“Would you be interested in running a girls’ basketball practice Monday night,” the text read.
I cringed. Apparently, the earlier group email requesting parent coverage for our children’s practice hadn’t produced any takers. Now the coach was asking me personally. There were a lot of things I’d be up for – but coaching basketball was not one of them. I can still vividly remember how disastrous 5th grade basketball tryouts were for me. Put me in position as coach, and there was no telling the damage I’d do!
“It’s easy,” the coach added. “I’ll write out all the plays and drills.”
He was making it very hard to say no—and so was my conscience.
“OK,” I typed back knowing that was the right answer. But I did not have an immediate sense of peace—instead I felt anxious. I honestly did not know the first thing about basketball. But I knew I loved my daughter and her best friend … and they loved basketball practice. Therefore, I knew I needed to show up for them.
On the night of practice, I gathered the third and fourth grade players in a tight circle and laid it all out there.
“My name is Miss Rachel, and I’m going to be your coach tonight,” I said cheerfully to fifteen eager faces. “My sport in high school and college was tennis, and I don’t know anything about basketball,” I truthfully admitted. “So I am just here to encourage you to do your best and cheer you on.”
Without missing a beat, a little girl stepped forward and earnestly said, “Miss Rachel, that’s all we really need in a coach.”
I released a long-held breath. Just show up – that was all they needed from me tonight. I assured myself.
I proceeded to run the drills as planned by the coaches and gave the girls many opportunities to show me the ropes. Although they were focused and determined most of the night, I created a few laughs when I cheered, “Get it in the hole!” as one player went for a layup.
At the end of the night, I received several hugs and the greatest compliment from the coach’s daughter herself.
“That was the best practice I ever had,” she said with a huge smile.
I sent up a silent prayer of gratitude that I’d chosen to show up even though I felt ill-prepared and completely unqualified. And since that night, I show up every Saturday afternoon to be there for my team – not on the floor where the coaches sit, but as close as to the court as any spectator can get. I know all the players’ names. I know their strengths and their weaknesses. I cheer when they run, block, and pass. I cringe when they fall. I hold my breath when they shoot. I am invested in these players – mind, heart, spirit, and soul.
It’s what coaches do.
I guess maybe I am a coach.
Maybe we can be something we don’t think we’ll ever be just by doing it.
Maybe this is how we become someone or something we never thought we’d be.
I’ll always remember the day Banjo our cat was attacked when he’d accidentally gotten out. For years, my daughters and I’d joked that with his majestic “mane” and regal attitude he surely believed he was a lion.
But on the day of the attack, Banjo had drug himself home, bloodied, battered, and injured, yet bound and determined to get to us. When I relayed his triumphant actions to my daughter Avery, she ran to his side and with tearful jubilation she exclaimed, “Banjo! This proves you really are a lion!”
After composing myself from Avery’s stirring proclamation, I grabbed one of my tiny notebooks where I record things I never want to forget. I knew Avery’s wise words would someday come in handy.
Today is that day.
Banjo proved he was a lion at heart because of his actions.
I’d proved I was a basketball coach because of my actions.
And something tells me there is actionable proof to be noticed in your life too.
To the woman on the treadmill whose inner critic sneers, “Everyone is looking at you,” or “You have no place here,” …
Don't listen to that voice. Look at the proof.
You are a runner because you run.
To the man yearning to know his written words matter—perhaps a published article, a literary award, or a little traffic to his blog.
Don’t let those conquests define you. Look at the proof.
You are a writer because you write.
To the individual with a debilitating condition wondering if you’ll ever overcome the pain and live a normal life.
Don’t underestimate the life you are managing to live right now. Look at the proof.
You are a survivor because you survive.
To the individual with a classroom of struggling students wondering if you're making a difference when test scores don’t show it.
Don’t forget to notice the progress that can’t be measured. Look at the proof.
You are a teacher because you teach.
To the individual speaking up for what’s right …
To the individual doing everything he can to help his struggling child …
To the individual working two jobs to reach her dream …
To the individual giving time, effort, and expertise to lift those in despair …
To the individual showing up despite feeling unqualified simply because someone is counting on you …
You are a light because you shine.
My friends, I have one last thing I must tell you. My dear friend and brilliant writer, Lisa McCrohan, has repeatedly said something to me since we met in the blogging world as we were both were starting our respective publishing journeys. On days I’d feel defeated wondering if my words had any significance, a message from Lisa would divinely pop into my inbox.
“Look at you, Rachel! You’re doing it! You’re doing it!”
That is what she would say. With tearful jubilation I'd think to myself: Yes, she’s right. I see the proof! And then I’d go right back to work.
Today I encourage you look for the actionable proof in your life.
What you never thought you’d be, may BE exactly who you are … simply because you’re doing it.
You are an artist.
You are a musician.
You are a peacekeeper.
You are a change-maker.
You are good person.
You are a healer.
You are a survivor.
You are a light in someone’s darkness.
You’re doing it. You're doing it.
And I’m cheering you on from as close as any spectator can get.
Dear friends of the Hands Free Revolution: if you are not on Facebook or Instagram, you might have missed the release of my first ONLY LOVE TODAY book trailer, GET OFF THE SCALE, produced by Emmy Award Winning SALT Project. See what half a million people have viewed over the past few days and be encouraged. Click here to watch.
Exciting news! If you have pre-ordered ONLY LOVE TODAY or do so in the coming weeks, you have several bonus gifts waiting for you. My talented book cover designer, Juicebox Designs, has turned my favorite quotes from my new book into gorgeous visual reminders for you to use in your daily life. Pre-order gifts include: 4 adult coloring pages, 4 reminder signs, 4 bookmarks, and an ONLY LOVE TODAY phone lock screen. Instructions for obtaining those gifts with your receipt can be found here! Pre-order your copy of ONLY LOVE TODAY at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or ChristianBook.com. Thank you so much for showing my publisher that my work is valued & should continue through the purchase of my books. Your support blesses my family & me immensely.
Thank you! I needed to read this today – you have reminded me of what’s truly important.
“You are a writer, because you write.”
Rachel Stafford says
I am so glad that line was for you, Raven, and provided affirmation! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! Means so much!
Rachel, I don’t know if you would remember me or not. I had commented on one of your older posts a while back telling my story and since then I have followed your blog through email and although I haven’t had the time, I finally took it today. And these words were exactly what I needed to hear. I even teared up a little because… No one has ever told me I COULD be something. All my life while I was raising my siblings, and caring for my mom, it was always what I SHOULD be.
I SHOULD be a better daughter.
I SHOULD be a better sister.
I SHOULD have my life together.
I SHOULD be in college.
But not once did I ever think I could do the things I wanted. That I COULD write. That I COULD cook. That I COULD meet the guy lol.
This post gives me courage to conquer mountains and pursue my dreams.
Thank you. Soooooo much.
Rachel Stafford says
WOW! I am so happy to hear from you, Carrie! I remember you! I just love to know that you heard the COULD message of empowerment meant for you today!!! Please keep sticking with me … I will keep encouraging you, dear one. Your light is bright. Keep shining!!!
Laura Jane says
Oh Rachel, you had me crying at the very beginning, as usual, this time with, “That’s all we really need in a coach.” Thank you for reminding me that the hardest part is already done. I’m here and so is the capacity to love. (How did you sum up my whole mothering journey in one post?) So excited for Only Love Today, can’t wait to read it, and I know it is going to bring hope to so many. Love and blessings to you, friend!
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Laura Jane! Your encouragement is such a blessing!
Rachel – thank you! As a busy mom struggling to be more “hands free”, your writing always resonates with me … but especially this post today. At a time when I am struggling with my own challenges and having a hard time acknowledging the progress, this was the reminder that I needed. My yoga teacher always talks about the principle of non-violence and how it starts with being kind to yourself. Thank you for reminding me of what that truly means.
[…] I read: I’ve read less than I’d hoped to this week. But still a lot considering I was working really long days. This lovely reminder. […]