A letter to high school athletes…

“Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 14:27

Cross Country/Track and Field/True Athlete campers, actually all high school student-athletes:

Wanted to send out a quick note to you wishing you the very best Christmas this year…please laugh and love a lot in these upcoming days.  Treasure these holiday moments.

I came across the above verse while reading recently.  It is a verse I have heard before and heard often.  It would have been easy to continue reading right past it.  But for some reason I stopped as I was struck by the word “troubled”.  I’ll come back to it later…

While I don’t want to be too dramatic, these past nine months have been new territory for me – obviously, new territory for many of us.  Typically, I am always up – even eager – for a new adventure.  I love change.  I love variety.  But, this current adventure is not really what I had in mind.  I’ve never seen a virus race around the world and genuinely and thoroughly hurt and change people’s lives.  I’ve never seen rioting, violence, and deeply-felt divisions like we’ve recently seen in our country.  As a coach, I’ve never seen high school sports seasons modified, workouts limited, team social activities and human connections cancelled.  I’ve never seen and felt so much being knocked “off course”.  It’s weird.  It hurts.  It’s uncomfortable.

I wanted to write to you because I cannot stop thinking about what this all must feel like as a high schooler.  Even moreso, what it must feel like as a high school athlete.  I know what it feels like as a high school coach, and it is NOT FUN.  I know that God is still in control, and I try to trust Him and view this time as an unexpected/uncomfortable (from my perspective) way for His Kingdom to be lived out.  I try to view it as a time for faith to grow.  I try to be active in this time when people may be hurting and searching for a Savior.  After all, God’s Word often tells us the Christian life should not/may not be comfortable, and that discomfort and sacrifice are truly the gateway to life.  But, I still do not think it is fun.

When I was in high school, all I could think about was my next workout, my next practice, my next event with my teammates, and I just loved the electric feeling as I looked forward to the next game.  I hung banners in my bedroom with my “athletic theme” for the upcoming season (the “head-busting tour” theme of 1988 was my favorite).  I posted goals on large posters on my bedroom walls.  I limited myself to few servings of greasy foods, ice cream, and Oreos as game day approached.  Being athletic, being a teammate, and experiencing the blood, sweat, and tears of a sports season (yes, even the off-season) just thrilled me from head to toe.  Those were good years, and I can’t help but think and hope that there are many of you who are doing/living sports in a similar way in these days.  Well, at least up until recently.

While I hope that you are a little more level-headed and well-grounded than I was, I am guessing that your sports mean a lot to you.  I hope so.  What you do as a high school athlete and as a person is important.  What you do as a high school athlete and as a person is urgent.  When you put so many hours, so much pain, so much soreness, so much work, so much emotion, and so much passion into something, it better mean a lot to you.  Go with it.  Let it mean a lot to you.  That is fully a great thing.  When you live your lives with your passions, talents, teammates, parents, teachers, and your high school community around you holding tremendous meaning and tremendous value – you are on the right track.

So, if I am on the right track, the delays, cancellations, and modifications to your sports seasons are uncomfortable for you.  That may be putting it lightly.  So, let’s go ahead and just say it, “THIS HURTS! I HATE THIS!”.  Yell it if you want.  This world needs more “noble yelling”.  That is, yelling directly about the things that are bad in life because you care and are actively working to see them be better.  You have a passion to see them be free from flaws.  You have a passion to see them be excellent.  You are tired of things being “off course”.  Stand up against it!  Don’t give ground!  You are pursuing truth and becoming “true” – keep going.  Go steadfastly and unapologetically in that good direction with all that you do.

The cancellations, delays, postponements, lack of team community, lack of competition, lack of physical activity may be uncomfortable, but God’s word reminds us that there is a better, flawless, more excellent day ahead.  While sports are actually a small part of the big picture (I hate saying that), they will return, and there will be deep, worthwhile fruit that grows from these current hardships.  We will look back and say, “God is faithful”.  The great heroes of the faith lived this kind of faith.  They stood their ground in trying times.  Despite their troubles, they looked to the future and pointed people toward hope.  They knew the tide was always turning.

The tide IS always turning.

Someday, a redemption will occur.  Someday, a maximum life in Christ will be lived.  You will get to be all that God created you to be.  God will not be stopped.  I don’t know the day or the hour that your sports will fully return.  I don’t know the day or the hour that the sun will rise on this faith, but IT WILL RISE.  Therefore, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…”

I got stopped by that word “troubled” in my Bible reading because, well, I was feeling it.  I was living it.  My heart was troubled.  My sports, my routines, and my comforts were newly “off course” and I did not care for it.  I still do not care for it.  My heart goes out to each of you as you see some of your high school sports memories and goals take a detour or even get hijacked altogether.  It would make sense for your heart to be troubled and for you to not like all this.

But just let me encourage you.  You are not alone.  Your hurt is OK and it is shared by many others.  But, it will not win.  What you do as a high school athlete and person is important and urgent because YOU are important and urgent.  Your teammates, your parents, your coaches, and your teachers have poured hours, pain, work, soreness, emotion, and passion into you because you mean a lot.  You are loved.  You are valued.  You have a purpose.  We are all blessed to watch you do your “sports thing”.  We can’t wait to see you change the world as you do it.

God has designed you to be alive in His Kingdom and to continue to turn the tide.  Make things excellent.  Pursue truth.  Pursue love.  Do some noble yelling.  Be an eager, steadfast participant.  Because someday…(how is it that popular social media posters write today for emphasis)…

THE. SUN. WILL. RISE.

It would be very tempting to be a bit gloomy this Christmas season.  Troubled hearts are everywhere.  Fear is common.  Things are “off course”.  But now, I encourage you to take God at His word.  Sports will be back.  Human connections will be back.  Deep love for your teammates, your school, your high school community will be back.  The joy of practices, games, soreness, and progress will be back.  Until then, please take heart.  Let this be your battle cry (from The Message):

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Read that one sentence above again: “There’s far more here than meets the eye.”  Right now we may not see it or feel it, but it is true.  Know it.  Live it.  Spread it.

We miss you on those fields, courts, tracks, and courses.  We will see you again soon.

Because someday, T.S.W.R.

Again, have a beautiful, beautiful Christmas.

Coach Butte

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