How a word of praise can make a difference

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, November 2, 2017

So, I have to admit right off the bat that this week’s Sport’s Chatter was just not an instant light bulb of brilliance that just flickered on in a moment of great revelation.
It was, however, stimulated by listening closely this past Sunday as Pastor Randy Johnson shared a message on being an encourager and not a discourager.
Yes, it is truly amazing how listening closely can challenge one’s thought processes—especially in church.
Pastor Randy shared of a note he received while playing basketball as a youth that has been one of the centerpieces of his trophy case that he has cherished and pulled out from time to time over his life.
I began to think from a sports perspective how the words that are spoken or not spoken in relation to today’s athletes still play an important part in that athlete’s life not only at the present but in the years ahead.
I don’t think that there is an adult out there that participated in some sport as a child that cannot remember someone who was ridiculed about their athletic ability and had disparaging words that could have easily been turned into words of encouragement.
It might have even been you the reader.
I remember playing football at Gate City High School my freshman year and there was a friend of mine, who I will refer to as Kevin, in this article who wasn’t the most put together specimen of a football player, but that didn’t stop Kevin from being, in his mind, the rising professional wide receiver.
Anyone who knows me should know that I am not much of someone who wants to ridicule or embarrass someone as I grew up as a toddler learning the golden rule to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’
Kevin had been poked and prodded by some of the other guys who seemed to elevate their egos above most of the others on the team.
In practice one day, our coach threw down the gauntlet that if us guys on the offensive side could score against his defense, then we would n’t have to run sprints after practice, but if we didn’t score his guys got the golden ticket for the day.
When we got in the huddle, everybody was digging for what we could run to escape the dreaded daily sprints after practice when all of a sudden Kevin spoke up with an extra excitement in his tone.
“Guys, I have got the play,” Kevin said.
While some of the guys chuckled and made fun of Kevin, I never will forget asking him with a returned excitement, “Whatcha got, Kevin?”
You would have thought that I had named him the President of the United States.
Kevin laid the plan out as each one now had a keen ear on what he was saying.
We came to the line and to make a long story short, our stud running back gave the perfect sale on running a pitch to the left and then handing off to Kevin coming back to the right catching the defense completely off guard.
Why not, no one expected us to put the ball in Kevin’s hands with such a grand prize at stake. Sure enough, Kevin’s plan played out perfectly with the guys on defense on their hands and knees screaming to the top of the lungs, “No, no—not Kevin!”
The bottom line of the story is that not every kid that puts on the baseball glove or slips a set of shoulder pads over the head may be the greatest.
Not every young lady that carries the pom-poms or the one that can’t get the basketball to fall through the hoop but for once in a great while is bound for stardom.
But the bottom line is that each one who makes an effort should be showered with words of encouragement to keep on keeping on.
Maybe a small note as Pastor Randy received or a small token given to remind that young athlete that their efforts are appreciated.
Life is not about winning every game—it’s about knowing how to take all the defeats and learn how to become stronger and be the champion that an eternal creator has made us to be.
One of my favorite sayings is that God doesn’t make junk, and I believe that.
In closing, I want to do just as Pastor Randy encouraged everyone to do on Sunday and that is I want to issue a word of encouragement to the local schools who have qualified for this week’s TSSAA football playoffs including all the players, coaches, cheerleaders and band members.
Each one of you should be proud of the fact that all those hours of practicing plays, notes, and cheering chants have brought you through 11 tough weeks and now you have been rewarded with another game.
Even though you may not have been told, your work is appreciated by this community in Northeast Tennessee and win or lose—you are still champions to us.
Lastly, to Unaka High School football players, coaches, cheerleaders, and band, it’s tough having to hang up the gear for another football season, but know that you have taught a community a very important lesson and that is never count anyone out.
The Facebook post of you walking from the dressing room to the field showed the resolve of a team to bind together under your school’s banner and believe in one another as you marched arm in arm to the game’s battle.
One win doesn’t seem like much, but you were winners before you took the field for the first time this season by putting previous hurt behind and marching forward. That is the mark of a true champion.
One last thought, whether your team gains a win or drops their contest this week, make sure to take time to go and encourage these young people.
You will never know what one act of encouragement could mean in the life of these young people.

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