For one season in my life, I was demoted to the football scout team. Each day I had to take my talents to the defensive end of the field and practice against the first-string defense.
Scout team is perhaps the most thankless position in any sport. You don’t travel with the team and you are barely acknowledged by your own teammates on campus. Trying to impress a campus coed when you’re a scout team All-American is useless, or so I heard. Each week you report for duty, put on the jersey number of the upcoming team’s star running back and proceed to get killed by your teammates, who suddenly became character actors. Or perhaps I was the character actor and they actually believed I was the running back for the opposing team. If I ran too hard, the defensive players got mad. If I ran too softly, the defensive coaches got mad. The defensive coach rarely throws you a compliment because his focus is on the defense, not you. On more then one occasion, I heard them say, “Kill him!” You are a pawn, a tool in their game, a necessary unnecessary, if you will.
Meanwhile, the team’s star running backs might as well be at Club Med. Each day, they practice against scout team defense while wearing a yellow jersey that indicates they are not to be touched. The scout team is instructed to go full speed to only the point of impact. Often the impact is so soft that their pads barely make a sound.
That was my lot in life. Each day I returned to my dorm bruised, dirty and dejected, and each day the first-team backs left the field smiling, laughing and with clean white uniforms.
“That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” I once heard.
“There is a time and a season for everything,” I also read.
I must admit that I didn’t fully understand how those two sayings worked together during that point of my life. To me, I was in a storm that I endured each day. Like the disciple Paul, for many days I had not seen the sun, and so dark were the nights that I could not see the moon. I thought of giving up on football and my life long dreams, but somehow each day I preserved. There were scriptures that I held onto, such as “This too shall pass. What the enemy means for your harm, God will turn it around for your good. Faint not in well doing, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.”
As I embraced this mindset, the storm slowly lifted and the clouds eventually rolled away. Like a deep-rooted tree that becomes stronger because of constant winds, I grew stronger facing the first-string defense. Each day I challenged them to bring it on and do their worst. I could only go up from where I was. I became a non-travel, non-dressing, scout team All-American.
The saying, “Your attitude determines your altitude” is true. Do you recall that long-ago commercial when the guy is asked how would he get to work that day while a thunderstorm rages outside?
“Backstroke,” he replied.
Or the line from the movie “Rocky,” when he is battered and bruised he asked his opponent, “Is that all you got?”
I adopted this frame of mind. Each day for three hours I gave them all I had and they gave me all they had. We exchanged hurts. In the end, I became team captain and a humbled starter. The coach said he liked the way I endured the tough times. All along, I thought he was trying to kill me. That trying season taught me a lifelong lesson – although there may be tears at night, joy comes in the morning if we will keep the faith and hang in there.
Isaiah 40:31 states, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings of eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”