Tag Archives: athletics

Shared Courage…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew 18: 20

“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”


The 2019 swim team season kicked off last week. The first morning practice with the high school swimmers began with an air temperature of 38 degrees, and we were very glad for a heated pool! It was 55 degrees by the time the younger swimmers practiced in the middle of the day, but the air still carried a bit of a bite to it…The weather might not think it is summer, but we have more than 40 young athletes that are excited to be in the water!

This year’s theme for the season is courage. In particular our quote to live by is, “Courageous faith calls us to finish strong!”. We spent our weekly off-season winter practices talking about what it takes to be a good teammate. That provides a great lead-up to a summer of courageous fellowship 🙂

Just as being an athlete takes courage, so does life.

  • It takes courage to be grateful regardless of your circumstance.
  • It takes courage to persevere with steadfast grace.
  • It takes courage to continue to put in the work even when you can’t see a victorious outcome.
  • It takes courage to stand firm and cling to your faith.

My hope is that our team will build meaningful habits to help us be courageous while simultaneously building fitness and strength in the water. I opened up the first practice asking the swimmers what it means to have courage. A ten year old boy on the team immediately responded, “courage is keeping going and working hard even when you are scared.” A second swimmer followed that statement with, “when we have courage we don’t settle even when it gets hard.” By the end of the week, we all decided that it was easier to be courageous and to make courageous choices when we came together to support each other as a team.


I believe that God calls us to be all in – To live with heartfelt passion in order to share his love with others. The athletic team is an awesome place to learn this. It provides a fun and engaging way to introduce many of the challenges that we experience throughout life. When done correctly, athletics teach the value of hard work and unselfish fellowship. At the Cozad Swim Team, we start each practice with a character lesson, a bible verse, and a daily devotional. I do this because I believe that the first thing that my swimmers need to learn is that God is always with them. He is the ultimate source of courage and he uses each one of us to help build a fellowship of strength. That is the purpose of TEAM.

For where two or three gather, God is among them.

I think that all of my swimmers know how important my faith is to me. I hope that it provides a light to them as they travel the journey of building a meaningful relationship with our Lord. What they might not know is that sharing faith with them brings me courage. My swimmers inspire me to live with grace – to be brave – to have a grateful attitude – and to work with purpose each and every day.

2019 has been a year of challenge for me. During the various times of trial, I have thought of my athletes and how I would counsel them. This keeps me centered on my faith and reminds me of the importance of practicing what I preach. In about a month, I will undergo a third surgery on my leg. As I fight the fear of another invasive procedure, the reality that today I am unable to walk without pain, and the knowledge that the future is unknown, I draw on the shared courage that we build together in fellowship on the pool deck.

I pray that I will walk this path with grace so that my swimmers can see Jesus carry me with the courageous faith that I need to finish strong 🙂

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Reach for it…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week’s post comes from the Gospel of John 4: 14

But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.


Shortly after my seventeenth birthday, I traveled to Buffalo, NY to compete in the 18 and Under USA Swimming National Championships. I think that I made the finals — honestly I don’t recall — but I clearly remember that my swim missed the qualifying time for Senior Nationals by 0.04sec. Four hundredths of a second doesn’t seem like very much, but that swim helped to define the way that I look at life.

My swimming career went on for four more years, but the majority of my success came during that year and the following year as I closed out my high school swimming journey. Throughout that time, I learned to believe in myself and reach for it. 

During my adult life, I have learned to use those athletic experiences and apply them to my faith journey. To me, active faith — one that is alive and strengthening — begins with:

  • Reaching for it
  • Grabbing it
  • Owning it

Photo credits to Corbey Dorsey 🙂

While I learned to reach for it as an athlete in the swimming pool and on the cross country course, I learned to grab it and own it after I became a mom, a coach, and a heart-felt Christian.


The words living water appear often in the Bible. It’s a term that I gave little thought to until a couple of years ago. To me, living water is:

  • The peace that passes beyond understanding.
  • The love that inspires you to give.
  • The faith that, although you can never see it, fills your life and drives an intentional God-filled journey.

The living water comes from letting Jesus into your heart and accepting the Holy Spirit as your guide.

Sometimes I fall short – not just in the swimming pool, but in life. I make mistakes and temporarily lose sight of God’s guidance. But, the living water of the Holy Spirit centers me and brings me back after I stray. Although I don’t always get it right, I am inspired to persevere and continue the journey.

God uses broken people. His mission involves inspiring broken people to come together to make something of beauty. That is why Joseph is now a part of our family. Together we all find God’s peace and learn to heal through faith. It isn’t always a happy journey, but it is a meaningful one that brings a peaceful purpose to our days. I have found that the more that I answer God’s calls, the more that I need the inspiration, confidence and direction of the Holy Spirit.

The living water of the Holy Spirit is a very different water than what I used to compete in during my swimming career! But, it builds on my athletic experiences and inspires me daily to pack my faith to live with grace. It offers the promise of eternal life in heaven with the bonus of an incredible journey on the earth.

I don’t just reach for it.

I grab it.

I own it.

And I give it to God.

 

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Resilience

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration today comes from the five daily devotionals that I shared last week with the athletes of the Cozad Swim Team.

Mark 6: 31 “Let’s go off by ourselves and rest awhile.”

John 4: 14 “Those that drink the water that I (Jesus) give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh bubbling spring within them, giving eternal life.”

Romans 1:12 “When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.”

Romans 5: 3 “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us to develop endurance.”

Romans 8: 31 “If God is for us, who could ever be against us?”


Resilience provided the team’s weekly character lesson. Our focus quote was: “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” We asked some hard questions, but we also found strength in each other as we shared times of faith.

  • How do we keep going when things get hard?
  • How do we support others on the journey?
  • How do we let God be the coach of our team in order to bring honor to our efforts in the swimming pool?

Monday, Jesus reminded us in Mark 6:31 that it’s okay to take time to rest and recharge. Resilience requires both strength and patience. Prayer and reflection allow us to fill our hearts with God’s love and find strength and confidence in our faith relationship. Patience enables us to learn from our mistakes, but not let them define us. There is freedom to be found in giving it to God and focusing on the promise of the future.

Tuesday we learned of the living water that Jesus speaks of in John 4:14. It provides the foundation of our faith and stems from the eternal fountain of God’s love. It is the inspiration that leads to greatness. It is the motivation to face challenges with gratitude rather than with grievance. When our athletic actions are the result of God’s living water, then we bring honor to Him with our efforts.

Wednesday Paul reminded us in Romans 1: 12 that we are a family. We are brought together to create a cycle of encouragement. A quiet smile and word of kind support has the power to change our daily perspective: regardless of whether we are the one to give or to receive. God inspires us to have each others’ back and fills our hearts with His love to be shared. When we share love rather than judgement, then we strengthen the family (team). Building a cycle of encouragement amongst teammates allows everyone to share of themselves in a meaningful way.

Thursday we focused on creating a culture of positivity which allows us to rejoice in the face of trials (Romans 5:3).  We know that challenges make us stronger — build our endurance — and help us to learn how to persevere with grace. The challenge that an athlete faces in a difficult practice or competition helps him/her to prepare for life’s challenges. When we come together as a team to meet our challenges with positivity then we build the habit of living with grace.

Friday Paul (Romans 8:31) helped us to finish the week with the reminder that when we pack our faith to live with grace, that failure is not an option. God seeks us, supports us, and loves us through every experience. We persevere with resilience as we allow God to lead us and our team. We are defined by what is in our hearts — resilience comes from a heart filled with love and passion!


Here, I share week 6’s swim team journey in the hope that it brings meaning and inspiration to each of you. I have shared in the lives of many, many athletes over the past twenty years. However, this swim season will forever provide a turning point in my philosophy as a coach. I took a leap of faith as I made the decision this year to intentionally share my relationship with God. As our team begins each daily practice with a character lesson, a supporting bible verse, sharing time and a prayer,  I have learned that while loving God is so important, it is the act of sharing God that allows us to be the change that we wish to see in the world.

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing God’s hope spring eternal in the eyes of our children. What began as an effort to share my faith has evolved into a mutual sharing of faith as the athletes realize that we become #StrongerTogether as we reach for God. What an awesome lesson in resilience 🙂

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Intentionally reaching for those that “fall through the cracks”…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for today’s post comes from the Parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18.

If a man has 100 sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the 99 on the mountains and go in search of the 1 that went astray?


Do you remember a time in your youth when you felt as though you fell through the cracks? Perhaps you got lost in a sea of faces in school — wondering if your classmates or teachers even knew you were there. Or, maybe you showed up for sports practice everyday longing for support and inspiration, but left feeling invisible. 

I think that honest reflection brings each one of us a memory of feeling lost.

A time when it seemed that we were invisible.

A moment when we craved acceptance but our hearts felt alone and hollow.

As a coach, I try to intentionally reach for the kids that feel as though they fall through the cracks. I have a goal of finishing every practice having offered at least one happy thought or word of inspiration to each of my swimmers. I have high expectations for my athletes, but there is a sea of love that sits right underneath the discipline that I ask for as we travel the journey together. I aspire to seek out each swimmer – in a positive way – every single day.

If they gain nothing else from practice that day, at least they will go home feeling like they matter.

This year, our team began a new tradition of sharing both a character lesson and a daily devotion before diving into the water for practice. I have 40 regular swim team practices during the summer months — 40 chances to help the 42 athletes realize that true strength comes when we simultaneously radiate kindness while also displaying personal toughness and tenacity through athletic competition. I love this new tradition as it starts our time together as a team centering our hearts on God and focusing our minds on ways to pack our faith to compete with grace.


The Parable of the Lost Sheep reminds me that God is always seeking us. Understanding that He is longing for a loving relationship with us helps to battle the lonely feelings and empty hearts that may threaten our daily peace. The more time that I spend with teenagers, the more I believe that this message plays a critical role in the mental wellbeing of our kids.

We live in a broken world. The news reminds us daily of suicides and school shootings. Additionally, current culture entices our kids away from faith and family, and into the the disturbing world of cyberspace. My favorite farmer and I have spent countless hours talking about how we can help to change the reality of teenage life in 2018. Many of our discussions result in an impasse where we are left with more questions and very few answers. But a lack of easy answers is no reason to not engage.

Start with what you can impact.

This is what I tell myself daily. What child can I help today? Who feels lost?

I am reminded of a mantra that I learned many years ago as a member of the Daughter’s of the King.

I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do. What I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do. Lord, what will you have me do?

This summer I am trying my best to live out these words. To listen to God and help to bring his love to the athletes that come to me for guidance. Together we can create a culture where everyone has a place and no one feels alone. As we huddle up each day at the start of practice we seal the cracks ensuring that no one will fall through…

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She Believed!

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from Ephesians 3:16-18

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.”


For me, living with grace allows for my faith to be stronger than my fear.

There are many things in life that can bring fear to our hearts and minds — for example, new experiences, worry over how others view us, and concern for those that we love. For competitive athletes, races – meets – and games often bring a new level of fear.

Physical toughness and dedication to training play a huge role in an athlete’s success. But, victory requires more than just physical fortitude. Mental toughness and emotional/spiritual fitness often dictate continued success on the athletic journey.

“Am I good enough?”

How often do each of us ask that simple question? Four words that represent an 800# gorilla that can ride heavily on our backs. Recently, as the District Track meet approached, I watched doubt take hold of my favorite blonde cowgirl. Hampered by a pulled quadricep muscle that stubbornly refused to completely heal, Meg’s confidence plummeted and fear threatened to override the faith that lives inside her heart.

She struggled as a christian athlete.

I searched deeply to find the right words to share. I found them in the above verses in Ephesians 3.


As her mind healed, her leg seemed to follow suit. Two days before the Nebraska State Track meet, Meg looked at me and said:

“Mom, I’m good. I’m ready for Burke Stadium — I’m ready to compete.”

The day of the Class B Pole Vault competition @ Burke greeted us with gloomy skies that offered periodic cold rain showers. But, I knew that Meg was ready. I could tell from my seat in the stadium stands that nothing could dampen her fire. She carried God’s guidance in her heart with Jesus’s confident love flowing deeply in her body, and the Holy Spirit’s inner strength surrounding her as she journeyed into competition.

They delayed the Pole Vault competition twice due to hard rain: once during warm ups and once close to half way through the event. Meg didn’t miss a beat. She vaulted perfectly — not once missing until after she had already won the competition by clearing 11’2″ on her first attempt.

Her mind was calm.

Her soul was on fire.

Her body responded with strength.

I cried as we watched her realize victory. The joy in my heart came not from the gold medal that she proudly wore around her neck, but from the sparkle in her eyes that told me the depth of her faith.

She was good enough. God carried her when she needed Him the most and the end of the journey brought magic as she believed.

 

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Faith Is a Muscle…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration from today’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from the Gospel of Luke 16:10

“If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the large ones…”


This week my favorite brunette and my favorite blonde cowgirl will compete at the Nebraska State Track Meet. While I am incredibly proud of both of their accomplishments, the joy that fills my heart mostly stems from the knowledge that they will get to continue as track teammates for one more competition.

One more opportunity to learn to compete with grace. 

Twenty one years ago, when I held my first “coaching job”, I clung tightly to the competitive spirit that marked my own athletic career. I focused on teaching all of the little things that help to bring athletic success:

  • Hard Work
  • Dedicated passion for the sport
  • Developing the competitive mental mindset that allows for physical success on game day

Coming out of an athletic career where I trained for up to 5 hours per day, I was well versed in what it took to be both mentally tough and physically strong. I was faithful in the little things, and found success both in the pool and on the Cross Country Course. I understood the what but, as I matured, I struggled with the why.

Although I did the little things correctly, I never truly comprehended that I was traveling God’s journey. As a result, on race day I lacked the confidence and peace that came from a strong faith. I didn’t understand that when I accepted God’s call, He traveled the competitive journey with me. It was my job to work hard and compete with passion to bring Him honor — It was God’s job to carry me through the stress of competition that sometimes threatened to overcome the peace in my heart.

I never learned to give it to Him.

As a result, my fear was often stronger than my faith and I never truly competed with grace.


When I think of what I most want my girls to experience in athletics, it is the art of competing with grace. I believe that faith is a muscle. It strengthens as we use it. It requires trust, obedience, and intentionality to grow. I never really understood that until I ran a half marathon last fall. I competed in thousands of races over more than three decades before I finally got it right.

The first step is faithfully doing all of the little things, but it doesn’t end there — that is simply the beginning.

Blessings follow obedience

Megan asked me recently how I know when I pack my faith to compete with grace. For me, the answer lies in my heart. When I step up to compete with grace, the intensity of competition blends with a peaceful heart as I know that I am where God called me to be.

There is confidence that comes from obedience – From knowing that you are fulfilling God’s purpose with your actions.

That is how you compete with grace.

As both a mom and a coach, I find that I now live by a new definition of mentoring with my athletes. While my teaching still includes faithfully putting in the work and doing the little things, perhaps the most important lesson that I teach my kids is to believe that their competitive journey is a part of God’s calling for their lives.

Our job is to work hard and move our bodies with passion. God provides the guidance that leads to peace and confidence. When we learn to trust — to obey — to lean — it is then that we intentionally build the muscle of faith that brings us success on the journey.

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Sitting On the Bus…

This fall, the majority of my blog posts were written on the Haymaker school bus traveling to Cross Country meets. Riding the bus as an adult provides an interesting perspective. You learn more than just to appreciate the beautiful Nebraska countryside.

In addition to being on the coaching roster, two of my three girls also ride the bus. My oldest as a varsity runner and my youngest as a 6th grade student manager with big dreams for competing next year. In the height of the season, when both the junior high and high school athletes competed, there was hardly an open seat on the bus.

The following provides a short list of things that float around in my mind while sitting on the bus.

1. The bus driver is the team’s unsung hero. Not only does he hold the welfare of our kids in his hands — his cheerful, caring nature sets the stage for a good beginning and ending to race day.

2. The Haymaker Cross Country team personifies a positive culture of respect. When the coaches set the standards high, the kids deliver. Anything less is unacceptable. The medals go to the fastest finishes during the race, but the concept of team is what leads to the win — both on and off the course. True character shines through on the bus just as much as during the race. A positive culture produces a higher level of character at the end of the season than existed at the beginning of the season.

3. Teammanship provides a coach’s greatest prize. It is truly beautiful when athletes compete with heart, unselfishly taking care of the team and raising the bar for those around them. The drama meter on the bus should always be low signifying a heathy team experience with good athlete leadership.

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Haymaker Cross Country qualified both varsity teams for state yesterday. The bus ride home last night will be my second favorite bus ride of the season as I’m really looking forward to taking a bus load of awesome runners to the Nebraska state meet next Friday 🙂

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