Friday, February 12, 2016

Beginnings and Endings of Sports Seasons

No matter the sport with which you serve, there is a natural rhythm to the season. Each season has a beginning and an end. Most have a pre-season and a post-season. We would be wise to understand these natural rhythms and to shape our work so as to take advantage of both the beginning and the end of the season. Following are some thoughts about both the beginning and ending of sports seasons.

Beginning of a season –
·        The great thing about this part of the season is that everyone starts undefeated. Hope beats strongly in the hearts of every team and each player and coach during this part of the season. As soon as the first competition is completed, half of all the teams competing now have losses. Let the hope and anticipation of the new season work for you as you speak with everyone in terms filled with hope, expectation, excitement, and anticipation of good things.
·        The downside of this part of the season is that some have expectations that range from unrealistic to laughable. If we are wise we will help these, less than reasonable, players or coaches to focus on the daily process of preparation and competition, over against a set of results that they hope validate their optimism. Talk in terms of embracing the process of development and becoming the team they hope to be at the end of the season. You may see their disappointment coming before they do.
·        When speaking with team leaders (coaches, club managers, etc.), set the boundaries for your service and the expectations for when, where, and how you will serve the team. Seek to establish this and to maintain a consistency of service without regard to the ups and downs that accompany most seasons of sport.

End of a season –
·        The great part about this part of the season is that we now know what kind of team we have. The process and the results have revealed the nature of our team. Some teams compete like champions and enjoy the rewards of such performance. Others finish well below the .500 line and lick their wounds as the season mercifully ends. Still others find themselves mired in the mediocrity of the middle of the standings. In any case, there is a finality to the end of any season.
·        Be mindful that for some or many, the end of this season is also the end of their careers. At every level of sport, the end of sports seasons bring the end of careers. When you are aware of such, speak clearly and affirm those who exit the sport. A simple thank you card, a well-crafted letter, a chat over coffee, or a visit to your home for dinner are all powerful ways to express your heart and God’s heart to those who finish their sporting careers.
·        Consider those who may be terminated at season’s end. The sports world can be cold and cruel to those who underperform or seem to be a “poor fit.” It is of immense value to those who leave the team that you show faithfulness and loyalty when they are terminated. Pursue them with calls, text messages, tweets, however you can, find a way to express your support, to assure them of your prayers, and to communicate your respect. Most of their colleagues and friends don’t know what to say or how to respond. We need the emotional intelligence and grace to love those who find themselves adrift and seeking new employment.
·        Finally, after the season it is always wise to meet with the team leaders (coaches, club managers, etc.) to evaluate, to review, and to discuss your service of the team. Seek their ideas, adjustments, and vision for the season to come.

Let the natural rhythms of the sporting season work in your favor. Take advantage of their virtues and beware of their vices. Use these seasonal advantages to enable you to love the people of sport in your charge extravagantly and to serve them selflessly.

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