For those of you who might be unaware, I’m a student athletic trainer at my high school, and I absolutely love to write about our football players. They’re so kind-hearted & funny, and I learn from them every day. I haven’t had a chance to share anything from them yet this season, but this past Friday night I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer.
I get asked quite often why I even want to be a student trainer. We don’t get paid, and it doesn’t count as a credit. A few people have even been worried about what it’s like to be in that environment all the time-curse words, occasional rude comments, and some very interesting stories I could have gone my whole life without hearing. But I really do love almost every minute of it, and I’ll get to why in a little bit.
I’ve learned over the past couple of years that at the end of the day, I’ve met better people at football practice than I have through some of the religious activities I’ve been involved in. Okay, so some of the players don’t believe in God, a lot of them don’t go to church every Sunday, and other Christians may not be able to see “fruit” in their lives. They know how to love, though, and they’re better at it than almost everyone I know. When I say love, I mean the really pure kind, the unconditional kind, the kind that doesn’t judge. I experience more love in a day at football practice than I do when I spend time with my devout Christian friends.
“Hey, Shannon! How are you doing today?”
“Do you need help? Let me get that for you.”
“You look nice today.”
“Your taping is perfect.”
“We missed you yesterday.”
“You’re the best.”
“Do I need to beat someone up for you?”
“Are you okay?”
Y’all this is every school day of football season. I see them almost every day, and not once have they stopped being kind, encouraging, and grateful. When players get hurt, I end up getting to know them a lot better. They spend more time in the training room; they spend practices sitting with us; they spend games on the sideline. The moments I spend with the injured boys are some of my favorite parts about being with the team. It really opens my eyes to the fact that they are so much more than people think. They’re more than reckless teenagers who party, and they’re more than the cutest, most crush-worthy guys in school. These stereotypical high school boys have hearts worth knowing.
Most recently, I’ve gotten to know a player who’s my age. He’s someone I would’ve never even known if it weren’t for football, and he got hurt and spent this past week out of practice and the game. (For the record, big, strong football players are the most heartbreaking thing in the world when they can’t play. I want nothing more than to be able to magically heal their injury, so they can do what they love with their friends, but I can’t and I hate it.) Anyway, this particular player might have had to have surgery if he played and made his injury worse. In talking to him Friday, he said something about just wanting to play, and of course, in all my infinite wisdom, I asked, “Wouldn’t you rather miss this one game and avoid surgery than play, make it worse, and miss all the other games?” As a girl who’s passion is not playing football, the answer seemed pretty clear to me. DUH. But he said, “I’d rather risk it.” At this point, I was thinking a few different things.
1. Praise the Lord for adults who make smart decisions and won’t let injured football players play.
2. This football player is a really nice kid, but he’s lost a few too many brain cells in tackling drills.
3. You do you… It’s not something I’d want to risk, but go for it. I’m glad you’re passionate about something.
As I thought about it more, though, I began to understand so much more where he was coming from. There are so many aspects of my life where I would rather risk it, and people who don’t understand probably think it’s the most ridiculous and irrational thing in the world. Helping the football team, for example. Why do I even risk being in that environment all the time? Well, because I’d rather risk it. I don’t really care about being around all the “bad” stuff because I get to be around so much more good stuff. I get to fill up water bottles, help guys who get hurt, and get to know some really incredible people. I get to serve a diverse group of guys, and the coolest part is that I get to learn how to love and accept people who aren’t like me.
It’s not always easy. Sometimes I get really frustrated…but I’m always reminded of the amazing, selfless love in that group of guys- the atheist who thinks I’m cool and is friends with me even though I’m a Christian, the hurt player who helped me carry medical equipment down to the field and back, the underclassman who makes room for me so that I can see the game, and the rest of them who say thank you, make me laugh, and put a smile on my face every day.
Jesus risked a lot when he came to earth and taught us all about love, and it amazes me how much the football team risks all the time so that they can love others.They do such a phenomenal job of making room for people in their lives. I mean, they’ve all made room for me despite how sassy and moody I can be. In all honesty, they teach more about Christ than anyone else. They don’t interpret scripture or try to explain theology to me. But they constantly show me a love closer to that of Jesus than anyone else. And I can only hope that one day, I’ll be able to love people as well as they do.
1 Corinthians 16:23-24,