If you have ever played a sport, the concept of “preseason training” should send a slight shiver of fear down your back. When I think of it in soccer terms, I imagine running up and down the mountain side, too many suicide sprints, and lots of lactic acid build up in my lower body. It’s the roughly two to three month period when I store away my soccer cleats and break out my running shoes (to my dismay). My legs ache just thinking about it…
Preseason is the duration of time when an athlete makes the most significant strength and stamina gains. The long hours of preparation for the season are intense and taxing, but those lengthy practice sessions equip those athletes to excel when the first game finally arrives. The sprints, the lunges, and the squats serve their strength and conditioning purposes, and as much as I may hate them (and my coach for making me do them, sorry Coach), those exercises are meant to develop me. Each season, when I look back on the blood, sweat, and tears poured into each practice, I am exceedingly grateful.
As a coach, I experience some of these same feelings of distress with my players. We had our first league game this past Friday, and we had our rear end’s dished out to us on a silver platter (how’s that for eloquence). It was one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever coached, but I learned a great deal from the experience. We have a lot of training to do, and I have a lot of coaching to do. However, I realized that it’s more than just the futsal skills that need improving. Most of my players have never been disciplined in their entire lives, and the concept of “respect your authority” is completely foreign to them. Not to mention, I am completely foreign to them.
I read a verse that fits this situation perfectly. Hebrews 12:11-13 says, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”
When I look back on my childhood, it becomes so evident that my parents disciplined me, not because they were angry with me, but because they loved me. Their discipline made me strong. They protected me from danger and taught me life lessons that I will never forget. The Lord does the same thing. In fact, He is currently doing the same thing in my own life. In the moment, it stings and aches. Still, in the long run, it’s one of the sweetest things because it reminds me that He cares.
I am learning what it looks like to discipline my players in love. I am learning what it means to show them grace while teaching them truth. I am not going to be perfect in my delivery, but that’s alright because it’s through my failures that I will improve. God tends to teach me some of my biggest lessons during my toughest trials (probably because I am too stubborn and thick headed to learn the easy way). He has to throw me into the fire to refine me and He has to lovingly shove me out of the “comfort” nest to teach me how to fly. You think I’d be used to it by now, but… I’m not.
My playing season and my coaching season have just begun, and each day I will face a new challenge. One of the most comforting things is that I will never have to face any of those challenges alone. I am surrounded by a group of amazing people who love me for who I am (mishaps and all), and that truth spurs me on to take the next step forward. Walking by faith means that my next step could easily lead me into an unforeseen ditch, but I needn’t worry because Psalm 40:2 says, “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”
So I walk…
Our next futsal game is in two weeks, and I have a confident expectation that it will be better than the first.