Thursday, January 23, 2014

t3: a letter to a lady little john

Dear Lady Little John,

It’s been five whole years since I was in your shoes. My, how time flies. It seems like just yesterday I was shooting layups and running bleachers in Ted Lyons Gymnasium. Now, I can’t remember the last time I picked up a ball.

My heart’s been heavy this week with these thoughts, and I pray that God guards my words and fills them with grace.

In 7th grade I knew I wanted to win a state championship. It’s what I wished for on every falling star, every 11:11 and every birthday candle. It’s what my teammates and I worked so hard for, year around, for six years.

And we did it. And you want to know something? It doesn’t really matter.

I have countless trophies in a box in a closet in my parent’s house. I have t-shirts collecting dust under my bed. I have a picture and a banner in a gym I never go to. And, to tell you the truth, I don’t even really know where my ring is.

My college friends didn’t really care that I won. My husband and in-laws don’t really care that I won. My small group doesn’t care that I won. And my boss and coworkers don’t even know that I won.

In only five years, what was once the greatest accomplishment of my life has just become a fun fact at a dinner party.

I’m not telling you this to discourage you, to make you not care, to get you to quit. The truth is that I wouldn’t trade those years of basketball for anything. I learned invaluable lessons that benefit me to this day.

I’m telling you these things to give you perspective, so that one day you can look back on these days and be filled with happy thoughts. So that you will make the most of every practice, every scrimmage, every game, and that you will try to learn some things along the way.

1. Learn to be a good teammate. For the rest of your life you will be part of some kind of team, so you better start practicing now. Get to know your teammates. Encourage them in their weaknesses and compliment them on their strengths. But in the end, the best thing you can do for your team is to make yourself better.

Respect your coach. He’s part of your team, too. Whether you agree with him or not, he’s been around longer and knows more than you. And, if you’re going to be a good team, you all have to be united and you all have to support your coach. Learn to be a good teammate.

2. Learn to persevere. You’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some. You’re going to play your best game and you’re going to play your worst. You will face so many obstacles: injury, sickness, drama, complaints and just really bad days. But perseverance is the key to every success story.

The same happens in life. And just like life, you have two options when you lose. You can whine, complain, throw around the blame and give up. Or, you can learn something from it, work to be better and fight another day. Learn to persevere.

3. Learn to have fun. If you’re not having fun, then something’s wrong. The morning before every game my dad would look at me and say, “Today’s a good day. Why? Because today you get to play basketball.”

If you don’t agree, then maybe you should reevaluate your priorities. Maybe you should stop listening to all the drama. Maybe you should remind yourself why you fell in love with this game to begin with. My favorite high school memories begin and end with basketball. Learn to have fun.

I guess what I’m trying to say is keep your perspective. God created us solely to bring glory to his name. And when we disrespect our teammates and coaches, don’t give our best effort, or are ungrateful for His blessings, we fail that purpose.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
~1 Corinthians 10:31

I’m not saying if you do these things that you’re guaranteed to have a ring buried under old magazines and forgotten knick-knacks in some unknown drawer one day. But I think you’ll look back on this time and be a lot less disappointed with how you played and, more importantly, how you lived.

Wishing you the best in the rest of the season and beyond. Once a Little John, always a Little John.



  1. Jenny - love your thoughts. I played in high school and college... (Like you said, no one really cares)..but I learned so much about life in those many years. I also coached for a few years and tried to teach them these same lessons you mentioned....Yes you remember the wins and losses, but the the lessons to learn are most important.

  2. that is such a good perspective! i wish i could go back & tell my past self this! :)

  3. danville??? really??! we probably have mutual friends.

  4. You need to be a coach... AMAZING pep talk! :)

  5. Thank you, Savannah. I've been praying for you and your teammates and your coach this week. Play hard tonight and give all the glory to God! I'll be rooting for you.

  6. I do NOT need to be a coach, haha, I'm not near patient enough {to deal with parents}. I will, however, be an awesome basketball mom one day, though, {hopefully}.

  7. Yes, ma'am. I've been trying to figure which Arkansas town you were from, but haven't {is that creepy?} And, if you know where Danville is, then we probably do have mutual friends.

  8. Thank you, Robyn. I do, too! It's partly why I wrote it - because it's something I wish someone had told me.

  9. Thanks, Ashlee! I'm sure you were a great coach! And you're so right - the wins and losses seem so big in the moment, but down the road they aren't what matters most.

  10. Beautifully written!! I know lots of teachers (me included) who are mighty proud of you young lady. So proud to know you and know that you are a Little John. Thank you for these words of honest wisdom Jenny.

  11. This is so interesting to hear your perspective on this experience a few years down the road. My husband was a high school athlete. He's got the big box of medals collecting dust--and it's interesting to find out what he has taken away as worthwhile from that time and what he says he wish he hadn't valued so much at the time.

  12. I'm so glad you gained so many life lessons through that season of your life. Sports played such a huge role in my life from elementary school through high school and it's not the winning I remember most.

  13. You're so right! I was trying to remember a team we beat in the state tournament the other night and drew a blank, but I do remember jumping into water fountains and Halloween parties with the team. What sports did you play in high school?

  14. Isn't it funny how something we were once soooo proud of now sits in a box and collects dust? Perhaps, like your husband, I wish I wouldn't have taken everything so seriously. But then I wonder if I hadn't taken it so seriously, would there have been the same outcome?

  15. Thank you so much, Mrs. Ellis! It's a joy to write when it truly touches people. Thank you so much for your encouragement.

  16. I played Volleyball and ran track. Our Volleyball team was amazing, but I couldn't tell you our record now. Haha. Like you said, I remember the team dinners, TPing our coaches house, etc. :)