When we think of mentoring in the context of sports, we tend to think of it in terms of the game we play. Every athlete wants to be the best at what they do. They seek out those who can help get them where they want to be. The journey towards greatness is a long one that was never meant to be done alone. As a sport mentor, I know the desire to get better at the game we play. But I believe there is an more important game that we need to master, the one that we play called life.
There was a time when your coach did more than coach your game, he/she was your relationship coach, style coach, academic coach...simply your life coach. At times it seems that coaching has gotten away from that and have focused on turning out super athletes and super teams. Many of the great coaches I admire all operate from the foundation of wanting to not only make you better as an athlete, but help you become a success in life. I am no different.
That is the adventure that I have been on for over 25 years with athletes and leaders. I have been using my love for sports and athletic abilities to journey with people in their pursuit of getting better at life. It's a journey that we do together in relationship as we journey through life. Sports may be the thing that brings us together, but it goes well beyond the game. I could tell you stories of adventures I have had with athletes over the years, but I think the story is better told by someone who's journey I've been blessed to be a part of. I asked my friend Michael Duy who is a track guy that I have had the honor to walk through life with the last couple years, to describe the journey that he has been on and this is what he had to say:
"My journey thus far can be summed up by Matthew 7:24-27 pretty well. I spent the first 18 years of my life building my house on sand. My identity was so wrapped up into sports, my friends, my intelligence, my girlfriend, etc. I did not build my house on the word of God, even though I was vaguely familiar with this God I so desperately adore today. Long story short, this house on sand came crashing down New Years Eve of 2016 (my freshman year of college). The next morning, a friend of mine invited me to church, and that was the beginning of my house built on the solid foundation of God’s word.
Fast forward a couple years and the day before my 20th birthday, my 7th grade coach, teacher, and one of my current mentors is baptizing me. So what happened in between that New Years Eve and the day I publicly declared my faith in Jesus Christ? Discipleship. The Lord blessed me with many Christians that poured into me over that span of time, and continue to up until this day. One of these mentoring relationships is with J Rob, aka "The SportMentor". You see, J Rob and I played a couple of 1 on 1 games at X-Sport before that New Years Eve crash, and J Rob gave me his business card. I kept that card in my wallet for months before ever coming in contact with him again. I would see his smile and faithful service at McAllisters almost every time I went in; however, our relationship went no further than some good ol’ UNC vs. Kentucky basketball banter. Little did I know that this man was going to challenge me on the court and in my walk with Christ in the near future.
I love the game of basketball. Any opportunity to play, coach, watch, etc, I’m taking. So naturally, J Rob and I got along well when it came to the game.
J Rob wasn’t willing to let that relationship end at basketball though, he was in it for the eternal game.
We would play our games to 100, then dive into a bible study and talk about how God was moving in our lives. We would push each other, pray for each other, and sharpen each others game, and spiritual life. The relationship we have helps me to build my house on the solid foundation that is Christ Jesus. That is the beauty of sports ministry. We were able to connect over a game with a bouncy orange ball, but became brothers over a Truth so good, everyone needs to know it.
Our relationship has inspired me to use sports to reach out to friends of mine that don’t know the love of Christ, through the game of basketball. I am so grateful that the Lord put J Rob in my life, and I am even more grateful for the ways God will use him to minister to the students at the University of Minnesota. God brought the house built on sand crashing down, and put the desire in my heart to build my life on his word. Discipleship provided me the way to make that foundation on the rock solid word of God"
My relationship with Michael has been a complete joy for me. To see how his life has transformed in the last few years has been a testimony to what investing in relationship can do. "To know Christ, Make Him Known and Help Others Do The Same" is the motto of The Navigators which is the organization I work for and can be said as the theme of my 25 years in this business. What some have seen as just hanging out and playing ball is really two individuals wanting the same thing, to be the best versions of themselves they can be. It goes well beyond the game of basketball, it's about life...the eternal game!
Stay Forever Strong!