Saturday, June 10, 2017

An Athlete's Truth - AJ Iiames

I have another incredible article written by another dear friend of mine who is going to share his story about what being Coached in Truth really means to him. He is a phenomenal athlete that has a heart for God and a mindset to bring glory to God's name. It's a story of difficult situation's and overcoming those situations through a Godly perspective. I would like to introduce you all to AJ Iiames and share with you his story of being Coached in Truth.


From the piedmont to the mountains of Asheville, NC, I embarked on an adventure that I will never forget. When I had committed to the University of North Carolina at Asheville, I had no idea what exactly that meant. My way of life would take a dramatic turn. I wanted to mention a couple things that college brought on my spiritual journey as a disciple who happened to be a collegiate athlete.

Three things I learned over my four and a half year career that changed and shaped me were perseverance, self worth, and influence. My mother encouraged me to read the book of Joshua as soon as I reported for preseason before my freshman year of college at UNC Asheville.  In a different world on my own, I decided to take my mother up on that. After Moses’ death, Joshua was called to lead the Israelite people with the promise that God would be with him. One major theme in that first chapter was the repetition of God calling Joshua to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18).  I have learned that whenever the Bible repeats itself, God must be trying to teach!  So I took this to heart throughout the preseason and into my first year as a student-athlete. Being an athlete, like what everyone else has said, it is not easy to resist temptation. I was fortunate enough to have two roommates who were there to run the race with me, one of whom was a teammate.  Satan knows when to corner you, when to chase you, and when to devour you.  He is always on the prowl.  I knew that if I were to grow apart from these brothers, that it would only mean death (spiritual).  As crazy and dramatic as that sounds, it is the truth. The inability to attend church functions and bible talks racks up.  The question was “What am I going to do about it?”  Like many of my fellow athletes, defining my career in terms of athletic success was difficult to avoid.  I needed a personal relationship with Jesus, which was not a habit I had forged in high school.  The road was long and at times difficult, but that is where perseverance emerges.
My career was full of physical, emotional, and spiritual perseverance.  By the end of my freshmen year, I had been successful on and off the field; starting most games, contributing to the ministry, and working hard in the classroom.  In the last game of spring season against NC State, the ball got kicked over top our back line and I was in a dead sprint with the offensive player from NC State to win the ball.  As soon as I took a couple steps, I crumbled to the grass in agonizing pain.  I remember thinking to myself: “This surely couldn’t happen to me.  I have only seen this on television.”  Results came back that week stating that I had torn my ACL and my meniscus.  The rest of my career followed a similar pattern.  I tore my ACL in the other knee, and re-tear my meniscus; I had a total of three surgeries to repair everything.  Troubles came my way, but with God, nothing is impossible.  I hung to 2 Peter 1:5-8, which says “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Adding to my faith in a difficult time to have faith was the most important calling for me in this low point.  People and circumstances will always disappoint, but looking to God through those times and choosing to persevere is the key.  It is all about what choice you make.

Like many of my fellow athletes, defining my career in terms of athletic success was difficult to avoid.  Many of the other athletes have touched on the complexity to which self worth is attributed.  I attributed a lot of self worth to my performance on the field, which led to quick spurts of success and failure.  It is simple in my mind how this all changed: Jesus died.  He didn’t just die for me, but for all who choose to follow Him.  For Him to die so that I could have the chance of life to the full is all that you need to quickly scatter the thoughts of where you are receiving your worth.

I love how all situations and life-events all revolve in a cyclical fashion.  It is the same as sin; how nobody has done something so outlandish that someone else has not yet thought of or done.  I feel this way about the influences we as athletes have on others.  The most influential I felt was when I was going through a hard time on the field or with my faith, and God gave me the words to say.  When I was injured, to serve without expecting return, even if it hurt to give.  I was able to be a light in the darkest of times, whether physically or spiritually.  The biggest lesson I learned, and continue to learn with my walk with God, is to continually pursue God.  He is always reaching out to us, but nothing happens with our influence and actions if he is not at the forefront of our minds and hearts.  I had involved another teammate who happened to be injured for a month or so with a sprained knee.  We were doing the dirty work like moving the goals, putting down cones, doing laundry, etc.  He had a terrible attitude most days with those deeds, but I had submitted to God that service and decided, “why not do this to the best of my ability?”  One time when we were moving a goal, he was complaining again, and I told him, “in order to lead, you need to serve.”  I remember that specifically because he never complained again and went on to co-captain with me the following season.  I’m not providing this example in pride, but it illustrates what influence God can have in other people’s lives if you stand firm in his teachings and humble yourself.

I wanted to provide a quick shout out to Justin Drabot for creating this awesome outlet for those involved/wanting to get involved in sports.  It’s much more than just playing a sport.  Just another way God can be glorified through us as vessels of Jesus.

AJ Iiames Bio:

I was on the Presidential Honor Roll (over 3.0 for semester) my whole career and captained the team from 2013-2015 (3 seasons).  I played on the defensive line for most of my career.  We played against the likes of UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, NC State and Wake Forest during my career, which harness some of the top talent in the country.  We beat #6 Coastal Carolina twice in my career as the extreme underdog.  It was a career plagued by injury, but abounding in life knowledge and experience. Here is a glimpse at my stats year-to-year: 

2011: Earned 10 starts and played in 14 contests.
2012: Red-shirted due to injury.
2013: Started and played in 16 matches before missing the last three matches of the year with a knee injury.
2014: Played in eight matches with one start after coming back from knee surgery. 
2015: Started in 15 games.












Friday, April 7, 2017

An Athlete's Truth - Collier Winters (Part 3 - Designed for a Purpose)

     I'm really excited to present to everyone part 3 of Collier Winter's segment of "An Athlete's Truth". It has been incredible getting to know Collier through his writing and what he shares. I consider it truly an honor to have met him and to have had him write for Coached in Truth. Thank you again Collier for your contribution to the Coached in Truth community! We have been waiting for this for a while so we are excited that it is here! So here we go! Part 3 - Designed for a Purpose by Collier Winters.


Part 3: Designed for a Purpose
It is great to finally sit down and write the part 3 of this series!  Sorry for the wait.  The holiday season came, along with some new responsibilities in the new year, and my attempts to write kept getting postponed.  Anyway, I am finally making it happen!  I really appreciate all of you who have been following along with parts 1 and 2.  Hopefully, part 3 will leave you with enough inspiration and practicals to go confidently and bring glory to God in whatever sport you are playing!
After I graduated from college, I was still pursuing my dreams to play in the NFL.  I signed with an agent, traveled to Kansas City to train, performed at my Pro Days at Boston College and at Harvard, and was looking for an opportunity to make a preseason camp with an NFL team!  Although I had a few teams who were interested, ultimately, that opportunity never came.  I was disappointed, but I also began to look for alternative ways to pursue my dream.  I continued to train for the next 7-8 months in order to tryout for a few Canadian Football League teams the following year.  After my tryouts, I was invited to preseason camp with the Montreal Alouettes.  I was ecstatic!  It seemed as though I might be on my way to making my dream happen!
I want to pause the story here to share what was also going on in my life personally, and spiritually, during all of this training.  While I was training, I was also an intern at the church in Boston (after I came back from Kansas City).  I was working in the campus ministry (leading a Bible Talk at Harvard) and also helping out with the teen ministry.  Throughout this time, my heart really began to grow more and more for the work of God’s kingdom.  My biggest dreams and passions were beginning to change, and my desire to become a minister even started to rival my desire to become a professional football player!  I realized that there was nothing more important or impactful that I could be doing with my time than helping people to know Jesus!  This didn’t mean that I immediately stopped pursuing a career in football - as I said, I was still training and working hard, and then went up to Montreal - but, it helped me to recognize more fully a crucial and fundamental part of being a Christian: my life is no longer about me.  Paul says it perfectly in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”  When I understand this and really put it into practice, it had a big impact on my life and the way I that I thought about things.
One of the clearest changes that I made was in my prayer life.  I used to pray, “God, I pray that you would give me the opportunity to bring you glory by playing in the NFL.”  And I had all kinds of reasons why this would be so great - I could talk about Him on TV, I could use the money I made to help a lot of people, I could reach out to all of my teammates, and so on.  These, I thought, were actually pretty good reasons why it should happen!  But, what I began to pray in light of 2 Corinthians 5 was that God would make it clear to me how I could have the most impact for Him and His kingdom; and if football wasn’t it, I prayed that God would close that door.
Now, back to the story.  I had a great first week of camp with Montreal.  I was still figuring out all of the nuances of Canadian football, but things seemed to be going pretty well.  Then, I got a knock on my door one evening and was told that I was cut from the team.  That was definitely a sad and discouraging day.  My dream had taken a big hit.  However, I had prayed that prayer for God to make things clear for me so many times by then, that I knew this was His answer.  I had other opportunities to continue chasing my football dream, but I believed God shut that door as an answer to my prayer.  I believed (and still believe) He was telling me that I could have more impact for Him and His kingdom by being a minister than by playing football.  As Christians, and as Christian athletes, we are not here on Earth to live out our will or to fulfill all of ourdesires.  We are here to live out God’s will and to fulfill His desires.  He has blessed us with many great talents and we should do our best to use them to glorify Him; but, ultimately, our greatest desire should be for God himself.  In life, the only lasting impact we will have is what we did to build God’s kingdom.  So, how do you bring glory to God through sports?  You play for Him and not for yourself… and at some point he may call you in a different direction.  When this happens, we cannot sacrifice spiritual impact in this world for the sake of fulfilling our own desires.
So, my final message to you is to recognize that you were designed for a purpose! Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  What an incredible verse this is!  Take some time to meditate on it (and even compare it to Jeremiah 1:1-8!).  God created you and he designed you to do good works!  These works are not playing football, or basketball, or running track, or swimming.  These works are the things that build God’s kingdom!  It is clear that God has given us all different gifts and abilities, but our purpose is to know God and to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).  Sports can and does bring glory to God if we do it the right way; but, we were designed for MUCH greater things than playing sports!
In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put in on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  As an athlete with great opportunity to impact and influence many people, don’t hide your light!  Lives that look the same as everyone else’s, don’t have impact.  God is calling you to have great impact!  While you are playing, and as long as you can play, be a light to your teammates!  You can reach people with God’s love that others can’t reach.  Show people who God is through your life and your example.  Reach out to them, invite them to church, show them the Bible, show them Jesus!  No matter what you are doing or where you are at in life, this is what God calls all of us to do!  Just remember, you were designed for a purpose and that purpose is for God’s glory!
I really appreciate your time in reading these posts.  I am grateful to share my life with you.  I hope this has been both helpful and inspirational.  I pray that your minds will be set on God as you play your sports and that you can experience how awesome it is to live out your purpose in life by bringing glory to God in whatever you do!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Know Your Role! (Part 1)

     One of the most important things you can do as a member of any team is to understand your role. This isn't always easy though, especially when you may think or want your role to be one thing but in actuality it is something different. Every individual has something unique they can contribute. The Bible talks about how there are many different parts of the Church, referred to as the body, and that each part plays a unique role in God's Kingdom ( 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 ). Each person that is a part of the Kingdom of God is valued in the same way because he has placed each part of the body where it needs to be.
     Now when we apply that to being a part of a team then it is very obvious to see why this idea would hold value. Not every person on the team can share the same role. Let's take basketball for a second (shocker that I would use basketball as an example lol). If every person on the team thought they should be the Point Guard then who would get a majority of the rebounds and maintain the inside presence? If every person on the team thought they should be the leading scorer, then if would be very difficult to convince everyone to pass and move the ball around because everyone would be looking to get their own shot off. What if everyone who thought they should be a starter but aren't had a bad attitude about it and didn't push as hard in practice as a result? Of course all these things would be detrimental to a team’s success.
     I read a book recently call Teammates Matter by Allen Williams that really illustrated this point as well. To sum it up quickly, it was written by a guy who was a very good high school basketball player and was the star of his team. He had dreams of playing college basketball but because of his lack of a physical presence, many coaches thought he would be too small to play Division 1 basketball. Long story short, he gets the opportunity to be a walk on (non-scholarship player) at the school of his dreams, Wake Forest University. He never imagined that he would have the opportunity to play here. Well, as a walk on, to be quite honest, you don't play. You are an extra guy in practice, you will most likely play only garbage minutes at the end of the game when the outcome has already been decided, and receive little to no recognition for the hard work you put in. Walk-ons are expected to do all the same things scholarship players are required to do, but the big difference is that as a walk on you will likely keep your warm ups on at the end of the bench for the entire game.
     Can you imagine how different his roles were between his high school team and his college team? COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! He could have very easily given up basketball, walked away from his spot on the team and no one would think any different of him. As a matter-of-fact most people would say that would be the smarter thing to do. Instead, he took it upon himself to embrace this new role as a walk on. He worked just as hard if not harder than every player on the team. He pushed his other teammates in practice so that they would play at the best of their abilities when game time came around. Again, he DID NOT have to do this. He chose to accept and embrace this role and as a result he experienced things he never thought he would ever in a million years ever get to experience. He formed relationships that would have never been made possible without him embracing his role.
     If you get the chance to read this book, please do so because it is extremely inspiring and humbling as we take a look at what it means to know and embrace your role. I'll include a link at the bottom of the post if you would like to take a look at it. In my next post I'll share a story from the Bible that illustrates the importance even more so of knowing your role...you don't want to miss it so stay tuned!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Playmakers 2017 Devo - When Opportunity Comes Knocking

     It's been a while since I've posted anything and for that I apologize. I got really busy with the end of basketball season along with other things. Anyway, something I have been meaning to put up here for a while is a devotional that I did not to long ago. I'm going to copy over my notes for your to take a look at. It's nothing major just a few thoughts about making the most of every opportunity. Last mouth I traveled down to Tampa, Florida to play in the Playmakers flag football tournament. This tournament is the largest church sponsored flag football tournament in the country. I got to travel down with a bunch of good friends of mine and fellowship with my brothers and sisters from other church congregations as we participated in this weekend of flag football awesomeness.
     This devotional I wrote to share with my team the day we left to drive to Tampa. Now my team was made up of brothers from all over the North Carolina, South Carolina, and even Virginia areas. These are all brothers I have crossed paths with at some point in my life and have formed an incredible bond with. We all use to live a lot closer to one another but now we are all over the place but this is one tournament that we all look forward to because it brings us all back together, even if it's only for a weekend. Trust me when I say that these are the brothers I would fight for, these are the guys I would stand up for and these are the guys I would lay it all out on the line for. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Each an every one of them have played a unique role in helping me to become a better man of God. David had his Mighty Men in the Bible, well these are some of my Mighty Men.
     Sorry for the soap box but these guys are really special to me and I want them always to remember that. Win, lose or draw, these are by guys. So with that being said this is the devotional I shared with them before we made our trip.



Playmakers 2017 Devo


Many of you know I have started a blog called Coached in Truth. It's a blog dedicated to helping athletes out there who are striving to glorify God in their athletic endeavors. This has helped me to keep a Godly mindset in my own coaching. Any athlete knows it's easy to get caught up in all that surrounds athletics and quickly make things less about God and more about ourselves.


I want to talk about opportunity but before I do that I want you to think about your closest relationships. What makes those relationships so special? Why do you consider them close relationships? What had to happen in order for you to become close in those relationships?We are bonded through experiences. Athletics are one of those experiences we get to have. The highs the lows....all of it.


Athletics are a gift and it's a gift that allows us to connect with other people through sweat and tears. Real relationships have the potential of being formed. Trust that cannot be broken. There is something special when you get together with a group of others to try and accomplish something that is so mentally and physically taxing. It is really difficult to describe at times. Many people don't experience it through sports or athletics but they make experience it through other means.


Men tend to build relationships through experiences. When we experience things together, good or bad, we are bonded because of it. The opportunity we have to bond with one another begins with an experience.


What comes to mind when you think of the word opportunity?


Ephesians 5:15-17We are surrounded by opportunities each and every day that have the potential to build something that wasn't there before.


What are some of those opportunities? To love our spouse, to share the Bible with a coworker, to make something special for someone, to set an example, to serve. Do we see those opportunities?


We have an obligation to look for those opportunities and to make the most of them because the days are evil. God tells us we are on a time constraint. Once the 4th quarter ends....the game is over.


Have you ever bought something that was nonrefundable or had a nonrefundable fee attached to it? Examples?


Time is nonrefundable. You choose how you spend it, but you don't get any of it back. You choose what to put in front of you, what thoughts to dwell on, what you choose to focus on.


We have an opportunity this weekend. An opportunity to build something that was there before. Years from now when we tell our kids about how we drove to Florida for a flag football tournament (and win a championship lol) what will be the highlight of our story? Is it going to be about the actual games played or about the eternal bonds that were formed.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

An Athlete's Truth - Sayma Waleh

     I am honored to share a story with you all of a dear friend of mine. Sayma Waleh has been a great friend to me over the years and he has an incredible story to share about how he came to know God and how even though experiencing injury through athletics, he was able to see a new perspective of what was really important to him. He has played High School Football and has ran Track as well! Without further ado, here is his story!


"Unlike most athletes, sports were not an interest of mine growing up. In fact, I hated sports and saw them as a waste of time. As a kid, I would much rather be inside drawing, watching cartoons or playing video games. However as I got older, my perspective on sports changed.
Fast forward to middle school where football games during recess were a big deal. The games looked really fun but I just decided to never join in. One day a group of my friends were playing and needed an extra person. I initially declined but after some convincing I joined and starting playing. To my surprise, I did pretty well. In fact, I was just as fast if not faster than the other kids. From that day on I was hooked. I played football any chance I could get and grew to love the game. I played with kids in my neighborhood, during recess, and even at the bus stop before school. The more I played, the better I got.
That summer, I ran, worked out, and played football in hopes of going of out for the middle school football team. When tryouts came I made the team! It was a great feeling! Being a football player gave me a lot of new attention from teachers and peers alike. I was treated a lot of differently when people saw me with a football jersey; like a good different though. The popular kids, the jocks, and even the pretty girls treated me like I was important. From that time on, I was no longer a shy kid in the back. I was one of the cool kids and all the new attention felt great.
The following year I attended Mallard Creek High School and the same thing happened. It was crazy how much respect and privilege came with being on a team. Around that time I started thinking about the future and took football more seriously. I became a starter at cornerback,  thought about playing college ball, and eventually wanting to be in the NFL. The Summer after my freshman year I continued playing and started studying the bible throughout summer break. I started discovering who God was and wanted to learn more about him. I tried to continue my bible studies but I would continually lose focus keeping up with school and playing sports year round. Practicing football in the summer and fall, and then running track and field in the winter and spring kept me really occupied. I always thought I would learn who God was but at the time my main focus was athletics.
This is all changed during my junior year. During practice, I suffered a hip flexor injury causing me to miss a lot of summer football practice. Until my injury, I did not realize how much of my self worth was in sports. During that time, I started thinking that all the things I was currently chasing were fleeting. Being good at sports and popularity are never permanent. If you base your worth on that you’ll never find satisfaction. Looking back my injury was probably one of the best things that happened. I was able to sit back and gain a lot of perspective on life. My performance in athletics should not define me. I was much more than an athlete and began searching for something more fulfilling. The first place I turned to was God. Through studying the bible I discovered my self worth in God was much more fulfilling than anything this world had to offer.
During my studies, I resonated with scriptures like Romans 5:8, Psalm 62: 5-6, and Romans 8:35-39 which allowed me to see my self worth in something bigger than myself. Later on that year, I kept studying the bible, became a disciple of Jesus, reached out to others, and started leading a weekly bible talk after school. Even though I stopped playing football, I still chose to continue to run track and field because the season was not as time consuming. With a new perspective on sports I went on to place in conference championships and set school records but never put God on the back burner.
From then on my self worth was no longer based on my performance or how others saw me, it would be based on God’s love for me. Which is nothing I could actually earn or lose and was always unconditional. Our self worth is too often based on what other people tell us about ourselves or how they view us. The true authority on our self worth is Jesus Christ. He was blameless, but gave his own life up for us by dying on a cross when we didn't deserve it. That alone should be an illustration of how valuable we really are."


Sayma Waleh


Comment below to let Sayma know you enjoyed his story or if you have any questions for him!







Sunday, December 11, 2016

An Athlete's Truth - Collier Winters (Part 2- Being Coached)

Part 2: Being Coached

If you are an athlete in high school or college (or professionally) and you are trying to live as a disciple of Jesus, then you know there are some challenges that come our way that many other people don’t have to face; like, figuring out how to be committed to the church and the meetings of the body during season, or how to resist the peer pressure to party with the team, or how to stand up for righteousness amongst teammates and friends whose lack of righteousness often seems to be a matter of pride.  There can also be the challenge of feeling like to you don’t fit in - either on the team or at church.  Can you relate to any of these?  These were all things that I felt at different times.  And the list could go on.
To be honest, my first couple of years as a Christian were not so hot.  My faith was pretty weak and the new life that I was being called to live was really challenging.  Adjusting to this new life and new schedule was hard.  The temptations didn’t die down, and my lack of godliness and righteousness in comparison to Jesus only became more evident.  There were so many things I needed to grow in - selflessness, humility, purity and generosity, just to name a few.  I am overwhelmingly thankful to God for his mercy and for his patience with me, and I am eternally grateful for all of the people around me who continued to show me love and encouragement and who believed in me and helped to spur me on.  I want to share with you guys three things that God taught me over those first couple years as a young Christian.  I believe that if you are able to make these your convictions, they will help you to stay close to God and to continue to grow as a man or woman of God!

1) Daily devotion to God is crucial

Matthew 4:4Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

When I became a Christian, I was taught that in order to grow in my faith it was important for me to spend time in prayer and in God’s word every single day.  Jesus himself makes this very clear in Matthew 4 when he compares the words of God to bread.  Just as we need bread (food) to grow and to be healthy physically, we need God’s Word to grow and to be healthy spiritually.  If we starve ourselves of God’s word, we have no chance of growing in our faith.  We need to be in God’s word daily.  This idea seems simple (and it is), but it can be hard to put into practice if you are not disciplined or if you do not see your need for it.
I became a Christian in the off-season, and during that time we had workouts almost every morning at 6:00am.  I lived about 15 minutes from the locker room; so, my routine before I became a disciple was to wake up at 5:30am, put on my headphones (Lil' Wayne or some R&B depending on my mood), walk down to the locker room, get changed and get ready for the workout.  After I became a disciple, I realized that spending time with God needed to be my first priority.  So, I would wake up an extra 15-20 minutes early in order to read one chapter of the Bible (I read one chapter of the Bible every morning and took notes in the margins until I finished reading the entire New Testament), and then I would spend my 15 minute walk to the locker room praying to God.  That 30 minutes with God every morning was, by far, the thing that most helped me to grow as a young Christian.
God’s word is powerful and we are in need of it on a daily basis.  There is nothing more important than our daily devotion to God.  Gotta eat!


2) Be a giver, not a taker

Acts 20:35 “... remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

There were MANY verses I could have chosen for this point, but Jesus’s words here make things simple - it is better to give than to receive.  What do I mean and why is this so important?  When I was a new Christian (and for a little while after that), I was only concerned with myself.  What do I want to do… who do I want to talk to (or not talk to)… how do I feel… what works with my schedule?  Many times, I would show up a little late to devotional or midweek and sit in the back; then I would leave right after it was done so that I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody and so that I could be “efficient” with my time - aka do what I wanted to do.  I was selfish.  I was a taker and not a giver; and because of that, not only was I not acting like Jesus, but I was also missing out on the joy and blessings of giving to others.  When I finally repented, I really began to realize just how important and how awesome it is to have close, spiritual relationships.  Many of the guys who I grew close to, as a result, became life-long friends and even groomsmen in my wedding.  Not to mention, the girl I married was also one of those relationships I invested in!  
Most likely, you have lots of friends on your team.  That is a great thing.  But, God taught me that if you want to do well spiritually, you need to invest in relationships with your brothers and sisters even more so.  Without these relationships it is nearly impossible to stay faithful for long.  God gives us the church for a reason.  Be a giver, not a taker.

3) You can’t ever prioritize God TOO much

Matthew 6:33, Matthew 10:37, Luke 10:27, Mark 10:29-30, Hebrews 11:6 (you will have to look these up!)

The last thing that God coached me in during my first couple years as a Christian was how to, practically, make him my priority.  When I was baptized, I declared that Jesus was the lord of my life and that I loved Him more than anything else in my life.  This was as true then as it is now; however, in my daily decisions, I had to learn what it meant to always put God first.  For my first two years as the starting quarterback at Harvard (also my first two years as a disciple), the decisions I made about how to spend my time did not always reflect God as the first priority in my life.  At times, I was more devoted to football (and sometimes, but rarely, school) than I was to God and the things of His kingdom.  I wasn’t very active in sharing my faith.  I would sometimes miss meetings of the body if I thought I had other more urgent or more important things to do.  Most weeks, I would spend WAY more time watching film and preparing for the game than I would spend trying to build God’s kingdom.  Although I reasoned that I was trying to bring God glory through football, I was not prioritizing Him in my life the way that he calls us to.
Once again, when I realized this was happening, I had to make a decision to repent (change).  So, my senior year, I decided that my time was first going to be devoted to God and His kingdom, then to working hard to excel in school and football.  I was at almost all of the meetings of the body during the season (even when I had a lot of school work), I reached out to all of my teammates and studied the Bible with many of them (sacrificing sleep much needed sleep on many nights), and I made sure to spend time building my relationships with the brothers and sisters in my ministry.  
Because of all the time I invested in these things, I had less time for school and for football (although I was still very committed to working hard and using the talents and opportunities that God gave me).  As it turns out, I had the best football season of my career and I ended up with a 3.8 GPA that semester.  I was an All-Ivy League Quarterback, All-American mention, Ivy League champion, and I broke the record for highest completion percentage in a single season at Harvard.  I don't believe that was a coincidence. I am not trying to tell you that if you become a disciple or if you devote more time to God then you will do better in school or you will become a better athlete - that is simply not true.  It might work out that way; but, it also might not.  What I am saying is that it is possible to be completely devoted to God and to also excel in school and succeed at your sport; but, God is most important.
People often ask me, “So, how did you balance school, sports, and church at Harvard?”  What God taught me was that there is no balance.  If you are a disciple, God comes before everything and he also the foundation of everything that you do.  They aren’t separate pieces to your puzzle.  God becomes the entire puzzle.  There is no such thing as prioritizing God TOO much.  In the end, it is your relationship with God that matters, not how many points you scored or how far you made it in your sport.

I hope these things have been helpful.  Stay tuned for part 3!  I will be talking, more specifically, about bringing glory to God through our sports!

Monday, November 14, 2016

An Athlete's Truth - Collier Winters (Part 1)


To all who will read this,

     My name is Collier Winters.  First, I want to first say thank you to Justin Drabot who has taken on this vision to inspire and encourage athletes who are trying to be disciples of Jesus and bring glory to God.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to share my story here - the different ways that God has worked in my life and a few of the things that God has “coached” me in as a Christian over the past 7+ years (four of them as a serious athlete).  I will be writing a three-part series for the blog and I am praying that my words will be used to inspire, convict, challenge, encourage and coach other fellow athletes in the truth of God and his word.  I hope that, at points, what I share will challenge your thinking and, in the end, I hope that it will help you to bring more glory to God in whatever you do.

Part 1: My Journey to God

     I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Ever since I was old enough to have dreams, my dream was to play in the NFL.  My sports idols were people like Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Brett Favre.  I wanted to be just like them!  I played many other sports growing up, but football was always my biggest passion.  By the time I got to high school, it was also very clear that football was my best sport.  I continued to play basketball and run track in the off-season, but football was my focus and I wanted to become the absolute best quarterback (my position) possible.
     Throughout these years growing up, church and God were part of my life.  I grew up going to church with my family (as did almost every other kid in Oklahoma!) and I believed in God as far back as I can remember.  However, God was only PART of my life.  I never really read my Bible, and even though I usually tried to do the “right” thing, I never had any clue what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. So, God was around… but, I never really knew him (and I certainly wasn’t living my life to bring glory to HIM).
     When I graduated high school, I had accomplished one of my major goals - I received a scholarship to play Division 1 football!  In fact, I had received several D-1 scholarship offers.  I ended up choosing Harvard University over other schools like Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, and Colorado State.  My first year at Harvard I was able to get a little playing time (I came in every now and then as the “wildcat” quarterback), and I had a great year!  Being a college quarterback had a lot of perks…  and with it, a lot of temptations.  I tried to go to church during my freshman year, but quickly found out that the only people who go to church in Cambridge, MA are people over the age of 60 - at least that’s what it seemed like.  Hardly any of my teammates or classmates when to church on Sunday morning, so I quickly found myself deciding to sleep in instead of dragging myself to a boring church service.  For about a year and a half I hardly went to church and was barely doing anything with my faith at all.  I was living a pretty typical college lifestyle - I went to parties, had a girlfriend, and was pretty much just living for myself.
     When sophomore year came around, I got hurt right at the beginning of football season.  I tore my labrum in my hip and had to have surgery.  I took a medical redshirt year that year and watched the whole season from the sidelines (that was certainly tough to do).  The spring of my sophomore year is when things began to change for me.  We were in spring practice and I was in line to be the starting quarterback the next year as a redshirt sophomore.  My teammate Josue Ortiz, who had been studying the Bible over the past few months, invited me out to church.  He actually got baptized at this service!      After the service ended, the campus minister, Glenn Petruzzi, asked me if I wanted to study the Bible.  Knowing that I probably should do this and not wanting to say no… I said sure.  Over the next 4-5 weeks of studying the Bible with Glenn, I came to learn what it meant to seek after God, to repent of my sins, to be committed to his body, to deny myself, and to truly follow Jesus.  Some of these things I knew (but wasn’t following), but other things I had never read or been taught before!  I realized that my mindset and my entire lifestyle had to change if I was going to become a disciple.
In no way was this easy for me… but, two things helped me to make the decision to be baptized and become a disciple: 1) I firmly believed that the Bible was THE word of God (therefore, I had only two options - follow it or not) and 2) I came to deeply know and understand how much God loves me (as shown by him sending his son to die for me), and this loved demanded a response from me. These two things made the decision very easy… but, the actual changing of my mind and my lifestyle was still hard.
This is what I hope talk about in Part 2...

Stay tuned for Part 2 in the upcoming weeks!