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“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:8
I don’t know about you, but I struggled to get to sleep last night. I felt a deep pit in my stomach. And the source of my illness was the show put on during and after the Oregon/Florida State national semi-final college football game. Did you see or hear about what happened?
- After a costly turnover, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher visibly used vulgarity as he threatened to bench quarterback Jameis Winston on national television
- After the final whistle of the game, over half the Florida State football team dashed for the locker room without shaking hands with their Oregon opponents
- On the trophy podium, Oregon players engaged in an inappropriate chant, mocking Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston for legal allegations he faced last year
Forgive my bluntness…but SERIOUSLY? Two of the best teams in the country, on a national stage, and admiring kids across the country are observing and consuming belittlement and poor sportsmanship as the way the best teams and players conduct business. It both sickens and sorrows me to reflect on this.
So how do we fix this? What’s the problem here?
The problem is that these college athletes—and athletes of all ages across our nation—are being taught that the national title is the show. It is the end all be all. It’s what everything your whole life to this point has been about. This moment. This game. This is it. This is everything.
And nothing could be further from the truth.
No matter what your faith background or beliefs, let me simply submit to you one small bible verse that I believe has great power. It’s 1 Timothy 4:8: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
Whether you are a bible-believing person or not, just give me a couple more paragraphs here. No matter what your stance is on the bible, I’d submit to you that it’s very difficult to argue with the logic of 1 Timothy 4:8. Physical training is of some value. Some. It’s a very valuable thing. But it’s not the only thing.
Don’t get me wrong. I personally believe athletics has immense value. I am convinced there is not a greater vehicle available to our youth today than sport to teach them values they will live by their whole life long. Things like: how to work hard, how to build relationships, how to set and pursue goals, how to delay gratification, how to handle adversity, how to lead and serve others, how to communicate effectively, how to succeed with grace, how to learn from failure, how to be a part of a team, and many, many more.
But when we make something of some value—athletics—become the ultimate value…watch out. There is severe trouble on the horizon. Our priorities have become mistakenly skewed. Because the real show in athletics—life—begins after an athletes’ career ends.
So what’s the answer?
While athletics has some value, 1 Timothy 4:8 says “godliness has value for all things.” Now…before you stop reading, hear me out. People get very uncomfortable with the word godliness. But let me offer a different perspective.
You and I will never be godly here on earth. Whatever you believe spiritually, there’s no disputing that none of us are perfect. We never have been and we never will be. So what does it really mean to be godly?
The bible says that God is holy. That’s not a word we use much in our daily vocabulary, but to be holy simply means to be unique, different, and set apart. To be godly means to be holy, and to be holy simply means to be different. To be different than society. To stand out—not by winning trophies, having thousands of Twitter followers, and being loud and brash—but by living in a way that makes people take notice—doing everything with hard work, humility, and caring service.
So how do we instill this in today’s student-athletes?
This is what we do at the business I co-own—Next Level Performance. We exist to develop servant leaders through the platform of athletics. And in so doing, we are helping student-athletes discover their purpose, value, and worth. Our approach has three parts:
- Discuss—We teach leadership and character development to student-athletes in a real and relevant way that connects with them.
- Display—We do all we can to model and live as examples of what we teach our student-athletes. A picture is worth a thousand words.
- Do—We give athletes a forum to put learning into action. Every training session with Next Level Performance has 2 parts—a focused leadership and character learning module and an on-field/on-court athletic session. Every Next Level athlete has the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned immediately to reinforce its value.
A couple weeks ago we trained a group of middle school quarterbacks from all over West Michigan at our Quarterback Academy. While every young man made great progress with their footwork and fundamental mechanics, our core focus was on running the S.H.O.W. As quarterbacks, they have a lot of responsibility—getting the play from the sideline, calling it in the huddle, making sure everyone lines up properly, knowing their assignment (and their teammates’ assignments) in its entirety, calling the snap count, and executing the play. But as they run the S.H.O.W. every play, we taught them how to do it in a unique way:
Servanthood—Putting others’ needs before my own
Humility—Thinking of myself less
Ownership—Always taking responsibility for my actions
Work—Giving my best effort every time
At some point, the lights will go out on every athletic career. The show will end. But that ending is only the beginning of the real show—the game of life. And while athletics have some value, living the S.H.O.W. of life with servanthood, humility, ownership, and work will allow student-athletes to succeed on a daily basis, no matter what they are doing.
To learn more about the community of servant leaders Next Level Performance is building through athletics, click here, email us at [email protected], or visit our website at www.nlathlete.com. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you share our vision, we hope that you’ll spread the word about Next Level and that you’ll send your student-athletes our way. We’d be honored to invest in their lives!
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
There are many things I carry with me every day from my football playing career. Some are not so glamourous—like surgical scars on both my knees and dealing with more aches and pains than I should at my age. Some I wouldn’t trade for the world—like friendships cultivated with teammates and fond memories of practices, games, and our collective achievements.
But as 2014 comes to a close and 2015 begins anew, I now realize there is a habit I built as an athlete that continues to serve me well year after year:
R & R
No, I’m not talking about New Year’s Day rest and relaxation in front of a television filled with college football bowl mania and a plate filled with tailgate food. (Although I strongly recommend this habit!) I’m talking about a habit that has the ability to serve us well everyday—New Year’s Day and beyond.
R & R – Reflect and respond.
Having played quarterback, I got pretty polished at the healthy habit of R & R. Football is a humbling game. There are many moving parts and pieces every play—and there is always something that can be done better. When you win, you never play as well as you think you did. When you lose, you never play as poorly as you think you did.
After every single game comes in-depth film study. Reflection. What did we do well? What must we improve upon? How did we perform in certain situations? Did we get better on what we chose to focus on this week? Do we need to change our personnel or approach next week?
Then comes the game plan for the next game. Respond. What do we need to focus on to win this week? What does the opponent do well? What do they struggle with? How can we exploit their weaknesses? What adjustments will we make to put us in the best position to succeed?
While the end of each game is a finish line, it’s also a starting line. Each game is a chance for R & R – the chance to reflect on opportunities to get better and then the ability to respond and make good on the desired improvements.
And that’s exactly the opportunity we’re given at the turn of each new year. A new year is a finish line. And a starting line.
As we flip the calendar page from December to January, we would be wise to spend time observing the writer of the Old Testament book of Lamentations live out the habit of R & R. As he ponders the evil, pain, and suffering that Jerusalem has suffered at the hands of Babylon, he also looks ahead, out of destruction, to a brighter day of hope that is rooted in God’s faithfulness.
The author reflects on the difficulty he’s seen in his community and honestly shares his heart. The text says he remembers his “affliction”, “wandering”, “bitterness”, and “gall.” He vulnerably admits his “soul is downcast” and his heart aches for a better future.
But then he crosses the finish line of reflecting on his pain and approaches a new starting line. He chooses to respond in hope—a hope that can only come from our Heavenly Father. His response is filled with praise to God: “…his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
As we enter the new year before us, let’s all follow the example of Lamentations 3 and take some time for a little R & R:
Set aside some time for quiet reflection on the year that’s passed. What were the highlights? What was exciting? What did you accomplish? What did you do to serve others? How did God display his faithfulness in your life? What were the lowlights? What did you struggle with? What was disappointing? Where did you fail? What caused you grief? As you process last year, simply write down three things you desire to change or approve upon in the year ahead. (If you need a kick-start, Dr. Tim Elmore has some great suggestions to help you reflect on last year.)
As you review the three things you desire to change in 2015, spend time seeking God in prayer. How can you better align your life with his character In the year ahead? Review the three changes you just listed and, next to them, list your response to your reflection—the three things you are fully committed to accomplishing in 2015. Place or post your response list somewhere visible—on your mirror, in your wallet, on your desk, in your car—where you’ll see it as a daily reminder of your commitment for the year ahead.
This new year is both a finish line and a starting line. It’s the perfect chance for some R & R—an opportunity to reflect on the year that’s passed and the ability to respond to make the year ahead our best yet! May all we do this year be done in service to God, for the betterment of others!
IT’S YOUR TURN: Add your comments! What have you dedicated yourself to accomplishing in 2015?
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
For my wife and me, this year’s Christmas season has deeper meaning than ever before. We are expecting our first child in June. As we open our Bibles and read of the fear and stress, but also the courage and obedience of Jesus’ young, earthly parents—Mary and Joseph—we can’t help but reflect on our own life’s circumstance.
We are in a season of preparation.
We’ve moved my office and all its belongings down into the basement to make room for what will be baby’s new nursery. We’ve got a stroller in our living room waiting for its new occupant. There are suddenly onesie pajamas all over our house. We’re signed up for all our prenatal parenting classes. We’re reading books, making lists, and crunching budget numbers. We are ensuring everything is ready for this child we will treasure, teach, train and, many years from now, turn loose to live for Jesus in our fallen world.
We are in a season of preparation.
But preparation isn’t just for expecting parents like us. Truth be told, we are all in preparation mode, all the time.
If we closely examine our day-to-day living, we’ll find we are all preparing for something every single day. We are all hoping for something, looking forward to something, putting our faith in something, living for something. We just may not realize it.
Every choice we make says a lot about what we are preparing for. Every event on our calendar says a lot about what we are living for. Every conversation we have—or don’t have—says a lot about what we are hoping for.
If we step back and honestly reflect on our daily thoughts, words, and actions, and what they indicate we are preparing for—I think we’ll find most of our preparation tends to be:
Our willingness to sacrifice for others, put in long hours, or go the extra mile is secretly rooted in a self-centered motive—preparing for the next promotion, recognition, achievement or bonus. We will do whatever it takes…as long as it benefits us!
Our minds are constantly filled with the thought, “If I can just get __________, then everything will be okay.” Then the long awaited day comes—after all our preparation, planning, and pursuit, we finally get ___________— only to find ourselves unsatisfied and on to preparing for the next thing. The prize is short-lived, fleeting, and doesn’t fulfill our deepest desires.
Even our most well intentioned plans of preparation fall short and miss the mark. Circumstances beyond our control change, our plans fail, we make mistakes. Even our best preparation is imperfect.
The decisions we make and actions we take each day are all preparing us for something. What are we preparing for?
Rest assured, we can correct the course of our preparation—and what better time to do it than in this sacred Christmas season? The prophet Isaiah implores us to prepare—not for things that are self-serving, short-lived, and substandard—but simply, for a child. To prepare for Jesus Christ—the son of God. The Savior of the world. To get ready for the one who is:
The coming Christ child is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” He was meek enough for a manger, but mighty enough to save mankind. He is worthy of our love and praise.
This Holy infant is eternally in control of everything in all creation. “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” He rules the world, and all that is in it, with loving wisdom and faultless authority. Forever.
The reason for the Christmas season, Jesus, has built his Kingdom—in heaven and in willing human hearts—and he is “establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness.” Our unknown future is secure in a known God who loves us dearly and is perfect in every way.
It’s been a busy year. We’ve all been preparing for many things. This Christmas season, let’s slow down and set aside the things we’ve been pursuing that are self-serving, short-lived, and substandard. Let’s cast them down and prepare our hearts to receive a child—Jesus—born that we may have hope, love, and life. Let’s get ready for this praiseworthy, permanent, perfect king! He alone deserves our full preparation!
IT’S YOUR TURN: Add your comments! What are some of the ways you and your family prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus each Christmas?
Almost on a daily basis I’ve been fielding the question…
“So Tim…what is this Next Level Performance thing all about?”
I’m glad you asked!
Exactly seven months ago today I found myself with a dear friend of mine on the sidelines of a practice field at one of the premier athletic training facilities in the world. One of the quarterbacks I’ve been training and mentoring for a couple years was attending a camp at this facility. As I watched and listened to the instruction and the message being instilled behind it, the taste in my mouth grew more and more sour.
Everything was about the SELF.
“It’s all about ME” was the focal point of everything being taught. “Put up the numbers you want to put up.” “Get the scholarship you want to obtain.” “Market yourself to the right schools and recruiting agencies.” “Build your brand.” “Be the star to carry your team back home.” “Have the success you deserve.”
After a full day of hearing this continual message, my friend and I turned to each other and said, “We have to do something about this.” Two weeks later, Next Level Performance, LLC was established.
What do we do at Next Level? We build servant leaders, not just better student-athletes, because athletics will end, but leadership will not. We do this in two ways: performance training and leadership development. We attack and build the skill through services like sport-specific instruction and speed & agility training, but we also attack and build the will through our intensive leadership and character development curriculum. We deliver this curriculum in two ways – in “modules” that accompany every on-field training session and through our leadership development conferences which have already touched the lives of hundreds of high school and collegiate student-athletes.
Right or wrong, our society is fascinated with athletics. Athletes today have a platform and an influential voice. We want to do all we can to help student-athletes excel in the classroom and on the field. But, more importantly, we believe a purpose driven athlete is a force for positive change in the world. We equip each Next Level student-athlete with tools and strategies to lead and serve others in their teams, schools, communities, and homes. Building these skills in student-athletes is ultimately what will help them excel far beyond the field of competition – in their careers, in their marriages, in their parenting, and in whatever else they choose to pursue.
To learn more about the community of servant leaders we are building through athletics, click here or visit our website at www.nlathlete.com. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you share our vision, we hope that you’ll spread the word about what we’re doing in the lives of student-athletes, and that you’ll consider sending your student-athletes our way. We’d be honored to invest in their lives.
Next Level Performance Quarterback Academy
We have two premier events coming up for quarterbacks – Quarterback Academy – one December 19-20 and another March 6-7. December 19-20 is for middle school quarterbacks in 6th-8th grade, and March 6-7 is for high school quarterbacks in grades 9-12. Middle School QBA is filling up fast, but we do have 8 spots left! We hope you’ll join us…all registration information is available at www.nlathlete.com/qba.
Strive: The Book
In Strive, former collegiate and NFL quarterback Tim Hiller leads you on a year-long journey, taking small steps each week on the path to making your life matter, developing into the person God designed you to be.
Our lives are short. Together, let’s pursue what matters.
From his platform as a champion, Tim has a natural gift for connecting with a wide range of audiences—from schools, youth groups, and churches, to student-athletes and business leaders. Submit a speaking request to invite Tim to inspire your group, team, or organization.
Next Level Performance
Co-founded by Tim Hiller, Next Level Performance develops the total athlete through elite sports performance training, club teams, and Beyond The Game™ Conferences. NLP’s proprietary leadership development process helps student-athletes succeed, both now and in the future.