There is no shortage of sporting events to watch in February. There is high school, college, and professional hockey, basketball, and wrestling (oops- is professional wrestling a sport?). This year we have the Winter Olympics. Of course, there is the biggest single day activity in all of sports- the Super Bowl.
Millions of fans watch these games and contests. They enjoy the “thrill of victory and agony of defeat.”
I wonder how many understand the true essence of sports. The great majority believe these are monumental competitive battles. Granted, two teams or individuals are locked in an intense competitive struggle. But winning is an outcome- a goal. Winning is not the essence of sport.
At their essence- sports are noncompetitive. Yes, you read that right. The focus for an athlete is to have total self-control during playing time and non-playing time. In other words, execute well in the moment- one play or shot at a time. A player on the women’s professional tennis circuit said in an interview after a match. “I played so well. It was like I was in the twilight zone.” This is where the phrase “playing in the zone” originated.
Two of the greatest baseball hitters for the Minnesota Twins were Rod Carew and Kent Hrbek. Rod said,” I can track the ball so well.” Kent said, “When I focus well- the baseball looks as big as a basketball and looks to be coming so slowly.” They knew their responsibility was to place themselves in the zone by focusing on the ball- not the outcome of the game. A wise golfer understands if she or he will keep their head still during the entire swing- the score will take care of itself.
Nick Sabin is the highly successful college coach of the Alabama football team. He said on December 4th in preparation for their game with Georgia, “I think what our players need to do is just focus on one play at a time, trying to win as many plays as they can. Don’t worry about the scoreboard; don’t worry what the outcome means because we just need to focus on what we need to play well in this game.”
Tom Brady, the winningest quarterback in NFL history, emphasized before his last playoff game, “The key is to eliminate all of the distractions. For all of us- it is repeating good process.”
In their own words- each one- who is/ or was – highly successful- testifies the key to success in sports is to play to your best ability in the moment. They verify the secret to success- the essence in sports- is to understand they are noncompetitive. Winning is the outcome, but not the focus during the contest.
It is even more important to truly understand the essence of life. Mark Twain said, “The two most important days of your life are when you were born and when you understand why.”
Many may say it is the quest for the three P’s- power; prestige; pleasure. The person with the most toys when they die wins. No- they are simply dead.
God created us. He, therefore, may have some perspective into what the essence of life is. He says in Psalms 100, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His. Enter His gates with thanksgiving.” 1st Corinthians 10:31 says “Whatever you do, do for the glory of God.”
Jesus Christ is the center of God’s plan- both for the entire universe and for every individual. This is the essence of life. We need to know that we were created by God. The purpose is to have a relationship with God and Jesus. The purpose of our life is to continually develop a more intimate relationship with Jesus and be more filled with his loving character.
You may have played sports and may have been so fortunate to play “in the zone” where everything worked so well. You played so flawlessly - “Way above my head (abilities).” You know what a great feeling that is. There is nothing wrong with experiencing great joy in winning a sporting event.
That feeling pales in comparison to having a winning relationship with Jesus and being filled with the joy and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. It is worth dedicating time and energy to.