As Christians, we not only know what the obstacles are, we know they can be overcome. Dana Gerard believes that competitive athletics puts that knowledge into motion in an individual’s life. What do you think? Read on to learn more!

I will never forget the impact of my college years. During those years, the course of my life and the way I looked at obstacles was forever changed, mostly due to the impact of four football coaches. Did coaching and competition have a positive impact on my relationship with Jesus Christ?  Do athletics help today’s youth live a Christ-centered life and be successful? It did and does. I live each day to meet success and conquer failure as do many of the student athletes who played under those four coaches. I meet each day with the hope of instilling these values into the athletes I now coach.

I will never forget the impact of those four coaches! I was raised by a mother and father who taught me that all things were possible, but high school taught me differently. High school taught me to expect less and be less disappointed.  In Sunday school and church, I leaned that I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but that teaching never carried over into my everyday life.  It didn’t until I went to college.

It was at Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska, that those four coaches reinforced what my parents had always taught me.  I was there to play football, but in my first two weeks of three-a-day practices, I sat through devotions on a daily basis as if football and devotions went side by side. Who would have thought that taking care of my spiritual life was important to my success at football?  I certainly didn’t. It was foreign to me. However, those devotions helped me shape my personal philosophy on how to achieve success in life.

Over the course of four years, we studied Saul who become Paul and did all things through Christ who strengthened him. Paul, who learned how to live with or without and still be happy and achieve success in spreading the word of God, overcame great odds.  We also learned about the Davids verses the Goliaths of the bible.  We learned that God does not give us a spirit of timidity, but of strength. It was applied Christianity, and it changed our lives.

Each Friday evening our football team ate together and gathered for devotions. Each Friday evening, our coaches told us that God equips us for success. Each Friday evening, we walked away believing that because of Christ, we could overcome great odds and be all that God called us to be.  We were not afraid of losing.  We were taught to look at life differently.  We were taught to measure success differently.

We were successful.  We ranked nationally three years in a row.  To look at us, you might have laughed.  We had some great athletes, but we also had some individuals who looked less like athletes and more like, well, not athletes. I faced defensive lineman who outweighed me by 70 pounds. Regardless, facing great odds each week, we had no fear. We played as if we could conquer all, and oftentimes we did. (To the surprise of many of our opponents.)

I graduated from Concordia and became a coach myself. Because of my experience, I believe in the impact of coaching athletics to our youth today, in teaching them how to face life’s challenges, in helping them believe that great odds can be defeated with the backing of God.  Each year, I watch students graduate and I know that they have been better prepared to face life’s challenges through understanding the value of living a Godly life. Through our football program, students learn that Christianity teaches the real meaning of success, and being a Christian never hinders from achieving success.

This sort of teaching is tough to achieve in a classroom. The daily push combined with sweat, exhaustion, many efforts to win, failures, measured success, and credit given to the one who made it all possible isn’t found in a classroom. It’s found on a field or a court or a track.

If I spend the rest of my life trying in a small way to accomplish what those four men accomplished in the lives of many athletes, I know that it will make a difference in another man’s life.  I still run into my college coaches on occasion.  More often, I run into those who played under them.  A common theme is often discussed when we have the time to review those days spent preparing for the competition we faced. Our coaches equipped us to be successful.  Not one of us who went on to become coaches lets a day go by with out stating to our teams, €It’s a great day for football!€ (Or whatever sport we happen to be coaching.)  This and the many other quotations we learned from those four men are often used as each of us attempts to instill Christian values, sportsmanship, and a healthy sense of competition in our athletes the same way our coaches instilled them in us.

Is competition a good thing for Christian youth? It is. Today is a great day for football.