Student Sports Column: The Real Opponent


Twenty years from today, ten years from today, even five years from today, you won’t remember the runner who passed you with 400 meters remaining before the finish line. You won’t remember the face of the man who blew past you after an off-ball screen created just enough separation to get him the ball. You won’t remember the last name that you read on the back of the jersey of the woman who sent a PK past your keeper’s rigid fingertips.

At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of your athletic season, after the goodbyes are said and the jerseys are returned and the awards are distributed, it’s not about the times when your opponent beat you. No matter how earnestly you pursue the desire never to forget the humiliation of a particularly stinging loss, the details will elude you surprisingly quickly.

I promise you, the moments most vividly ingrained into your consciousness will be the moments when you did, or did not, live up to your own expectations. When the complete extent of your Franciscan athletics career, varsity, intramural or otherwise, reaches its conclusion, the only true losses will exist as the moments you know, in your heart of hearts, that you performed below your own capacity. When you leave it all on the field, a loss isn’t a loss. It’s a passed test. But when you willingly perform even a fraction below your capacity for achievement, even a blowout victory is a disappointment.

Your coach, I guarantee you, did not send you from the bench onto the field of play so that you could give anything less than everything you have to give. Your only losses are the moments when peak performance and preferred performance deviate.

Your real opponent stares you in the face whenever you stand before a mirror. Your real opponent is your own perceived sense of limitation.

Our faith operates under the same pretenses, even more so, in that this game has already been won. Final score: Christ’s cross – one, the world – zero. You only lose when you start playing less than your best. The pre-game strategy never changes, though the field of play rarely remains the same.

“Go, and make disciples of all nations.”

If there ever comes a moment when you sense a sliver of separation between your own capacity for Christocentric greatness and you current performance, call a time out. Remove yourself from the field, realign yourself with the game plan and rediscover the sensation of peak performance.

Your coach knows what you’re capable of doing. He understands not only your capacity for life-changing ministry, but the intimacy of the soul from which it flows. One hundred percent of your effort looks different from 100 percent of your teammates’ respective efforts; use your teammates’ activity not as an excuse to validate your own lukewarm performances, but as a benchmark to push harder, work longer and scream louder from the rooftops.

Your coach died on a cross so that you could don His uniform. All He wants is all you’ve got.