Staying Power

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pancho Gonzalez was the world’s number one professional tennis player for an unequalled eight years in the 1950s and early 1960s. He is still widely considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game. A 1999 Sports Illustrated selected him number 15 in the magazine's 20 "favorite athletes" of the 20th century. In 1948 this virtually unknown player won the national tennis championship in a grueling battle. A sports writer commented that Gonzales had a marvelous serve and a skillful volley but said the factor that won the championship was his staying power. “He was never defeated by the discouraging vicissitudes of the game.” In other words, he didn’t let the constant changes or fluctuations get the best of him. When the game didn’t go his way, he didn’t let discouragement creep into his thoughts. The player was able to face his obstacles and run with endurance the race set before him.

More recently, two young men, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, vied in another Wimbledon tennis match, the longest game in the tournament’s history. Isner of Tampa, Florida, came out as winner after 11 hours and 5 minutes. Previously, neither Isner nor Mahut of France had made it past the first round in the tournament at Wimbledon.

It was a grueling three days. It has been estimated that during the course of the tournament each player sprinted 24 miles and sweated nearly 10 pounds of water. Their body temperatures probably vacillated between 95 and 105 degrees. Some say they could have burned 6,000 calories during the marathon event. Isner reportedly consumed 12 energy bars and gallons of water and energy drinks during the match. He attributed practice in Florida’s intense heat and humidity to his ability to endure. Isner told NBC's "Today" show that he'd gotten a mere "six hours" of sleep the night before the final match and had "no skin left on any of my toes.”

Sports psychologists have noted that players must also go through emotional conditioning in order to handle the stress. The men seemed equal in skill and determination. Both needed to be single-minded in their effort to endure a match of this length.

Both men had staying power. They did not become defeated by the vicissitudes of the game. How do we get that staying power? How can we never become defeated by the vicissitudes of the game?

How do we train so that we’ll last through the hard times? What can we learn from these young men about duration? About tasting victory? About never giving up?

We too can be strong when facing trials. We must train our minds, bodies, and spirit to go the distance. Scripture reminds us to throw away anything that entangles us and to run with perseverance to win the race. With God’s help we can win. We can last. We too can have staying power.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1


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