Lessons Learned From the Game

We are deep into NFL Football Playoff Season, when every highlight, every victory speech, and every cooler of Gatorade poured is shown on the news, ESPN, YouTube, Instagram, and every other outlet. I always wanted to be a football player. When I was growing up, one of my favorite things to do was play football in our backyard. I still remember the names of most of the other kids–Lex, Kelly, Danny, Jason, Paul, Jerry, Steve, and David (and I’m talking @1975-1978 when I was 5-8 years old)–kids who were my age and as much as five years older. Notice that these were all boys! I was the only girl on my street and learned an early life lesson in keeping up with the boys!

My father had the nicest grass in the neighborhood, and we had a pretty sizable backyard, so everyone gathered to play football there on a regular basis. That was my first introduction to the game that my parents watched every Sunday while I played Barbies in my bedroom. Because it was my yard, I got to play whatever position I wanted, but looking back, I’m pretty sure the guys made up whatever position I played since I had no clue and was a lot younger than most of them! I actually do remember them giving me the ball sometimes, and I thought I was the biggest playmaker on the field. With a start like that, how could I not fall in love with the game?

By the time I was in middle school, I was a football watcher. Oh, how I idolized Tami Maida, whose story was told in the movie Quarterback Princess (starring Helen Hunt, 1983). I still remember the 1982-1983 season and the amazing Riggins run in Super Bowl XVII in which the Redskins beat the Dolphins 27-17. We even attended the parade in DC after the win. Our school principal, Sister Victoire, actually closed school that day so that everyone who wanted to could attend, a great lesson in knowing that sometimes learning from experiences is more important than learning in a classroom.

As a lifelong fan of professional football, I’ve made many observations of what happens both on and off the field. I think there are many aspects of the game that can be translated into life lessons for everyone.

You Don’t Know How High You Can Count Until You’re in the Pocket
Life is tough, often as tough as holding the ball and waiting for an opening to throw it before being plowed down by people who are out to get you. You never know how much you can handle or how long you can hold on until you’re in that position. If you hold on long enough and are open to change, you might just find a hole to break through and run toward your goal. You just need to be patient, and wait for the opportunity to present itself. “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset” (St. Francis de Sales).

Sometimes You Just Have to Throw the Ball
Whether you’re trapped in the pocket or attempting to make your move, sometimes you just have to throw the ball. Take a chance. Aim for the goal line. Set your eyes on your mark, and throw that impossible pass. Oh! And it helps to say a Hail Mary when you make the play.

Have a Team You Can Count On
You’re in the pocket, and you’ve got to get rid of the ball, but you know that there’s a whole line of people trying to get in your way, knock you down, and stop your play. The only way you’re going to succeed is to surround yourself with those you can count on. From God to the saints and angels, to your family and most trusted friends, have faith in those who love you, and seek help from those you trust. You need to learn early on that you can’t get anywhere in life without being able to trust that someone has your back. Know who your team is, and lean on them when you need to. “For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).

Find the Neutral Zone
In basic terms, the neutral zone is the space between the offensive and defensive lines at the beginning of each play. There will be times in life when you have to take a stand and times when you can’t remain in the middle because the stakes are too high. And then there are times when it’s just better to stay in the neutral zone. Learn the difference. When it’s too risky to be on the defensive side and too vulnerable on the offensive side, you have to become Switzerland–just stay out of it. “If possible, on your part, live at peace with all” (Romans 12:18).

Run As Far As You Can Without Looking Back
I often see receivers or running backs make the mistake of looking back to see how close the tackle is. Big mistake! This slows you down and puts you in harm’s way. When you have the ball, and you can see the goal, run with all your might, not worrying about what’s behind you. “Run so as to win…do not run aimlessly” (1 Corinthians 9:24, 26), “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead’ (Philippians 3:12).

Forget Your Past Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes. In every game, there’s a play that could have and should have been avoided. A quarterback throws an interception; a runner fumbles; a receiver misses the catch. Nobody is perfect, but everyone can move beyond their mistakes and learn from them. When you mess up, when you drop the ball, when you let someone down, ask for forgiveness and move on, “for we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). The key is to “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18-19). Likewise, don’t dwell on the mistakes of others. Forgive their trespasses as you ask them to forgive yours. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Get Back Up When You’re Knocked Down
Whether sacked while standing in the pocket or tackled while running down the field, get up, get up, get up. That play is over. Maybe you gained yards, and maybe you lost them, but if the clock is still ticking, the game is not over. Stand tall, wipe the dirt off your knees, and move on. “This is what the Lord says: You know if a man falls down, he gets up again. And if a man goes the wrong way, he turns around and comes back” (Jeremiah 8:4).

Be Ready to Receive
The ball is in the air, and all eyes are on you. Are you ready to receive the ball and run with it? Be open to whatever comes your way or lies ahead. Keep your eyes open and your heart accepting. When your time comes, greet it with open arms, ready to make the catch and run toward the goal. Sometimes the catch will be good, and other times it will be painful, but always be ready, for “who knows if you were [born] for a time such as this” (Esther 4:14).

Signal For a Fair Catch
Sometimes life comes at you fast, and often there is no clear path on which to run. It’s at these times when you should call for a fair catch. Stop, take a breath, and let others know you’ve pushed pause on the play. We all get overwhelmed. Everyone comes to a place where they don’t see a path or a place to run. We need to let others know, at these times, that we need a break. As a wife and mother, I’ve been in this place many times. Until we follow the Lord’s example and take time to pray and be at peace, we will never be able to move ahead. Learn to recognize these moments, accept them, and use them to your advantage. “He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while'” (Mark 6:31).

Accept Loss and Learn From It
As a Washington fan, I can assure you that life brings us many more losses than wins! Okay, maybe not in the case of Tom Brady, but certainly in the lives of most ordinary people! We all have ups and downs, and often, the downs come wave after wave, seeming to never stop or slow down. Those are the times when we need to stand back and reassess. Why are we losing? Are we trying hard enough? Have we learned from past mistakes? Are we working as a team? Are we doing our very best? Are we following the rules? Are we aiming for the right places in the right way with the right tools and people? Are we listening to our Coach (aka God)? Sometimes our losses can be gains. We just have to stand back and watch the replays. “We must understand then, that even though God doesn’t always give us what we want, he always gives us what we need” (Saint Augustine).

Go With the Momentum
When you’re on top, keep moving ahead. Take advantage of those moments in life when you just know that things are working, that things are coming together. Continue pushing forward with faith in yourself and faith in God. “It is not the actual physical exertion that counts toward a man’s progress, nor the nature of the task, but the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken” (St. Francis Xavier). Know that victory is yours if you…

Have Confidence in Yourself and God
I can’t say it any better than this: “Those whose hearts are enlarged by confidence in God run swiftly on the path of perfection. They not only run, they fly; because, having placed all their hope in the Lord, they are no longer weak as they once were. They become strong with the strength of God, which is given to all who put their trust in Him” (Saint Alphonsus Liguori).

Come see Amy on one of these dates:

March 9, 2022 – Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, Wayne, PA 6:00PM – Lenten Reflection 
April 9, 2022 – First Landing Wine and Arts Festival, St. Clement’s Island Museum, Clements, MD
June 4, 2022 – Christ Church 350th Anniversary Fair, Broomes Island, MD

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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. The Good Wine, the sequel to Whispering Vines was released in June of 2021. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s chapter book is The Greatest Gift, and her most recent suspense novel is Summer’s Squall

Amy’s second book in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, was awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy,  Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019. Amy’s book, Desert Fire, Mountain Rain begins her new Buffalo Springs series. Book two, Under the Summer Moon, was released in December of 2021. 

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020), The Good Wine (2021), Under the Summer Moon (2021).

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