I went to a small high school, which meant many athletic opportunities for me. I played volleyball and basketball. Volleyball was my love and I made varsity my freshman year. I had to work harder in basketball, and after three years of climbing for a spot, my senior year began with promise of a starting position. Little did I know that my coach was busy recruiting girls to play for our school- tall girls. After a few weeks of practice, I realized that not only was I not going to start, I was not going to play much. This made me evaluate how I was spending my time and consider my options. The day before our first game, I walked into the coach’s office with my bag packed. I set it on her desk and I quit.
I had a simple explanation prepared about how I wanted to spend my time my senior year and about my lack of future in the sport. I’m not tall. With angry tears she lectured me, telling me how ridiculous I was for quitting on the brink of a state championship. She asked me to reconsider, she promised me playing time, but I had made up my mind and was at peace. Quitters never win, she reminded me as I left her office.
I found myself with lots of spare time all of the sudden, time that used to be filled with practices and games and tournaments. Most of my friends played on the team… so I got a job at a bookstore, hoping to save some money for college. Before my first day of work, one of my friends and I went to the bookstore to inquire about the dress code. There were two guys working, and when I introduced myself, the tall one held out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Neil.”
We shook hands. And after a few months we held hands. And fourteen years later, we still hold hands.
We played basketball with our kids last week. As Jeremiah’s frustration with the height of the goal increased, I thought about what my response will be when they are tempted to quit a sport. Decisively I will encourage my kids to work hard and persevere. I will teach them to be team players and finish what they start. I will walk along side of them as their character is shaped by sitting the bench or striking out. But before they face all the inevitable challenges of team sports, I hope they know the faithfulness of our Father. I hope they are accustomed to hearing his voice and following his leading.
My high school basketball team won state my senior year. I was working that night.