To the Student-Athlete Whose Season Just Got Canceled

To the athlete who thrives in those killer early morning workouts because championship goals are pulsating in your veins . . . 

The shooting guard who spends hours of overtime on the court because you know this tireless sweat equity is going to pay off when the ball is tipped . . .

The lacrosse attacker who falls into bed exhausted, wakes up sore, but never stops grinding with leadership, positivity, and selfless teamplay . . .

The softball pitcher who is still wildly in love with the sport that taught you, punished you, and shaped you in profound and life-changing ways . . . 

The athlete whose season just got canceled, 

I’m so sorry. This season meant everything to you—the opportunity to compete with your brothers or your sisters on the court, on the field, on the ice, on the track, in the swim lanes—and you just saw that opportunity end without much warning.

You didn’t get to battle for the conference title, your hopes for a Cinderella championship run just got shattered, your dreams of cutting down nets or breaking records or sweeping the tourney just punched you in the gut then disappeared in the chaos of the last few days. 

Your disappointment is sharp. It’s fierce. It’s clawing at the deepest parts of you, because you feel the most alive in that uniform, when it’s game time and you’re doing the thing you’ve invested years and sweat and pulled muscles and torn ACLs and tears and all your hustle into. 

But maybe even the deepest disappointment is the loss of the glorious highs and heartbreaking lows you share with your teammates—your sisters, your brothers. The people who are hustling and sweating and laughing and draining shots and scoring goals and pep talking and running drills next to you. The ones sleeping on the team bus and sitting in the freezing-cold ice baths beside you. The best friends who never stop telling you to keep your head up, who push you to empty the tank, who hype you after the huge win, who lean on you after the crushing loss. 

You wanted the chance to leave it all on the court, on the field with your teammates, for your coaches. This was about more than tourney seeds and championship banners and titles; this was about battling together. This was about relationships and memories and the stories you’d tell and the tough lessons you’d learn. This was about looking at each other in the huddle, knowing you had their backs, not just until the buzzer, but in the locker room, in class, and any time they needed an assist from a friend. 

This mattered. You get to grieve and feel the disappointment, because the grief is real, and your normal just disappeared. But now you have a new opportunity to empty the tank with your teammates: 

You get to learn how to respond when life changes unexpectedly. 

When circumstances cut us down at the knees and we want to scream and call foul, we actually can choose what happens next. 

We can let the pain take us out. Yeah, it stings, it burns, it’s gonna bruise. It smacked us like an unfair cheap shot, and we can hold onto that pain—stare at it, claim it, let it define us, and lose ourselves in what was stolen from us. 

Or we can believe difficult paths lead us to valuable purposes, and we can choose to let the real pain carve us into resilient fighters who see hope in the midst of the hard. 

That’s when the really good stuff happens—when we enter into the realities of unwanted, unasked-for pain and open our hearts wide to the deep, can’t-get-anywhere-else lessons in life’s beatdowns. 

Just like you dig deeper to finish those insane drills, when your body is begging you to quit, I know you can dig deeper to choose gratitude when your pain is telling you to cling to self-focused resentment. 

Just like you drown out a hostile crowd to focus on the game plan when you’re down one point, inbounding the ball with 00.03.02 on the clock, your court vision tracking your four teammates, passing it under the hoop for a wild last-second tip-in—I know you can drown out the giving-up voices and adapt to make a big comeback with a relentless hope mindset. 

It’s not easy, but change and canceled plans are the training ground where our hope and gratitude muscles develop. 

Sidelined athletes everywhere, you have the potential to turn some of your deepest disappointments into life-giving moments of over-the-top gratitude. 

Something you love like crazy got taken away from you, but you can grind through the pain to declare that your hope doesn’t live and breathe in sports or championships or competition. 

Your hope can rest in a living and breathing God who loves you, who sees you, who created you with mind-blowing intentionality, and who saw when your dreams for this season imploded.

His unchanging love can anchor you, His compassionate kindness can heal what hurts. And that kind of goodness is meant to be shared. 

Your story didn’t end with this season. You’re not done yet. There’s more for you to do. 

Use your voice to do this: 

Comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone . . . always pursue what is good for one another and for all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess. 5:14–18) 

Share laughter instead of bitterness. 

Spread hope instead of anger. 

Exercise resilience instead of falling into complacency. 

Express big gratitude over and over again.

This canceled season might keep stinging. That’s okay, it’s going to feel raw for a while. Gratitude and hope aren’t the bandage you’ll slap over that wound; gratitude and hope are the healing agents that turn this wound into a story of strength, endurance, and faith in the God who sees. 

To the student-athlete whose season was just canceled, 

Choose gratitude for the ability to sprint and swim and pitch a softball and to drain a fadeaway jump shot. Choose gratitude for your sport, for your team and coaches, the moments you’ve shared, for the memories that are yours forever, for every huddle, for every game that gave you the privilege of putting on a uniform. 

Keep looking for the bright light in the darkness of disappointment. It’s there. It’s called hope. It’ll change you into the kind of athlete who knows the real secret: adversity makes for the very best kind of gametime conditions. 

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