As someone whose first love was basketball, I can’t tell you how many times throughout my life I’ve compared life’s struggles and triumphs to the game I so enjoy.
Obviously, shooting slumps aren’t nearly as significant as true, consequential hardships, but experiencing the former as a child has certainly helped me better understand, and cope with, the latter as an adult. Indeed, the highs and lows of sports draw many parallels to those of everyday life.
For that reason, Thomas Wurtz’s book “Compete Inside: 100 Reflections to Help you Become the Complete Athlete,” though aimed specifically at Catholic athletes, is a worthwhile read for anybody.
The book features 100 page-long chapters, each beginning with a daily reflection that focuses on, and offers faith-based solutions to, inevitable struggles an athlete will face. Examples of topics include winning humbly, losing graciously, being a supportive teammate and remembering what is so easy to for an athlete to forget: that your stats on the field are in no way connected to God’s image of you as a person.
The topics cover such a wide range of the athlete’s experience that, whether you’re LeBron James or the player at the end of the bench, you’ll undoubtedly find reflections to which you can relate.
Each chapter also includes a quote or two excerpted from the Bible that supports Wurtz’s points, followed by a series of follow-up questions that encourages readers to reflect on how well they are incorporating said points into their approaches to their sport. The questions are posed in such a way that they are applicable not only to athletics, but also to any worthwhile endeavor.
For example, when Wurtz implores readers to trust in their practice and preparation so as to avoid succumbing to performance anxiety, he asks, “Do I trust that God is faithful and wants the very best for me? In what areas of my life do I need to trust more in the Lord?”
Whether you are a professional athlete or someone who has never so much as thrown a baseball, questions like these serve as a powerful reminder for us all.
Though very well-intentioned, the writing does become a little repetitive. While the book features 100 reflections, there aren’t 100 different topics; it’s more accurate to say the book offers variations on 15-20 distinct concepts. Wurtz acknowledges as much; he advises in his introduction that “some of the concepts may resonate more deeply than others,” and concedes in the final reflection that “some of the themes (presented in the preceding pages) are closely related.”
While Wurtz encourages the readers to enjoy the book at their own leisure, I believe it works best when digested in a daily manner, rather than all at once, especially when you consider how quickly we as human beings tend to forget meaningful life lessons.
Wurtz’s own athletic background (he was an all-state high school quarterback in Arizona) enables his take on the athlete’s psyche to remain relatable, even for readers who aren’t as unwavering as Wurtz is in their faith.
“Compete Inside” would make a great gift, and a timely one at that for middle school-and high school-aged athletes. In today’s day and age, when religion is often kept so separate from sports that public school athletic teams aren’t even allowed to pray together prior to games, it’s really refreshing to find a book that encourages athletes to keep God at the forefront of their training and their play.
For young athletes learning how to overcome adversity and offer the glory of success up to God, some lessons need to be learned and relearned over and over again (isn’t that true for all of us in any endeavor?). “Compete Inside” offers athletes, and anyone else who cares to read it, 100 such opportunities to do so.