It felt so good to finally get back on the field. Before the Athletes Unlimited tournament, I hadn’t played softball since March.
The setup of the tournament was challenging. Each player was ranked each week by a series of points earned based on their results from the previous week. The top four players (out of 56) then were named the captains of the next week’s teams. Each captain then drafted their teammates, choosing from their peers based off the results from last week. Being evaluated weekly on your personal performance proved very challenging, but it was also a really great experience. It brought out all of the things we each struggled with in our games and forced us to deal with these aspects head-on.
I went into the tournament not wanting to be a captain. In fact, I had low expectations. I had a few things I wanted to work on for my own game and prepare for Team USA, but other than that, I had no agenda. But after I got (what I consider) a few lucky hits while positioned on a high-scoring team, I found myself a captain in both Week 3 and Week 4, ranking third and second overall in those weeks.
I knew God had given me this opportunity because there was no other explanation, which seems to be a theme in my life. Over and over again I’ve found God placing me in unexpected leadership positions. This time, I found myself coaching two different teams made up of my peers.
Once I realized this was God placing me here, I decided to lean into the situation and really savor it. It reminded me that I really do enjoy coaching and leading people. Being a culture-person, I love creating opportunities for people to get to know each other better. The reality of our situation was we only had three days to train with our team before we played three games with that specific set of women. The next week, everything changed. You didn’t have a lot of time to bond with your teammates.
During Week 1, before we stepped out on the field, my team captain asked each of us on the team, “What are you going to bring physically to the field today?” And then, “What are you going to bring mentally?” I loved what this girl was doing each week. I decided to implement the same start to the week when I became captain. Further than that, I tried to bring Christ-centered values to the questions I asked my girls each day, aiming to focus on things that bring life. I would say things like, “Discipline brings freedom. In what areas are you going to be disciplined today?” I tried to give affirmation to each girl and then in turn have them give affirmation to their teammates. If there is even one little thing I can do to plant a seed of Christ’s love into people’s hearts, that’s what I want to do.
Personally, I’ve been challenged with the aspect of the ranking. I knew God had brought me to the place of captain, but after that I was tempted to take it from there. I had the desire to want to do all I could to keep myself in that position so that I could finish at a high ranking and gain a bigger bonus financially. I would love it if God would just let me be comfortable for a bit. I wasn’t expecting or hoping for a high-ranking position or for a big bonus, but once it was within reach, it became so much more tempting to make that a bigger focus than it should have been. But I can’t worship God and money. I knew if I tried to grab hold of this, there would be much less fruit that would be produced in my life as opposed to if I held it with an open hand.
No matter what my circumstances are in life, I need to continually hand the reins back to God. Everything belongs to God. I’m grateful for all He has entrusted to me, but I need to be mindful that the ownership is His.
Athletes are always searching for validation. This year, God has placed the word “pace” on my heart. God has set a pace for me, and I am to follow it. I can’t look at someone else’s pace or objectively look at my performance to find identity. It’s so kind of God to reveal different ways for us to be brought back to the fact that our identity is in Him alone, since this is a struggle we will fight all our lives.
We can’t expect the world to give us what only God can give us. If I’m not someone’s first pick each week, that’s OK. I know I’m God’s pick every day.
— Janie Reed, USA Softball player
Janie Reed is a regular contributor to The Increase, providing articles and opinions. Check out Janie’s Increase profile here.
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