The Bigger Picture
I have found that the best way to compete in athletics is not measured in statistics and numbers. It is measured by the enjoyment of the experience as well as the enjoyment that others experience while competing both with you and against you. It’s a great thrill to know that you have given everything you could to try to win and at the same time, done it with honor and integrity. I discovered this at a young age and it has proven to be one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned.
I grew up going to church every weekend. I didn’t always look forward to it. But as I aged through my grade school years, I began to see Sunday mornings as a time that my family would spend time together. Even when I was young, I had a very busy schedule with school and sports. My parents both worked full time and my dad would work long overtime hours during most of the year. So going to church would give us at least one hour a week to be together.
Because I attended church regularly at a young age, I began to ask questions and I developed the desire to know “why.” As I learned more about the faith, I came to truly believe the teachings in the Bible and I found truth in the teachings. I tried to be aware of my conscience in all that I did in my everyday life. My faith became something that I tried to display in my actions throughout the week and not just on Sunday.
I found that as I became a more involved Christian, I was more patient, loving, and understanding of other people. And in turn, people treated me with the same virtues. Of course, this was not always the case. I was not and will never claim to be perfect. There were times when I lost my temper, times when I lied and cheated, and times when I did not show other people the respect that I wanted. But I was able to learn from those moments of weakness and I tried to change wrongful ways. I tried to make the Ten Commandments my basis for decision-making and thought control. I've really been blessed to have had a steady and strong relationship with God all my life.
Also, I have been blessed to have a family and many friends that share the same virtues that I try to follow. As I entered college, I faced many life-changing moments. With the typical freshman-year college experience, many young people encounter numerous times that develop who they will become as adults. When I was a freshman in college, I was feeling overwhelmed with school work, tests, football practice, social pressures, girlfriend, and just plain-old homesickness. I got through my problems with prayer and learning patience through Christ. I was able to surround myself with friends that encouraged me to keep my faith and stay true to the person I wanted to become.
As I live my life today as a full-time athlete, I’ve found that I’m in a fantastic position to influence many people in a number of different ways. I have the opportunity to be viewed as a role model for millions of children. When I compete for the USA, I feel an enormous amount of pride knowing that my job is to represent the entire country on an international level. The way that I conduct myself could be seen around the world. In the heat of competitions, emotions run high. It can be easy to lose tempers, get mad, or argue with officials or opponents. But the person who keeps Christ as a priority throughout the competition seems to be the winner no matter what the score is in the end. A great Christian can remain calm in pressure situations, upbeat in the face of defeat, and even content with not winning. It’s important to be consistently reminded that winning and losing are not the most important things in life. The bigger picture is serving God the right way. I pray that I will always compete as a man with a strong apparent faith.
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