I am a firm believer that once someone has accepted Jesus Christ into their heart, every area of their life begins to reflect their inward change. This truth remains essential for young adults such as myself.
Because of this significant reformation, how we interact with the world as athletes should reflect the Gospel. The Gospel changes the way young athletes interact with the world in terms of our humility, performance anxiety, and how we see our competitors.
I didn’t fully realize how sports and faith go hand in hand until I joined the track team at my school. After feeling dejected due to my lack of progress after one of my races, I thought to myself, “What am I doing wrong?”
I didn’t fully realize how sports and faith go hand in hand until I joined the track team at my school.
Running used to be something I enjoyed that helped me develop self-control in other areas of my life, including the pursuit of spiritual disciplines. As the competitive season progressed, I started to become obsessed with seeing my times drop and felt immensely dissatisfied that I wasn’t as fast as my teammates who had been running for years.
After recalling the journey of Eric Liddell, an Olympic sprinter who refused to run in a qualifying heat because it was on the Sabbath, it hit me. My overinflated anxiety over becoming a “better runner” left no room for me to center God through my physical ability.
This realization prompted me to take a deeper dive into what it means to be a Christian athlete and how my faith can change how I race. Reading Romans 5:3 prompted me to pause and search my heart as to why going to practice felt increasingly annoying to me:
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”
I often joked with my coach that I “loved running, but hated training.” Training for a race mirrors our tribulations on earth on our way towards “the prize.”
Training for a race mirrors our tribulations on earth on our way towards “the prize.”
The speed workouts I hated so much? Those made me improve the most, just like when we struggle through moments in life that allow us to come out stronger in our faith with the knowledge that the Lord was with us through it all.
Struggling through workouts and training allows us to become better athletes. If all my workouts were easy, I would never improve, and as a Christian, if life was easy, I would never grow in my faith.
If all my workouts were easy, I would never improve, and as a Christian, if life was easy, I would never grow in my faith.
Being reminded of this made me start to appreciate the moments where training felt the hardest. Seeing my spiritual journey reflected in my sport helped me remain disciplined in my training and make sacrifices that were necessary for me to improve as a runner. In 2 Timothy 4:7, the Apostle Paul writes:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
This greatly contrasted my own thoughts after a bad race. I would often spend the days after obsessively recounting every single mistake I made and what I could have done to improve. Even if certain factors like the weather were out of my control, I didn’t think doing my best was enough; I needed to see improvement.
While on my quest to implement my faith into my racing, I realized this was a faulty way of thinking. I had been plagued by walking by sight and not by faith. I had allowed doubt and anxiety to prevent me from glorifying God through the race. Rather than allowing God to lighten my load so I could run in a way that made my training pay off, I was adding unnecessary weights in the form of troubled thoughts that slowed me down.
I had been plagued by walking by sight and not by faith.
Despite this change in my mindset, the mental battle while racing remains. I’ve had to often remind myself to call on God for strength to continue, because “With God’s help, we will do mighty things.” (Psalm 60:12).
Knowing that I wasn’t alone as I raced and that I had my Father who can move mountains right by me was an incredibly comforting feeling. The best race I’ve had to this day is a track meet where I told God that from that point on my goal would be to please and somehow glorify Him with my running, despite not knowing how to yet.
Allowing the Gospel to reshape how I raced made me both a better athlete and a better competitor. Knowing that I was working “as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23-24) enabled me to view everyone who I was racing with admiration and respect. I found myself in awe and inspired by anyone who stepped on that track, no matter their speed or endurance – what I saw was the amount of strength and willpower required to even be willing to compete.
Allowing the Gospel to reshape how I raced made me both a better athlete and a better competitor.
These fundamental changes in my training, mindset, and perspective in my time as a student-athlete stem from the Gospel’s power to radically reshape every area of our lives.
Kemarah Thermidor is a 12th grade student at Calvary Christian Academy who has attended CCA since 9th grade. On top of being involved in the school’s track and field program, she takes part in clubs such as Peer Active Listeners (PAL) and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). Kemarah enjoys writing and learning new languages. After graduation, she hopes to double major in Psychology and Legal Studies.