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Pat Macken

Hope: the strength to bounce back

Voices Jan. 7, 2019

Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks "has the word 'belief' written all over him," Macken writes. (Larry Maurer photo / Wikimedia Commons)

Certain teams and athletes never seem to be out of the game. They are known for working hard, bouncing back from adversity, and making great comebacks. In the National Hockey League this year, the Calgary Flames have garnered a reputation for being that type of team. Tennis player Raphael Nadal is known for his pushback, and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks has the word "belief" written all over him.

One of the most important things players and coaches can learn is to hope things will get better within the game or later in the season. Those who don't possess this quality won't last too long in competitive sports.

The ability to come back requires making good adjustments, changing strategies, and at times having the physical strength to wear down an opponent and catch them later in the game. For athletes, hope often comes from their coach, from confidence in their training, and from previous experiences with comebacks.

In our daily lives, our hope for a better world comes from God, through his son Jesus Christ. When we have seen our prayers answered and believe in God's promises, we can be assured of our ultimate victory in heaven. We must have far more confidence and assurance of this victory than Tom Brady has ever had in the last two minutes of a game.

One of the greatest signs of hope is resilience. In the sport of tennis, players might expect their opponent to give up after losing the first set. But when that opponent keeps returning the ball, showing energy, and not losing hope, it shows true resilience. 

Off the courts, we need to bounce back from our own sinfulness, and God loves to see his children trusting his mercy and repenting over and over again. Spiritual directors, like coaches, can help form strategies that help us get up, bounce back, and believe in God's infinite mercy. 

In sports or in faith, hope is so important in continuing the fight. As Catholics, we not only hope and think we can win the game, we know we will win the game, since we have been promised this by our loving Father.

Justice means treating others with fairness. In sports, this begins with a good work ethic. In fairness to coaches and teammates, players must work hard at their training and during games. How is it fair if one person slacks off and makes lazy mistakes that costs their hard-working teammates a loss?

This is also important in the home and in the workplace. Are you doing your share of duties around the house, or are others cleaning up after you? Are your co-workers putting in a diligent effort to produce a great product, but your sloppiness is making it inferior?

Players who embrace justice on the field will also not cheat, make excuses, or disrespect opponents and officials. The idea that some athletes will disrespect all rules of fair play for a win shows immense vanity. One of the worst examples in recent years has been the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs in the Olympics and in Major League Baseball. Any baseball player who cheats commits an injustice that should keep them out of the Hall of Fame permanently.

Sports is an excellent area to examine hope and justice. We don't have to look far for some good examples to emulate: the Sedin twins, Travis Lulay, Brock Boeser, and Russell Wilson.

We know God the Father is just and will reward loving behaviour. We also know there are consequences for unjust, unethical actions. Let's make a resolution for 2019 to show hope and justice in our sports, at home, and in the workplace.