• 4.5 minute read •
Dear Younger Me,
Congratulations! You’ve accomplished your childhood dream of becoming a collegiate basketball player. This is a huge achievement and something you should be very proud of! Now, let’s take a moment to look back on your journey and when your love for the game of basketball first developed. Remember speed dribbling around paint cans in the basement because you didn’t have any cones? How about shooting hoops outside in the cold and rigid Pittsburgh weather with gloves and a winter coat on? And your all-time favorite memory, getting your first basketball hoop and Michael Jordan jersey on Christmas day. Every single day you put that jersey on, blasted “Space Jam” on your seriously awesome portable CD player, and ran out of the laundry room with a basketball in hand visualizing yourself running out on a college court with the fans cheering you on. As you reminisce on your journey to accomplishing this dream of yours, I need to tell you that these four years will go by quicker than a 30 second shot clock.
Nothing will ever compete with the feeling of game day. The pride you’ll feel when you put on your college jersey to represent something bigger than yourself. The pre-game jitters while coach is going over the game plan and giving a motivational speech in the locker room. The adrenaline rushing through you while you run out of the locker room and on to the court. The music is blaring, the fans are standing up and cheering, and the pep-band is doing their crazy routine in the stands – all for your team. Perfecting every signature handshake with your teammates and all of the other pre-game rituals before tip-off will be the most exciting routine thing you ever get to do in life, it will NEVER get old. The feeling of hitting a game winning shot and celebrating a huge playoff win with your team in the locker room are all special moments. Now this is going to sound weird and may not even seem tangible to you right now, but one day the buzzer is going to go off for the last time. I want you to feel that same pride and accomplishment when you put your college jersey on for the first time as when you take it off and hang it up in your locker for the final time in your playing career.
Below are 3 quick hitters that I received from a recently graduated women’s college basketball player and current graduate assistant women’s college basketball coach. She understands the importance of being in the moment and cherishing every single one of them, the good and the bad. These quick hitters will help you cherish the years of basketball that you have left through preparation and self-evaluation.
- Know Your Identity
If someone were to ask you, “Who are you?” what would your response be? I believe your response may look something like this, “I’m (name), I play basketball for (college), and I’m from (hometown)”. What if the person’s response back to you isn’t the typical “Oh cool!” and it is this, “No, really… who are you?” Well, now what do you say? You see, who you are isn’t merely what the announcer says about you during the starting five lineup. That doesn’t even come close to defining who you are. Recognizing that your identity is much more than being a basketball player will open up your eyes to the bigger picture of who you are when you’re outside the lines. Understanding your true identity will also give you a clearer picture of who you are when you’re inside the lines. You may have a few “I Am” statements that you use on the basketball court like, I am confident, I am tough, I am determined, etc. And these are wonderful! But do you have an “I Am” statement that encompasses who you are on AND off the court? The most important “I Am” statement that you can recognize, accept, internalize, and live out in life is this… “I am a child of God”. When your identity is grounded in the game of basketball, all it takes is a loss to feel lost. But, when your identity is rooted and grounded in Christ, it can never be taken away from you. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).”
- Know Your Why
When you know who you are it makes it easier to know why you’re doing something, or your purpose in life. Before you step on the court this season you need to ask and evaluate this question for yourself, “Why do you play basketball?” Seriously though, think about the thousands of hours you have spent in the gym dribbling an orange leather ball around and shooting it into a circle that we affectionately call a hoop. The game itself seems silly when you truly think about it, so why do you do spend so much time doing it? You need to develop a “Why Statement” that lays out your motivation for playing basketball. Your why statement will motivate you to get out of bed in the morning (while fully knowing you have a long day ahead), it will be the driving force behind you during a hard practice or close game, and it will serve as a daily reminder of your purpose as an athlete and child of God.
This is the “why statement” that I taped on my locker – “I play basketball because I believe in the importance of using the basketball court as a platform to glorify God and striving for excellence in all that I do.” (Colossians 3:17)
- Know Who Performed
Your performance on the basketball court does not define your self-worth. Let me repeat just in case you skipped over that. Your performance on the basketball court does NOT define your self-worth. When your self-image is swinging on a performance pendulum, you are going to be just one turnover, one missed shot, and one loss away from feeling worthless. This relentless pursuit of a good performance in order to feel good about yourself and accepted by others is a deceitful trap. When you have a secure identity and purpose in Christ, you will no longer feel the need to perform well for other’s approval and for the sake of your own self-worth. Jesus Christ performed for us on the cross by dying for our sins. God extends acceptance, love, and grace to us through Jesus’s performance on the cross, not through your performance on the basketball court. Knowing that your performance will never measure up to God’s standards should elicit a freeing feeling. He will never love you more or less depending on your performance because He is your Father, and you are His child, in whom He is well pleased (Matthew 3:17).
I know you grew up with the motto, “Never give up.” But right now you need to. Before this basketball season starts, you need to give up. Give up the lie that your identity lies in basketball. Give up the lie that there is no deeper meaning or purpose in your life. Give up the lie that your performance on the basketball court is reflective and definitive of your self-worth. Give these lies up to God! You are a child of God who is given a specific purpose in life. His love for you is unconditional and never-changing. Your Father in Heaven accepts you, loves you, and forgives you. And there is nothing you can add or take away from His love for you through your performance – that is His amazing Grace. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39
Written by: Jackie Stewart
3 Simple Joys
- Shooting hoops
- Hanging with friends
1 Favorite Scripture
- Revelation 3:20 NKJV