“It’s not the will to win that matters – everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”
— Bear Bryant, University of Alabama football coach
Practice. Every aspect of our children’s young lives seems to revolve around practice: Practice math, practice writing, practice manners, practice sharing, practice, practice practice. Then, they join a team and guess what? More practice! Except this time they probably get to run around with friends, learn a few things, and end up with a juice box for the carpool ride home. Sometimes practice is fun, and sometimes it just isn’t. But no one can argue against the value of time spent focusing on a specific task.
Rarely do we get glimpses of world-class athletes practicing, unless the occasional film crew captures the sweat and dirt and sacrifices that helped make the person successful. Since we have been conditioned by television and social media to see only the final performance, the big college rivalry, the Olympics, those images can be quickly forgotten because we would much rather focus on the event itself.
This focus on the big event is nothing new. Take the famous battle of David and Goliath, for instance.
David was a shepherd, the youngest of eight sons. His three oldest brothers had joined the Israelite army, and they were being taunted by their enemies, the Philistines. One Philistine was particularly terrifying to the Israelites: a nine-foot tall behemoth of a man named Goliath. Every morning and evening for 40 days, Goliath issued a challenge: “Give me a man and let us fight each other” (1 Samuel 17:10). The winner of this contest would determine which nation would serve the other. Understandably, the Israelites were frightened for their lives.
That’s when David, the lowly shepherd, appeared on the scene to deliver grain and bread to his brothers. He made his way to the battle lines just as Goliath shouted his usual threat, and, seeing no one else volunteering for the job, stepped up to do it.
Here we see one of the best-known stories in the Bible: “As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead and he fell face down on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.” (1 Samuel 17: 48-50)
David didn’t get lucky with his throw, he had the God of Israel on his side. But scripture doesn’t show us the hours and hours of practice which had to have gone into that perfect throw. After all, David was a shepherd, and had to protect his flock from attack by lions, bears and any number of other predators or pests. Surely he was also a typical boy in the field after all, using his slingshot to annoy the pesky squirrel-equivalent, or using his precise shot to drop the occasional fruit from a tree.
Could the Lord have blessed his throw if David had never before picked up a stone? Absolutely. But because David had practiced his accuracy in the fields, he had the confidence to volunteer for the job. The hours he spent honing his skill were not wasted. Instead, the training he put in prepared him for success in an unforeseen battle.
Practice is fun at the beginning of the season, but it can grow tiresome as the weeks pass by. When our children want to quit, let’s help them see the benefit of training, even when it seems painful. Let’s encourage them to value their practices — physical or otherwise — so they can be prepared for whatever battle comes their way. Just like David.
QUESTION: How do you push through when you feel like quitting? Leave a comment below!