Champions are built from the inside out. I’m certain that’s true following one of the most memorable finishes to the college football season.
Jalen Hurts lead the Alabama Crimson Tide to a storybook win over the Georgia Bulldogs, going from the sidelines back into the spotlight. Some called it poetic justice after being benched throughout the season. Some pointed out the Disney movie potential of it all. He called it God’s timing.
Not only is Hurts a champion because of his game-winning touchdown run that secured a 27th Southeastern Conference title for the Tide or his help in solidifying the team’s standing in the College Football Playoff. He’s a champion because of moments where his character was revealed.
Case in point.
In my mind, being a champion has less to do with having a spectacular season and has more to do with how you cultivate healthy team culture, your perspective on your circumstances, doing what you can with what you have, and trusting God with what’s out of your control. It isn’t about the prestige, the credibility or magnetism attached to the title. Referring to someone as a champion is about their way of being and how they move through the world. And the young man wearing No. 2 showed everyone that.
Here are the champion-like qualities that athletes can possess at any point in their season.
Champions seek to cultivate and maintain healthy environments to thrive in. The one wearing the whistle has a responsibility to value accountability, but players have a crucial part to play in setting the tone for their teams, too.
Be a champ: Take full responsibility for your actions. You will make mistakes. How you learn from them matters. Blame-shifting is an easy way out, but owning your mistakes and acknowledging how you will improve is the challenge worth taking (Gal 6:1).
Honesty is the best policy, but how you communicate honesty determines if the person you’re being honest with will receive the truth that you’re telling. Tell the truth in love. That goes for the people you interact with as well as the person who looks back at you in the mirror.
Be a champ: If you’re concerned with a teammate’s behavior or a coach’s tone, choose a time to sit with them and share your heart. If someone is being honest with you about your behavior, try not to be defensive, hear what they have to say, and consider making an adjustment regarding their concern (Eph 4:15).
What Coach Pat Summitt said is true: "They don't care how much you know, unless they know how much you care.” Her comment was directed at those who coach, but anyone can apply that lesson in their interactions and relationships. Identifying with another’s emotions establishes connection and a depth of vulnerability that is authentic.
Be a champ: Take time to listen to the people that share space with you. Listen to understand instead of listening to react. Try to notice the emotion they’re expressing and verbalize what they may be feeling. Letting them know that you can relate to them communicates that you care (James 1:19).
Shift your view on the circumstances in your life that may be leaving you in a rut. Try to see a challenging season as an opportunity to grow in your relationship with God. Possess the ability to see the long game and your role in it.
Be a champ: Prioritize being in the presence of the Lord. Take time to hear from the Lord in the stillness of a new day. That may take the form of a morning run or worshiping through song as you get ready for the day. As your feet hit the floor in the morning, thank God for granting you another 24 hours to discern how He wants to be glorified through you (Prov 3:5).
Be attentive in how you approach your workouts. Focus on doing the little things well. Practice prepares you for peak performance. Strive for excellence, not perfection.
Be a champ: Ask yourself what are the things that get in the way of your growth. Take inventory of your distractions, decide which one you’ll get rid of for a week and make a note of your experience (Col 3:23).
Have a “we before me” spirit. Recognize that there is a supporting cast working around the clock worthy of acknowledgement.
Be a champ: Share the credit when you have a personal win. Take a screenshot of the last 10 people you’ve texted/called and list how they’ve added to your life. Find ways to say “thank you” using their love language with your words, your time, your gifts, your affection, or your resources (Prov 11:2).
Be diligent and disciplined in your work. When distractions try to demand your attention or when setbacks leave you uncertain, do what you can to the best of your ability and, as Jalen said in postgame comments, leave the ultimate results in God’s hands.
Be a champ: Continuously whisper prayers throughout your day petitioning God to give you patience and to restore hopefulness in your life in uncertain times (Rom 12:12).
Champions aren’t made once the clock reads :00 on gameday or when the confetti falls from the rafters. Champions are made from the inside out.