A Season on the Sidelines
Finding peace even when my Olympic hopes and career as a Canadian athlete are on the line.
In the past two months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have each found ourselves in the midst of our own set of strange circumstances. We have unique challenges and obstacles and even, if you’re lucky, maybe a few silver linings too.
For me, it’s certainly been a challenging road, especially since I still have no idea what the road “back” to where I was pre-pandemic looks like.
I am a professional basketball player, and since competitive sports are one of the less essential, if not the least essential parts of society (rightfully so), my season was one of the first things to end when the global pandemic was announced by the WHO on March 11.
I was in Siberia at the time, playing in the Russian Premier League for a club called Dynamo Novosibirsk. We had just finished our last regular season game on March 15, when the Russian Basketball Federation decided initially to postpone the season for two weeks. I made the choice to terminate my contract and come back home as I was afraid of getting stuck in Siberia with borders closing and flights quickly becoming non-existent.
Following my two-week quarantine in Vancouver, I headed back up north to stay with my parents in my hometown of Houston, B.C., and have been here with them since.
Over the past months I’ve had to process so much loss that happened seemingly overnight. The Russian Professional season was cancelled. The Tokyo Olympics, which I have been working towards for the last eight years, were postponed. A contract that I was about to sign fell through. All the gyms were closed and all training camps were cancelled. It was a lot to take in.
On top of all the loss, everything about my future began to feel unsettled. When will basketball come back? Will it ever come back? What if the pandemic isn’t over by next summer and the Olympics are cancelled? Will I be able to play overseas this fall? What if I can’t? How will I get by?
The questions and uncertainty have seemed never-ending.
It wasn’t until I caught myself in a vicious cycle of news checking and worrying that I realized I wasn’t trusting God; instead I was trusting my judgement and intuition.
And from there I began a journey back into the word of God and into the peace that surpasses all understanding, even in the middle of a pandemic. One verse in particular really spoke to me:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
I was reminded that God is in control and his love covers us all, even when our world feels like it’s in complete chaos.
Rested and refreshed
Today, none of my circumstances have changed. My future is still very uncertain, and I honestly don’t know the next time I’ll play in a real basketball game. But my hope is in the Lord. I know that he is in control, and that he is working even in these hard times.
About a month ago, I jumped back into a training plan. Strength, cardio and prehab, with hopefully some on-court work coming soon. I don’t know when I will play again. I don’t know when my next training camp will be, but I’m staying ready. I’m using this time to prepare my body, to rest it, but also to prime it for when we get the green light to play. I’m also trying to take advantage of this time to enjoy the silver lining of precious family time, something that I’ve been missing dearly for the last eight years as I’ve travelled the world chasing an orange ball. And lastly, I’m using this time to really dig into the Word. My soul has been so refreshed already. I can feel my faith growing within my heart as I continue to dig into God’s Word in a way that I never have before in my life. I’m storing up his promises in my heart. I’m trusting that he is in control.
It’s been humbling to have my whole world come to a crashing stop. But in the uneasy stillness I have found God, right at my side, comforting me, asking me to trust him. It’s been a process of pruning as he is removing my need to know and control, while reframing my lofty goals into treasuring him above all else. I do hope dearly that I’ll be able to play basketball someday soon, but in the meantime, I’ll be staying ready and enjoying the fruit of this strange and wonderful season of my life. A season I will look back on one day and treasure in my heart, because it was the season God drew me near to his heart.