“As I sat there at my desk my legs – as was often the case – were bouncing up and down. There were only two minutes left in the school day and I was about to explode as I waited for the bell to ring. This was not only a daily occurrence, but actually an hourly occurrence. I loved learning, but I lived to get outside for recess, or the end of the school day or any time where I could get on the basketball court or the field to play some other sport.”
This was the opening for an invocation I had the privilege of offering at a fundraiser for a wonderful nonprofit that I helped start called the HUB. Its mission reads as follows:
“The HUB Sports Center joins the communities of faith, sports, education, business and government to positively impact our youth and region through events and programs that enhance life skills.”
I went on to share the significant role participating in sports played in developing me into the person I am today:
• Working with others on a collective aspirational goal
• Finding the sweet spot of both hard work and enjoyment
• Gaining an understanding of healthy competition and fairness
• Celebrating appropriately and losing well
Yet the two most important life lessons I learned from sports were the same things I learned at summer church camp – how to navigate humanity and how to use my God-given gifts to the fullest. The reality of engaging in a sporting activity is you’re going to be surrounded by all kinds of folks. And, each of these individuals is going to bring a certain dynamic to the ‘game’. Early on I had to learn how to interface with a wide variety of personalities and perspectives. This learning parlayed into the second important life lesson which is everyone has a unique set of gifts. Gifts, with good coaching / mentoring and hard work, that will often accomplish much more than you initially imagine.
As I’ve suggested, these critical lessons are not sport specific. Youth groups, camp, other affinity groups can all be great places for young people to have the opportunity to be engaged in healthy communities. Communities that are supportive, encourage dialogue, especially with respect to conflict, and are unwavering in the expectation of respect for the dignity of each person. And communities where young people have the opportunity to gain clarity about their specific God-given gifts and be inspired to grow those gifts to their greatest capacity.
I am incredibly blessed to be a part of a number of communities whose mission is to positively impact youth. And I am acutely aware that the need is greater than ever for young people to be connected to healthy communities. As such, if you are not presently, please consider supporting through time, talent and treasure, those entities that provide a space for young people to learn how to navigate humanity and how to use their God-given gifts to the fullest.