Tag Archives: athletics

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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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Coaching / Personal Growth, General, Rural Communities

Life is a Series of Callings…

anneagxc.jpgI believe that life is a series of callings.  Although my faith is deeply personal and generally manifests itself outside of church walls, my relationship with God leads me on the journey.  I followed my heart when I became involved in work to improve animal welfare for cattle and this same desire for positive change led me to coaching youth athletics.  Likely the only two things that these topics share in common is my passion to make a positive difference.

I had a brief foray into coaching immediately after graduating from college and moving to Nebraska.  I served in the volunteer role of assistant coach to the high school Cross Country team in the late 1990’s prior to the birth of my favorite brunette.  A busy life running a cattle feed yard and raising a young family took me away from coaching for about a decade, but life has a way of placing a person in the right place at the right time.

I had a wake up call the year that I turned 30 as I lost my health due to an autoimmune system disease.  The following five years provided a personal battle that reminded me how precious a gift each day truly is.  God has a way of putting life into perspective and, as I worked to regain my health, I found myself inspired to coach again — this time at the swimming pool.  Seven years later, with the help of the same awesome lady who guided me in my first foray of Haymaker XC coaching, our local community has a thriving recreational swim team where fitness and fun combine to teach life skills to almost 50 budding athletes.

This fall I took on an additional volunteer coaching gig — coming full circle back to the Haymaker Cross Country team.  Ironically, my favorite brunette is now a member of the team which makes me smile as I was eight months pregnant when I hung up my XC coaching hat the first time.  I am back on the Haymaker roster as an assistant which allows me to mentor just under thirty junior high and high school athletes on their quest for greatness.

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Coaching refills my cup — it touches my heart as I see God in the young people that I get to mentor.

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There is something so truly special in playing a leadership role in an athlete’s journey.  You learn to coach the athlete in the moment that they need you — filling each unique void — giving direction while also inspiring good independent decision making.  Athletics teach toughness, work ethic, empathy, and personal sacrifice.  They are about developing fitness: mental, emotional, and physical in order to work toward a common goal.  There is nothing more rewarding than watching a culture of greatness develop amongst teammates.

The Haymaker Cross Country team personifies all of these things, and I am truly blessed to be a part of it.  Like many coaches, I don’t coach for the win.  I coach for the athlete — focusing on developing personal life skills that create leaders.  The development of this positive culture brings the win, and it is so much sweeter when the athletes lead the way.

The calling of a coach is a special one.  It comes from a quest to use your talents to make a difference in the lives of the young people who will create the future.  When I see the athletes dig deep to persevere during competition or unselfishly reach out to teammates in need, I know that God is at work and my heart fills with optimism for all of those times yet to come.

Go Haymakers!

 

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Haymaker Swimming…

I competed in my first backstroke race the summer of 1979 at the age of 4.  My mom taught me to swim almost before I could walk, and USS Swimming played a huge role in the first 21 years of my life.  In addition to allowing me to compete as an athlete at the national level in high school, it also helped me to matriculate at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1993.  I wasn’t as smart as the general Ivy League student population, but I knew how to work and I was never known to back down from a challenge.

Although I drifted away from the sport during my twenties as I built a life on the farm and gave birth to my three greatest blessings, I became reunited with it the year my youngest turned 3.  At that point, swimming provided a healing influence, and played a vital role as I regained my health after a difficult struggle with Graves Disease.  The combination of physical fitness challenge as a swimmer and the mental fitness that I acquired as a coach enabled me to find the “old Anne” and shake off the deflated self esteem that often develops when battling a chronic illness.

Looking for a "high 5" at the beginning of the meet...

Looking for a “high 5” at the beginning of the meet…

Years later, our local swim team thrives with 46 young competitors aged 7-16.  Coaching is the highlight of my summer and I love to watch the sport play a positive role in the growth of our community’s young people.  It is not just speed and strength that gets developed in the water — it is character, work ethic, and respect.  The almost twenty hours a week that I put in as a volunteer coach during the summer months nurtures my altruistic side despite the fact that during hard workouts my athletes have been known to classify me as evil

What they likely don’t realize is that I push them because I care about them: both the young people that they are today and the awesome adults that they will grow up to be tomorrow.  I hope that sometime ten years down the road each of my swimmers will rattle off one of the many motivational phrases that I am known for and take a moment to appreciate what we built together.

Our league also allows for adults to swim, so each week I get to hit the water to prove to myself that I still can.  I love that I demonstrate with each day that passes that swimming is a life sport and fitness is fun.

  • Every practice is a challenge to be met.
  • Every race is an opportunity to embrace.
  • Every awesome effort proves that while the road to excellence is rarely comfortable, success thrives in an uncomfortable environment.

annecoach2.jpgGo Haymakers!

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