Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Heart of an Athlete

The biggest intangible in sports is knowing an athletes heart. Their heart is what drives them, what provides their "makeup". This is the invisible quality that comprises the soul, strength and mind of a team. Although we cannot see it or measure it, we know it is difficult to win without it.

While every coach knows that the team must have heart, it is often very difficult to cultivate it. Heart is the most elusive factor to quantify when recruiting or evaluating an athlete.

Scouts call it the athletes "makeup"....who they are as a person inside and the type of competitor they are. It is difficult to look past the physical attributes to get at the mental, spiritual, emotional and relational aspects of an athlete. However most bad recruiting decisions are rooted in this part of the player.

This holds true even when selecting players for youth baseball and softball teams. How many times have you seen a promising athlete who possesses all of the desired physical skills end up giving the most problems to a coach because they didn't have what it took inside to be a competitor.

We can look to the bible to see a perfect example of this principle. In 1 Samuel 16:7 the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart."

God sent Samuel to the home of Jesse, who had eight sons, to anoint one of these sons as the next king. Jesse lined up his players (sons) to pass in front of Samuel. The first was Eliab who had impressive physical features and whom Samuel thought would be Gods choice. However as the verse above states God did not want Eliab. Six more of Jesse's sons passed in front of Samuel but none were Gods choice. Samuel asked Jesse's if he had any other sons. Jesse told him about David his youngest, who was a unimpressive shepherd boy. This was Gods choice.

David was so far from making the team that he wasn't even on the sideline. His own father didn't recommend him for the job. However God knew Davids heart and chose him.

Coaches need players who possess not only the right physical and mental abilities, but also the commitment and dedication of heart.

As we evaluate players for our team, whether as a professional scout, college recruiter, or youth team coach, let's pray for Gods wisdom to see the players heart and consider their makeup as well.

A lot of kids get passed up merely because they didn't have the physical attributes. One only needs to look at players like David Eckstein to understand that it isn't always about physical appearance that makes a leader and champion.

Come to think of it, I guess God has a liking for guys named David with big hearts and a desire to make an impact!

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