Learning Life Lessons As A Student Athlete - Caleb Johnson

Ever since CDA student Caleb Johnson was able to walk he's always loved anything sports related.  In fact the first word he ever spoke was “ball." Find out how participating in sports has helped shape and develop his character.
Over the span of my seventeen years I have participated in eight sports, football, soccer, basketball, baseball, track, lacrosse, swimming, golf, and taekwondo. I have loved every second of the hundred degree practices, intense training, skills sessions, and so much more!  Although, I’m not able to participate in all of those sports at once, I’ve  found the passion to play football in the Fall, soccer in the Winter, and Track in the Spring. 

You may think that schedule adds for a hectic school year, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Now oddly enough when people ask me what I enjoy most about sports my answer is exquisitely abnormal. When asked that specific question I answer with, “The camaraderie of my teammates and all the hard work each sport requires.”

Many people question my response when I say hard work, but there is just something about pushing yourself beyond your limits, reaching new goals, or establishing new skills that leave you happy and fulfilled in your accomplishments, especially when every great thing we do on this earth gives glory to the King. 
           
The three sports I currently play have shaped the way I act, the way I think, and my overall character far more than I thought a simple sport ever could.  For example, football has been a part of my life since the first grade, I fell in love with hitting people and running the ball and I never looked back. But since I became a high school student athlete, football has drastically shaped the culture of my attitude and lifestyle.  Football has gifted me in teaching me true courage. 

Courage is defined as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain.”  I wholeheartedly stand by that definition and believe that courage stands as realizing your afraid but learning to confront your fear anyway.  One of my best friends, Jarren Heitschmidt, always tells me when I am complaining or frightened by an opponent, “well go to Wal-Mart, grab a can of man, and suck it up.”  Jarren and I are both extremely frightened when facing Division 1 collegiate athletes, or 300-pound men, but the sport of football has taught us to stand courageously in the midst of fear.  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41: 10  
           
Soccer has helped me develop my character by teaching me endurance both physically and spiritually.  Soccer requires an extreme amount of endurance in addition to quick, fast paste changes in the game. From the immediate transition from hard-hitting football to the more patient game of soccer is always hard on me and I tend to become angry or quick tempered around my teammates because of the drastic difference of the two sports.  But soccer has thoroughly taught me endurance through trials and hardship to produce great results.

For example, both of my current teammates Jack Powell and Garrett Morris of have been incredible examples of how soccer teaches endurance. Both Jack and Garrett were new to the sport and wanted something new to try, but at the beginning of the season, they were not the best soccer players.  Throughout the long season they demonstrated great amounts of endurance as they pursued to become better at all costs.  At the end of the season both Jack and Garrett progressed greatly in one season than I have ever seen in all 12 years I have played soccer.  “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.” – Colossians 1:11

Finally, the amazing sport of Track has taught me how love never fails. Sometimes I question why I participate in Track, I run in large circles until my chest hurts and gasping for air, but somehow in my first season of Track, even with all that pain I’ve developed the deepest love for the sport. 

My best race is the 800 Meter, literally the most painful and exhausting race on the planet.  From personal experience it felt like my throat was bleeding and burning after the first time I ran the race.  But I ran the race again and then again. Throughout the tiring season my growing love for the sport started to exemplify in my actions to where I treated others more lovingly.  And for the rest of my life I will never forget running my sixth 800, at the State meet, at Baylor University, and running down the last stretch. 

It may sound weird, but even though there was thousands of people watching me run the only voices I could hear were my teammates and Coram Deo friends and families yelling “HE’S GOING TO CATCH YOU!” There was nothing greater than seeing my name and school appear upon the scoreboard. 

At that moment I remembered something, earlier that season my teammates and dearest friends Hunter Longrcier and Brooks King were both injured and required to sit out of running certain meets.  I remembered them being brought to tears because they couldn’t run, they love the sport so much.  Well as I looked at the scoreboard with my name and time, I thought to myself, “yea this is the weirdest sport ever, but I love it.”  “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” – 1 Corinthians 13: 7-8
           
When I thought about what characteristics I have learned from each of my favorite sports and why I love them each so much I realized that the qualities of courage, endurance, and love, in my opinion make up the characteristics of a warrior, and more specifically a warrior of the King of Kings. 

A warrior acts in the midst of fear, never gives up, and always fights for what he/she loves. I encourage anyone who is reading this to pursue a sport! You may think you are weak, unathletic, or not tough enough, but I ensure you this, you will find something you love and it will be worth the world to you. 

Any sport will bring out the best qualities in yourself that you never thought you were capable of and it will teach you life lessons you will never forget.  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as you’re working for the Lord, not for men.” – Colossians 3:23 
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  • Jenny Henley
    Caleb, Your words are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing how your faith strengthens you in these situations.