I remember this time of the year well from my days in college: fall practice season.
You wouldn’t think it, but it’s honestly one of the hardest times of the year in the sport – you’re starting school, learning a new class schedule, learning new people, and on top of that, practices and training are brutal with two-a-day workouts and getting your body back in competition shape. Then there’s the reality that competition won’t start for another one, two months for some. So it’s the same thing, day after day…a grind.
And I remember as a freshmen, that got compounded by the reality of homesickness, that I hadn’t seen my family and wouldn’t see them for awhile. While other students at other colleges got fall breaks, I didn’t at the Naval Academy, and even if I did, I’d have to stay at school and train anyway.
I am reminded of this fact when I think about my little cousin as a freshmen at the University of North Dakota. And I was also reminded of this fact when I was in the wrestling room at Old Dominion University, and saw it in the faces of some of the wrestlers. (Side note: I find it interesting how people wear those emotions so openly, if you take the time to pay attention just a bit)
So what is one to do in such a time? Persevere.
Ok, that isn’t a very “sexy” word, and maybe that seems too cliche. I suppose it’s because perseverance is often thought of as enduring some sort of punishment that has no discernible end in sight. But I guess I don’t see it that way.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” ~Hebrews 12:1-2a
This passage highlights a couple things for me:
1. You’re not alone. No one is an island. And the lie a lot of us buy into in our hearts and minds is that when things aren’t going well, we’re left isolated and alone; no one cares, and no one can help. And we actually become self-fulfilling prophesies because in those feelings of isolation and lonliness, we just further pull away from people. But you’re not alone. Perseverance happens with others, “a great cloud of witnesses,” and needs to happen with others. Know there’s people going through the same things as you, and people there to support you – and be honest with you when you need to hear that word – but sincerely support you. Voicing those feelings of isolation and loneliness isn’t weakness, it’s honesty. And I’ve learned that once you can be honest with people, it’s a whole lot easier to move on…to persevere.
2. Goals and Vision are important. Or said another way: “Remember why you came here.” I was told that when I was at the Naval Academy, and I tell athletes I coach and mentor today. Remember why you came here. Remember what you fell in love with. Remember those dreams you had on your first visit, and the day you committed to your college decision. Remember why you love the sport. Remember that the first competition isn’t that far off.
If you have to, write those goals/visions/dreams down. Start a countdown to that first competition. Put them next to your bed, or on the mirror in your dorm so you look at them everyday. But know there’s a goal, and end, and keep it in sight; all your hard work is leading somewhere. That’s what faith is: trusting that what you believe to be true will indeed, come to be true.
Perseverance is the sign of a growing, strong faith.
I’ve found that to be true not only on the wrestling mat, but in my life as well – there are those “down” times when the end seems far away, when our dreams and goals, and even the things and ones we care about seem so far out of reach. But this time is forming you, preparing you to truly live and enjoy that time when the end comes – when you see your loved ones, when those dreams and goals are realized. It was awesome when I put on that Navy singlet for the first time; and I truly enjoyed the times I saw family, but knew the supported me from afar. And, when I reached out to those around me, I’ve formed some of the best and lasting friendships and relationships with teammates and coaches; coworkers and mentors.
And, perseverance has deepened my faith in a God who in Jesus Christ deals with me graciously when in those times I feel tempted to give up, and who I’ve found to be with me in and through those moments and trials – on the mat, and in life.