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 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!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

An Athlete's Truth - Ronneil Herron

        We have a very special treat to hear from a very good friend of mine named Ronneil Herron. Ronneil has been a friend of mine for many years and has been an incredible example of what it means to be Coached in Truth. He has an incredible story to share and I know everyone who takes the time to read it will be inspired by his character and his relentless pursuit to love God. Here is a quick bio on Ronneil, followed by his story and his definition of what it means to be Coached in Truth.

Ronneil Herron’s Bio

        In high school I played basketball, baseball and football up until my sophomore year.  During my junior and senior year, I focused on basketball and baseball.  I earned a few individual accolades in basketball my junior and senior year, but as a team we weren’t that good.  I had the privilege of being the starting 2nd basemen my sophomore, junior and senior year on the varsity baseball team.  Our teams won back to back state championships my junior and sophomore year.  As a student I maintained a 4.17 GPA.  At Syracuse University, I had the privilege of playing collegiate ball between 2000 and 2004.  And in 2003, I was fortunate enough to be on the team that won a national championship.  As a student, I majored in Electrical Engineering and earned a B.S. degree in 2003.  After graduating I attempted to play ball overseas but after weighing my options, I chose to pursue a career in electrical engineering and I’m currently working for an electrical utility as a system planner.

Like my father was, and how my son is now, I’ve always been drawn to sports.  As far back as I can remember, I had some kind of ball in my possession or I was outside playing some kind of sport in the neighborhood.  At a young age, I was fascinated by the competition associated playing a sport and the idea that there’s always room for improvement, which has been a concept that has tremendously helped me outside of sports.  
I say this with great humility, but growing up, I was that kid that naturally played sports well and excelled above my peers.  By nature, I’m a pretty even keeled individual who isn’t easily excited.  However, whenever I participate in anything involving athletics, there is focus and peace that overtakes me and I know I’m in my element.  There’s an aggression in how I play that displays itself.  There’s a level of confidence knowing that I’ve been entrusted with certain talents.  There’s a push to healthily be better than whoever I’m competing against.  There’s a focus that wants to triumph beyond circumstances and be victorious.  There’s a peaceful joy being able to express myself through the athleticism loaned to me.  
Growing up, I knew that I was good at sports, and folks would often vocalize it, but thankfully it never filled my head.  I attribute that to my parents keeping me grounded and helping me to keep a healthy perspective that just because your good at something, it doesn’t equate to you being better than anyone.  My parents never directly shared Biblical scriptures with me, but they would share Biblical principles.  And one of them was to in humility, consider others better than myself (Philippians 2: 3).  Another concept that kept me humble growing up was the fact that at any point, I could face someone who was better than or just as good as me.  I don’t know exactly how I gained this perspective at an early age, but I do know that this is something God wove into my heart.  So as a result, I enjoyed practicing and taking time by myself to improve my skill sets.  Now, I can’t say that I’ve always had a good work ethic.  In the later parts of middle school and early on in high school, I began to not train as much because I could rely on my athletic ability.  However, as those I played against began to get stronger and more explosive as result of maturing and training, I couldn’t just be more athletic than my competition.  I had to start consistently training my body in order to compete.
I’m grateful that I was surrounded by coaches and mentors,who helped me to mature physically and in the process, helped me to mature in my character.  When I had to start lifting weights consistently and doing drills to help improve my quickness and explosiveness, I was not a big fan.  I enjoyed training, but as we all know, it’s not always pleasant pushing our bodies to new limits.  But in learning to do so, I learned the importance of denying myself (not giving up) so that fruit could be born (maturing physically and mentally).  And those who trained me always told me the truth, but it was done out of carefor my well-being.  I think being constructively criticized at an early age definitely helped me to embrace input given by others as I got older and to not take it personal so I could digest what was being presented to me and grow from it accordingly (Proverbs 19: 20-21…….Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails).
Coming out of high school, I had a few offers to play collegiate basketball at smaller programs in California (UC Davis and Sacramento State).  I was also offered an opportunity to play minor league baseball with the Milwaukee Brewers.  But in my pride, I didn’t want to play at a smaller program and the big name schools weren’t checking for a 5’11’ guard who only weighed 143 lbs.  And I never knew about the opportunity to play minor league baseball until weeks after my high school graduation.  The scouts were communicating with my parents who told them that I was going to college and if they were interested in signing me, that’d have to wait until after I completed a degree in college.  This was a decision my parents and I made when I was in the 8th grade and started to get noticed by scouts.  But as a 18 year old kid, I was blown when my mom finally told me about the offer because I felt like I had missed out on a golden opportunity.
Since I wasn’t getting recruited in basketball by any big names schools, and I couldn’t play baseball professionally, I decided to go to Georgia Tech to major in electrical engineering.  Well, my financial aid paper work ended up falling through and so I was left with studying electrical engineering at my second choice of school’s……Syracuse University.  While at SU, I had no plans of trying to play basketball but the more I went to the gym to hoop for fun my freshman year, the more I heard folks telling me that I should try and walk on to the team.  After one of my floor mates told me that he was going to try out for the team and needed a workout partner, I figured I might as well try out.  After all, what did I have to lose?  Long story short, I ended up not making the team.  After the tryout was over, I was pulled aside by one of the assistant coaches and told that if they were to keep any one as a walk-on, it would have been me.  But I needed to get in better shape and put on some weight.  So with that motivation and a lot of help from a good friend, I trained the rest of my freshman year and the beginning of my sophomore year so that I could be ready for the tryouts again in October.  And thankfully the work that was put in paid off as I was offered a spot as a walk-on.
Being a walk-on was rewarding but yet humbling at the same time.  I was grateful to be able to play a sport I loved at the collegiate level, but I also had to work just as hard as a scholarship player knowing that I probably wouldn’t play all that much.  And so there was a constant battle within me.  I knew that as long as I was on the team, I needed to be improving as a basketball player.  And I wanted the opportunity to play in games.  But I also knew that my role was to push the scholarship players and get them game ready.  So there were times that I would question whether or not it was beneficial to be on the team knowing that I was less likely to play significant minutes in games.  But thankfully I didn’t allow my pride to get the best of me and I had folks around me to remind me just how special of an opportunity I had.  As luck would have it, the work I was putting in was being noticed and during my junior year, I, along with another walk-on, was going to be offered scholarships.  We were both starting to get more reps with the 1st team during the pre-season.  However, before the season began, one of our teammates was dismissed from the team and another one transferred.  As a result, our program was penalized by putting a hold on scholarship offers.  So the scholarship I thought I was going to receive was no longer an option.   Naturally, I was blown away when the coaches broke the news to us.  But it didn’t deter me from maximizing the opportunity I had been given. Being a walk-on taught me many things.  Pushing past my desires and wants and doing what’s best for the betterment of others was one of them.  That same principle is something I go back to as I attempt to lead my family.
I am eternally grateful for the men and women God has put in my life to help keep me grounded and view myself through sober lenses.  Unfortunately, not everyone has a support system where the development of your character outweighs the development of your physical abilities.  When you’re good at anything, there’s always a temptation to start feelin’ yourself and believe that you deserve the praises of others.  I know I did and still can.  And we all know, sports are no different.  But just like in life, tough or difficult times don’t necessarily built character, they more expose the inner fiber of our beings. Thankfully God has used sports to help expose, shape, mold, and refine my character to help equip me for this thing called life and live it truthfully!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

An Athlete's Truth - Travis Hawkins

I am so incredibly blessed to have the friends that I have. I know people from all over the place who are doing incredible things to glorify God. With that being said, it is my honor to introduce to you our guest writer for this weeks segment of "An Athlete's Truth", Travis Hawkins. There is a short bio about Travis at the bottom of this post if you would like to know a few more details about him but I can tell you that Travis is an amazing man of God and a fantastic athlete. He has been seen as a spiritual leader for his team on and off the field. He has an incredible story to share! I am so grateful he has taken the time to write for us so that he can share about some of his experiences as an athlete who is trying to glorify God. He is great example of what it looks like to be Coached in Truth! Thank you Travis for all that you do to glorify God with your abilities and thank you for taking the time to share with us how you have done that.

An Athlete's Truth by Travis Hawkins

Every morning when I wake up, I think back to my time as a student athlete. Having the opportunity to play football and run track in college is something that I will never forget. From the 5 am practices, sleepless nights, to the smell of the freshly cut grass, and all the way to the thousands of roaring fans cheering me on. These are the memories and moments that I will never forget.

Every fan sees an athlete perform on that particular day — but they see is just the tip of the iceberg. They can’t fathom the sacrifices the athlete has made to get to that point. It starts with the moments of deep discouragement and failing in practice. It continues with the mental perseverance to overcome a tired body that is being pushed by a tireless coach. Then you lose track of the hours of studying plays. It all goes on with trying to out best your closest teammate for a final roster spot. All of these moments have created the athlete that you see standing anxiously waiting to compete against another opponent who has endured the same hardships — and the only difference is the color of his uniform. As these two athletes collide and compete one will stand victorious at the end, while the other will hang their head in defeat knowing that their effort wasn't good enough.

As I recall my time as a collegiate athlete I can't help but remember all of those feelings and hardships I faced. But I haven’t even mentioned the single biggest challenge I faced — namely, the spiritual battle I woke up to day after day. From the second I opened my eyes, Satan prowled around like a roaring lion looking to devour me as I tried to compete athletically and keep progressing spiritually. Though I only had 4 years to compete at the collegiate level, Satan knew his time was shorter. Within those 4 years Satan’s assignment was to turn my face from the living God and make me see the desires of the flesh in the most appealing way possible.

As I walked around the university going from class to class with the name "athlete" across my forehead, I was not just an ordinary student. Somehow I had been given a pedestal without even asking for it. I was expected to be the center of attention, consume the desires of impurity, taste the feelings of my sinful nature, and eat up Satan's lies. I was expected to have the "baddest" girlfriend, be the best at every drinking game, and get high on every occasion. I would be a weirdo if I turned down sex, and a "square" if I didn't attend parties. With a world waiting in expectation and a devil thirsting for my every mistake, there was still a God waiting in confidence that I would embrace his throne of Grace.

Without a doubt trying to live for God in college was the hardest thing I've ever had to do! Every day it was a battle to live righteously. I learned that society only saw my worth because I was an athlete. Spirituality was not something that was recognized on the basis of a day-to-day living. A relationship with God was just something you did on Sundays, before you ate, and before you played a game. It was not self denial, taking up the cross, or even talking about your faith. If you did that, then that meant you took "the whole religion thing too serious."

As a freshman those thoughts of being a weirdo, and being too serious about my faith started to make sense to me. I questioned myself and even thought that maybe I just need to "live life a little" and just relax. Until I got introduced to my new roommate, who happened to be a transfer football player. We started to look at the scriptures together and as I looked at the bible in hopes of trying to teach him, I realized I was teaching myself. I saw why I needed to be an athlete in college and why I need to be an athlete in college who lived for God! So many college athletes are hurting and they have no one to talk to because they are suppose to be "tough."

Throughout everything that I have faced, one thing I've learned is that living for God is better! It's better than being cool, it's better than having the most attractive girlfriend, it's better than having a lot of money, it's better than being the life of the party, and it's better than anything Satan can entice me with. Being able to share with people the hope that I have is priceless. I've found purpose in life through Christ! My biggest desire is to play in the NFL and I want it more than anything, but just like Paul said, "I count everything as rubbish for the sake of knowing Christ." This has been my first year not competing at the collegiate leve colle and there is nothing I miss more! Every day I wish I could go back and strap on my pads, but one thing I've learned is that there is a time for everything!

I've fallen thousands of times and I mess up everyday but God's grace is enough to cover my shortcomings. To whomever reads this, my encouragement and hope is that you can see the benefit in living for Christ. No matter how many touchdowns you score, races You win, shots you make, home runs you hit, or matches you win, nothing will ever compare to the victory you find in knowing Christ and sharing it with those closest to you — your teammates. Get to know Christ, and once you are equipped, reach outward and share it with the same people who are waking up at 5 am to practice with you. Share it with the person who is your backup. Share it with your coach who teaches you how to be your best. Share it with every person you come in contact, and I guarantee you, you will have a heavenly reward.

Travis Hawkins Bio

I played quarterback in High School and then transitioned to play college ball at Tuskegee University. Had some opportunities to play at some smaller schools, but there was an opportunity to help out the church, so I decided to go to Tuskegee. I walked on my first year at tuskegee, and was last on the depth chart, but at the end of the year i received a scholarship as a wide receiver. I played almost every special team, as well as the starting slot-receiver. I was fortunate enough to receive two conference championship rings as well. Now I am a student-coach at Tuskegee University, while I finish up my final classes. Went through the 2016 draft and did not get picked up. Only had offers to play overseas. I will continue to try to make it to the NFL for another year. 

Extra articles on Travis Hawkins

To all my Coached in Truth fans! If you know anyone who may be a good candidate with a background in athletics to write for "An Athlete's Truth", please allow them to see this and let them know that Coached in Truth would love to have them write for this purpose. Just have them email me at for more info!