The biggest value of sports and competition are the lessons available if we are only willing to look.
In 2008, there was an unusual high school football game played in Grapevine, Texas. The game was between Grapevine Faith Academy and the Gainesville State School. Faith is a Christian school and Gainesville State School is located within a maximum security correction facility.
Gainesville State School has 14 players. They play every game on the road and their record was 0-8. They only scored twice and their 14 players are teenagers who have been convicted of crimes ranging from drugs to assault to robbery. Most had families who had disowned them. They wore outdated, used shoulder pads and helmets. Faith Academy was 7-2. They had 70 players, 11 coaches, and the latest equipment.
Chris Hogan, the head coach at Faith Academy, knew the Gainesville team would have no fans and it would be no contest, so he thought, What if half of our fans and half of our cheerleaders, for one night only, cheered for the other team? He sent out an email to the faithful asking them to do just that. "Here’s the message I want you to send," Hogan wrote. "You’re just as valuable as any other person on the planet."
Some folks were confused and thought he was nuts. One player said, "Coach, why are we doing this?" Hogan said, "Imagine you don’t have a home life, no one to love you, no one pulling for you. Imagine that everyone pretty much had given up on you. Now, imagine what it would feel like and mean to you for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you." The idea took root.
Imagine the surprise of those 14 players when they took the field and there was a banner the cheerleaders had made for them to crash through. They had cheerleaders leading cheers for them and the visitor’s bleachers were full of fans calling them by name. Isaiah, the quarterback-middle linebacker, said, "I never in my life thought I would hear parents cheering us to tackle and hit their kids. Most of the time, when we come out, people are afraid of us. You can see it in their eyes, but these people are yelling for us. They knew our names."
Faith won the game, and afterward, the teams gathered at the 50-yard line to pray. That’s when Isaiah, the teenage convict-quarterback surprised everybody and asked if he could pray . "Lord, I don’t know what just happened so I don’t know how or who to say thank you to, but I never knew there were so many people in the world who cared about us."
On the way back to the bus, under guard, each one of the players was handed a burger, fries, a coke, candy, a Bible, and an encouraging letter from the players from Faith Academy.
Since that time, there have been other schools get involved and the video below is the most recent follow up of this highly underpublicized act of love.
We "church folk" don’t always get it right, but this is an act of Christian witness, kindness, and goodness. Proverbs 11:17 says, "Your own soul is nourished when you are kind." Proverbs 3:27 says, "Do not withhold good when it is in your power to act."