Photo: Girls Varsity Tennis facing adversity drill (bear crawl and reverse bear crawl)
“I want your child to fail. I actually want your child to fail a lot.”
Those were some of the first words I spoke to an audience of parents who heard me speak for the first time. Without context or explanation those words are harsh. In context and with explanation I think you will find that they are beautiful words leading to a fulfilling conclusion.
The goal of this explanation is to give you a framework for our vision for students who participate in our athletic program and what parents should expect them to be when they graduate from CCS.
What do we want our students to look like when they graduate and head off into the world? What can we do in athletics to prepare them to face a world of uncertainty, adversity, and inconsistency?
I propose that we want our students to enter the world with confidence, strength, self-discipline, and the ability to confront and overcome the struggles of life. We want them to win in life as ambassadors of the kingdom of God so they may be shining lights and walking advertisements for knowing Jesus Christ.
The question is, how do we get there?
One of my favorite stories is about the caterpillar and the butterfly. We have all heard it over and over, but there is one aspect of the story that I love. It is the part where, in order for the butterfly to live, it must not be helped out of the cocoon. It must struggle for the proper chemical to be released so that the butterfly is strong. This is not for the butterfly to be stronger than other butterflies. It is so the butterfly can live at all.
Similarly, from a biblical perspective, we remember stories like the Garden of Eden and the wandering in the wilderness. God allowed a snake in the garden, which tempted Adam and Eve. In the wilderness, God sent snakes that bit and killed many of the Israelites. When Moses asked God to take them away, God told him to set a bonze snake on a pole which the people could look at in order to be saved. But why did God not prevent these snakes from troubling His people in the first place? Why did he even turn one into a source of healing?
The answer is simple but uncomfortable for us. God allowed snakes then for the same reason He allows them now. Instead of preventing the snakes, He gives provides remedies for facing and overcoming them. I’m sure the snake bites in the wilderness hurt, but those who looked on the bronze serpent were made well and learned a lesson about looking to and depending on God.
Within our athletic program, we create artificial adversaries for students to struggle against so they can learn to overcome and to strive to become more than they are. This is how we love them well: by giving them challenges. Within the arena when our students face risks, we, as coaches and parents, can instruct them on how to deal with them pain. We can teach them to work hard so that the next time they can pursue a better outcome.
I once heard a pastor say that the way we know if a fruit is ready to be bought is to squeeze it first. This is the true test. The same is true for our students. We want to use the athletic arena to squeeze them in a safe environment to prepare them to deal with the enormous pressures of a marriage, parenthood, a mortgage, etc. and come out on the other side a success. Succeeding allows them to be so confident and “full-filled” that they have the extra to overflow to those around them, thus presenting the good news as the only way, truth, and life.
In the growth and progression of our athletic program we will be adding new coaches, new processes, new procedures, etc. Change is hard and there will be bumps along the way. There will be hard things as we try new things and learn from them. I am, however, convinced that these changes will bring about the outcome we all are looking for: a program that builds up men and women of strong character. That character is one of confidence, strength, self-discipline, and toughness combined with a love for others as Jesus loves us. I pray that you will work alongside us and go with us on this journey as we watch our students struggle to become great. We are calling this culture we are building a “culture of arete.” We will follow up on that concept in a few weeks.