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Handle hard better

Arguably one of the greatest running backs of all time (what kids would call the GOAT today) was Barry Sanders. He was an undersized running back who played college football at Oklahoma State University. OSU was not known to be a power football team and as such it did not have the same talent as the Big 8 conference powers Oklahoma and Nebraska.

However, from 1984-1988 the OSU Cowboys had two future NFL Hall of Fame running backs on their roster. Thurman Thomas was your traditional big back at 5'10" and over 200 lbs with breakaway speed while Barry Sanders was literally a human pinball machine breaking ankles all over the field.

What most people forget is that Sanders was a year behind Thomas and never got the starting role until his senior season when he rushed for what is still today the most yards in a game during a college football season (2,628 yards). What is more amazing is he did this in only 10 games! Everyone else on the list was unable to surpass him with 11-13 games.

I am going to bet he knew he was as good or better than Thomas every day for three years as he waited his turn to be the starter. While transferring was not as easy back then it certainly was an option and might have allowed him two years to start elsewhere. However, he stuck it out. Life had dealt him the adversity of being a great player who rested in the shadow of another great player.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you 1 Peter 5:10

What Peter is preaching to the early Church was that life is hard and filled with suffering. Nowhere in the Gospel does it say that life on earth will become easier through a belief in Christ. We are reminded that the Enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) Life is never going to get easier. However, the suffering will end, for those who have faith in Christ. Not only that, believers will be restored by grace from all the harm done to us.

The same principles are true in sports. You will face tribulations. You will face injury, time on the bench, poor play, mental mistakes, etc. You can choose to let these obstacles define who you are as a player or you can push through and get better at handling adversity.

Better players are simply those who are better at handling the difficult tasks. They can get up every day and work to eliminate or compartmentalize the obstacles through controlling what they can control to reach their goals.

I am sure that Barry Sanders had no doubts he could play in the NFL. He was not going to let being behind Thomas prevent him from reaching his goals. Instead, he made himself into a phenominal running back. He called it "good" that he was surrounded by great linemen who knew how to run block and a coach who desired to run the football. He used what God gave him to turn a difficult situation into one that did not prevent him from reaching his goals.

As a coach we want players to learn to handle the hard things. We use the sport to challenge players. I believe great coaches make it harder on players. They set championship standards despite the talent or the circumstances. They force players to adapt and overcome.

At the end of the day, those who are able to handle hard better will find the suffering of life more manageable. Thanks to Christ's sacrifice on the cross, our eternal salvation means that suffering will one day come to an end, and end forever.


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