Matt Toy is a high school Athletics Director in Cincinnati, OH. His work in sports ministry and media relations over the past several years has given him great experience in reaching out to athletes.
By Matt Toy
Jocks. Big Men (or Women) On Campus. Star-athletes. You call them what you want, but they are usually known around your high school. These are the kids that date the cheerleader, get the scholarship, seem to always “chill” in the hallway and live on the top of the high school food chain.
With all that, these are also the kids that many people miss because they seem so unapproachable. Despite the apparent “studliness” of all the BMOC’s at your school, these kids need friends. Beyond that, these kids need Jesus.
Many non-athletes might wonder why the star-basketball player or wrestler would need friends when it appears like they have it all. Just like life, athletes ride a roller coaster, one day they may be high and then the next day they take a dive.
“Strike three, you’re out,” yells the umpire as the softball player slowly walks away with her head down.
“Boo, you stink,” cries the fan as the football player misses the game-winning field goal.
“Eeeehhhh,” the horn rings as the basketball player bricks the buzzer-beater to lose the game.
With moments like those, who would want to be an athlete? Like anything in life, the good comes with the bad. And as more fans watch the good, just as many people critique the bad. The best baseball players usually fail six or seven times out of 10. The most prolific scorers in basketball normally miss more shots than they make.
Don’t get me wrong, the success and popularity of many athletes often goes to their heads. But the successes and popularity do not last forever, and consistent friends are even harder to come by for many athletes. With one shot, one pass, or one injury, an athlete can go from the most popular to the least likely to succeed.
Athletes often turn to many different things when sports don’t go their way. Some athletes resort to relationships, parties or academics. Many other athletes work a little harder at their sport. But I would like to argue that the easiest and best thing to turn to would be a personal relationship with Jesus.
Here are five easy suggestions for getting into the life of an athlete:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. John Maxwell’s famous quote, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” applies perfectly to athletes. An athlete would love to answer a question like, “so what does your team look like this year?” or “how do you feel about your next opponent?”
The reality proves true that athletics holds one of the most important, if not the most important, role in most athletes lives. Most high school athletes are known on their campus by their athletics. As a result, athletes spend a great deal of time thinking about the different variables and details associated with their sport.
2. Don’t be afraid to be exposed for your knowledge of the sport. If an athlete wanted to talk to an expert about their sport, they would ask their coach or teammates. They don’t expect you to know much, but they are excited that you might want to listen about something they have great passion.
3. Don’t be afraid to show up at a game, match or meet. If you’re running out of sports questions, this should refresh your question bank. Pay attention to the game and you’ll find many details you don’t understand and quite possibly something the athlete doesn’t understand.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask about something besides sports after you’ve developed a base. Once they know that you care about their passion, they are much more willing to trust you and open up on other issues in their life.
5. Don’t be afraid to share the love of Jesus. Every athlete is trying to figure out how to put their best product on the field, court or course. It is an easy sell, in fact, it sells itself. If you believe that Jesus can help you pass your history test, don’t you think that Jesus can help your softball pitcher throw a little faster? If not the physical, don’t you think the pitcher can learn how to gain peace on the mound despite the constant pressure of the coaches or fans?
Athletes are exposed for their weakness and incompetence on a daily basis. Failure is something that looks each athlete square in the face everyday. Most athletes search high and wide for anything that can help their performance. Steroids, shaving your body, starving yourself don’t seem so appealing, but some athletes try these methods to better their performance. I would think that a relationship with God is a much simpler answer.
Regardless of whether the athlete is the star or the scrub, they still will be looking for a way to improve. They are also looking for friends and they are looking for answers. You have the opportunity to impact their lives for Christ. I hope that you take the time to hit a homerun with the athlete on your campus.