Third Day in Pads

Its August and preseason two-a-day practices for the upcoming football season have started. As both a player and coach, I experienced the challenge of summer camp and two-a-days many times. I have concluded the hardest practice to get through, mentally and physically, is the third day of wearing pads. The excitement of getting started carries everyone through the first two days despite it often having some intense conditioning. It seems to be the third day where the body and mind struggle with getting out of bed, putting on all the pads, and running out onto the practice field – which always seemed to be dry, dusty, and rock hard. After pushing through that practice, things level out as the body and mind adjust and adapt.

Some people say getting started is the hardest part. Others say finishing what we start is the challenge. However, in every journey there is a moment where we must push through. I was recently reminded of this – by my body and mind – during our move from a temporary townhouse residence to our renovated home. We hired movers for the big stuff, but since it was less than a five-mile car ride, we handled moving all the other items. This entailed multiple trips between the locations, but also numerous ascents and descents of the 3-level townhouse. I averaged over 25,000 steps/day for the week. At one point on day 3 of this move, the accumulative toll on the body was screaming – no more.

Tough days are part of the process to achieve our goals or obtain something of value, like playing under the lights on Friday nights. None of us go through life without struggles. It’s how we handle those tough sessions which really matters. Seeing them as temporary, an obstacle to step over or push through as part of the journey, will drive us to become better. It can be easy to give up. I have seen players at the high school and college level, not come back for day 4. Thomas Edison stated, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

If we aren’t pushing through, then we really aren’t living to our potential and there’s a good chance we are going to feel unfulfilled. We must embrace the tough part of the journey. It will be difficult; no doubt and requires strength, grit, determination, and perseverance. We need belief and conviction in the end goal. Show up, put in the effort, and focus on whatever is directly in front of us. I did a previous blog during the pandemic on Grinders. Those that show up every day, they are eager to work, and succeed through hard work, sweat, and determination.

There are plenty of life examples where we will start strong with excitement, then stall or even bottom out, only to rebound. I am an advocate for finishing strong, but we can’t finish strong without pushing through. Many of us experience this with diets. We start strong, get excited about what the end will look like, but at some point, not too far into the diet, we will struggle and either fall off the diet or stick to our convictions.

A few decades back I was doing new sales hire training and learned about the Gartner Hype Cycle, a graphic representation of the maturity lifecycle of new things. It was mainly developed for technology and innovations, but I found it applicable to newly hired sales reps.  The idea of the Gartner Hype Cycle is ideas or experiences kick off quickly, fueled by excitement. The excitement reaches a peak before falling rapidly into decline that bottoms out in a trough or valley. From there survivors climb the slope back to a level of productivity. My goal with the sales training was to lessen the bottoming out and to support the new hires through and beyond the trough. I do the same thing as a football coach on the third day in pads.

Jesus’ Crucifixion to the early disciples had to feel like the third day in pads. It was a tenuous time for the early Christians. The excitement of Jesus’ coming was replaced with disillusionment. The early church faced organized and government sponsored persecution. Thankfully the Disciples and early Christianity endured. Had they not pushed through in their faith, Christianity would have been crushed.

When hard times strike, Jesus offers an open invitation to take His hand and journey through them. On the other side, we discover a closer, deeper, and more mature walk with God. Abraham hit several difficult spots in his walk with God. First, God called him to leave his home country and go to a new land. Then Abraham and his wife Sarah faced a years-long struggle with infertility. Later, Abraham had to send his son Ishmael away. But the hardest of all was in Genesis 22, where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his miracle child, Isaac.

Luke 14:28-30: “Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’”  Acceptance of the call to be a disciple demands readiness to accept persecution and suffering. Mary Magdalene experienced anguish and even pain after witnessing the crucifixion and death of Jesus. She pushed through and was quickly comforted.

In an extraordinary way, the presence of God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – is always with us, pushing us through these third days.

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