatness as one is now a P.G.A. professional and the other is flirting with the mini-tours. Experiencing growing pains my first 2 seasons, one of my golfers didn’t taste defeat until his senior season. Sure, John had lost to other golfers in AJGA events, yet he was undefeated in match play. Playing as an 8th grader, John regularly shocked and surprised seniors. Strangely enough, John lost his final 2 matches 5 years later, as Goliath was beaten and perfect no more.
The average athlete tastes defeat every season, forced to cope with losing. Regardless of the level or sport, only 1 team or individual is crowned a champion, leaving every one else a loser. When trials come, one of 2 outcomes occur: individuals become mentally tough or visibly shaken as confidence and the memory of victory fades. While perfection is unattainable on earth, Jesus urges his followers to set lofty goals, Matthew 5:48. The words of the apostle Paul are a good starting point for those looking to pick up the pieces of their ego, Philippians 3:13. Since you can’t change or control past results, “forget what is behind and look forward to that which is ahead!”
by Jay Mankus