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"Success Defined"

By Coach Bovaird, 10/24/21, 12:30PM CDT


But blessed are those who trust in the Lord...

...and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. (Jeremiah 17:7)

"But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence." (Jeremiah 17:7)

When I was a senior in high school, I won the St. Mary's Invitational wrestling meet. I pinned my first three opponents and won a convincing 7-1 decision in the finals. Deep down, and I never said a word to any of my teammates or coaches, I hoped I might have gained enough attention to have been voted "Outstanding Wrestler" of the tournament. It didn't happen. My teammate, who wrestled five weight classes lighter than me, also won the tournament title, but he upset the defending state champion in his finals match and thereby earned the OW honors that weekend. 

As an athlete, I was never named OW at a tournament. As a coach, I have never been named "coach of the year." As an athlete or as a coach, I have never won a state championship. However, I most definitely consider myself a success. I am truly at peace with this, yet I still pursue the idea of continuous improvement—kaizen. 

I'm a huge Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, and there's a line from Avengers: Endgame that really spoke to me. In the course of the action, the character Frigga tells her son Thor, "Everyone fails at who they're supposed to be, Thor. The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are." This line resonates with me, because one of the key principles that I try to instill in my students and athletes is that the idea of competitiveness means being one's best, not necessarily being the best. Many students and athletes alike have made the critical error in believing that if they cannot be the best, then they have failed at their goals. 

This brings me to the scripture from Jeremiah. The words "blessed are those who trust in the Lord" are a blueprint for how to live life—how to find true happiness.

What does it mean to truly trust in God, however? We live in a world that is governed by the laws of humankind, that holds success in the light of man's definitions and standards. We often find ourselves caught in the swirling eddy of man's definition of success. Ultimately, we often succumb to the temptation of measuring our own success by the wrong standards. 

Man's definition of success is often the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose or the attainment of wealth, fame, popularity, or social status. It is the accolades bestowed by worldly entities and institutions through which we seek to prove our personal successes. 

What we must remember to do is hold true to our faith in God. That faith—God's definition of success, not man's—will guide us through our lives and deliver us to true happiness. It's not titles, trophies, or awards that should provide affirmations of our successes. True safety and security will be found within God's loving arms. 

I strive to instill in my students and athletes the confidence to make their own definitions of success and to set high standards that will push them through discomfort and challenges to achieve great things. A popular Christian film, Facing the Giants, features a scene often referred to as "the death crawl." The coach in this film pushes a young and resistant athlete beyond his perceived limits in this scene. Brock asks his coach, "Am I at the 20 yet?" and the coach responds, "Forget the 20. You give me your best. You keep going. That's it. Don't stop, Brock. You got more in you than that."

Our athletes will limit themselves based on what their parents tell them, what their club coaches say, what the newspapers or rankings say, or what their teammates say in the locker rooms. They'll look at last season's results or last week's results and limit themselves because they don't think they can beat the giants that stand in the way of their goals. They rely on someone else's definition of success—or someone else's prescription of their potential—and it holds them back from ever reaching their personal best. They think too much about who they're supposed to be, and not who they are right now. Definitions of success are ours, and ours alone—and it takes intentional soul searching and brutal honesty with ourselves to see the path to true success. 

If not from the words of parents, coaches, teammates, or the media, where should our athletes find their definitions of success? I believe that they should come from prayer—candid discussions with God. He gives us the answers, He sets the bar for success, and He measures with something greater than human standards. We should continuously encourage our athletes to believe and trust in the Lord, and if they learn to believe in themselves and experience this peaceful clarity, success will be all but guaranteed. 

Moment of Kaizen:

  • At what point do you discuss the definition of success with the athletes in your program? What do you say to your teams? How do you guide them to form their own definitions? 
  • How do you model your own definition of success for your athletes? 
  • What can you do to enable your athletes to strengthen their own relationships with God, thereby enabling a greater definition of success in life? 

Related Passage: "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Those who believe in the Lord will be saved, and the knowledge that God gave his only Son for us is often a great inspiration. However, it can also be quickly forgotten as we get caught up in our worldly pursuits. Guide your athletes to remember God's love and His sacrifice, and help them learn to construct their own definitions of success. Guide them to be the best version of themselves that they can possibly be. 

October 24, 2021

This article is a part of a series of Coaches Devotionals that I will be writing over the course of the next year. Please click here if you would like to receive email notifications when a new devotional is published.

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More Moments of Kaizen:

"True Grit"

By Coach Bovaird 04/20/2022, 4:15pm CDT

“Stand firm...

...and you will win in life.” (Luke 21:19)

"Mindfulness and Visualization"

By C 11/14/2021, 9:15am CST

“May the words of my mouth...

and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)