My Father said, “You belong here”
Did you know that both beach volley-baller Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Baltimore Orioles ironman Cal Ripken received the same piece of advice from their dads? It was this: “Remember you belong here.”
Now, both of these incredibly talented athletes came on the scene very young. Ripken talked about being 19 among all these 23-24 year olds who were “so much better than me” (and so much older :)) and I’m sure Kerri Walsh was younger still. What these dads knew was that their young protegees would be shaking in their boots when they hit the big time. Under the lights, facing the major league competition, they would wonder what they were doing there – with all those really talented athletes. And here they were, just “junior champions,” “just minor league phenoms.” What were they doing there?!
When we’re young, we don’t see ourselves well. We let others do that for us. How fortunate these two athletes had fathers who had the insight and the foresight to realize what their kids needed to know. You belong here…among the greats. Among the celebrated. Among the best who have ever played the game.
What a great acknowledgement. Not – you’ve made it. Or, you can beat them. That would feel like pressure. Just, you belong. Perspective, with the vision of love and the foundation of truth.
I remember – on a much smaller scale; I am no Ripken or Walsh – when I was breaking in on the junior golf circuit. I was a good player. As an 11 year old I had won the 9 hole junior championship and “moved up” to the 18 hole group. I was much younger than the rest. The reigning 18 hole champion was 18. It was her last year to play as a junior. She was legend at our club – Guerra was her last name. I think Connie was her first. We played the front 9 even and moved over to the back 9. I remember clearly on the 15th hole when I hit a really good shot – better or at least as good as hers – thinking man, I may be able to play with this girl. We played through 17 holes head to head. It all came down to the 18th. Parents and families were walking along with our match and riding in carts. I remember one of Connie’s siblings squealing the wheels and tearing up the fairway turf as she screeched to a stop. In response, I hit a 5 wood stiff to the pin (maybe 2 feet from the flag). Make that putt and I was the new junior club champion. Walking up to that putt was the first time I had ever considered that I might be able to actually beat this girl. I missed. We went to extra holes and I lost on the first.
No one had told me I belonged there. That day the concept was too new for me to claim. But afterwards, I did. And perhaps the experience taught me much more than words from my Dad would have. He, after all, was only an average golfer. What did he know about my chances? (Dad, if you’re reading this, thank you.) Both of us became believers that day, I think.
But how this moment now makes me think of Our Father who knows we belong, simply because He spoke it and it was so. Some of us just take a bit longer than others to believe it.
Today I celebrate Paul’s words to protegee Timothy…
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. ~ 1 Timothy 4:12
So many of the young people I know just need to hear, “You belong here” in order to make it absolutely true.
Posted on August 18, 2012, in In Action and tagged believe in yourself, Belonging, Cal Ripken, Dad, Father, God, golf, junior golf, Kerri Walsh Jennings, young athletes, youth, youth sports. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.