One of my favorite sports (yes, I know I have a lot of favorite sports) is track and field. There’s just something about competing in an individual event that gets my adrenaline pumping. I was never the fastest nor could I jump or throw the farthest; however, I just loved to compete with the other competitors. And I especially loved trying to beat my previous times or distances. I’m a stat guy. So when I see a time or distance that is attainable or beatable, I give it my all, striving to beat it until I actually do.
I was blessed to be able to run cross country at the college level. From my first race as a freshman to my final race as a senior, my goal was always to beat my time in the five mile race…..my own PR – personal record. Sometimes I succeeded, while other times I did not. But I’ll tell you what…….because I had those goals in mind, and the heart and efforts to succeed, my times gradually improved throughout my collegiate running career.
This past week at the prison the first annual Seagoville Olympic Games started. Because of my experience running track meets and organizing them in the past, I was chosen to head up the track and field portion of the Games. During this 35 day extravaganza, there are a total of sixteen track and field events, along with various other team sports, card games, and other challenges……a good number and variety of events to peak everyone’s interest. Due to security and safety concerns, we had to eliminate a few field events, but we were able to hold the majority of the running events. We even added in races for the 250+ pound weight class, as well as 45 and older races. Because this is the first ever Olympic Games here, the inmate participation at first was not the greatest. It took a lot of pull and encouragement to get some of the best athletes to sign up. But when they eventually signed up, the rest started to follow.
As I write this, the Games have been going on for two weeks. The Games are going so well thus far that we got approved to make this a yearly event (that is why it is now called the first annual); we were even allowed to create a record board on the compound. The spectator turnout has been extraordinary, too, with all kinds of inmates coming out of the woodworks to watch the events. I can’t wait to see what the finals will bring.
My greatest track memory was when I was actually coaching. In the spring of 2008 there was an indoor track meet in the community that I got wind of so I asked if I could enter a few boys from my Middle School team. The coordinators, of course, said yes. I wanted to give the boys experience competing indoors because they never had before. The meet consisted of 20+ schools, most of them the larger Catholic schools in the area, along with a few public schools. My school was the only Lutheran school entered. Most schools brought their entire track squad while we brought just six 8th grade boys. I told the boys to go out, have fun, and just do their best. Although the boys I brought were pretty good athletes, I was not expecting to get anywhere close to the top of the standings. But lo and behold! My team competed out of their minds, with at least one individual placing in almost every event, and actually bringing home a third place trophy. I could not believe it! A meet that was supposed to be fun and gain new experience turned into a meet with many medals being brought home by the six athletes. I was ecstatic that a team as small as ours could beat full squad teams. It was definitely a coaching memory I’ll never forget. It made me realize that anything is possible with a lot of effort and heart.
Having the heart and effort is the key to achieving a lot of things in life…..whether it is in sports, work or even family and relationships….. but especially as a witness for the Lord. God wants and needs you to pour your heart out when giving a testimony or spreading His Word. He wants you to make every effort to add to your faith. And He wants you to give it your all when living for Him. Be that leader. Be that role model. Be that encourager and the one who inspires. Be that person that God wants you to be to further His kingdom. And with the heart and effort put forth, God’s Kingdom will definitely grow. You will touch lives as others will watch the way you live. The impact you have in another person’s life could make a difference to them – an eternal difference.
Make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self control; and to self control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8