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Attitude of gratitude: Something for all of us

July 27, 2010

"Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful." - John Wooden

I spent a week basically unplugged from real life and it was great.

Colonial Baptist Church, of which I am proud to be a member, took 26 youths to the Wilds, a Christian camp in Brevard, N.C.

All of the kids spent from Monday afternoon to Saturday morning without any electronic equipment.

No phones (which means no texting).

No Internet.

No iPods.

No tv.

No nothing.

They heard the word of God at least three times a day and spent a gracious amount of time playing team games, fellowshipping and finding out there are hundreds of teens just like they all over the nation.

I had my phone and Internet access, but both were limited by choice.

I updated my Facebook status regularly, and sent a couple of e-mails, but that was it.

My wife and I, at the gracious request of our youth pastor, Scott Abercrombie, and his wife, Jennifer, were sponsors. That means we drove the 10-plus hours to the place each way, gave hugs, listened, laughed, smiled and prayed all 26 would leave the camp changed.

I know the adults were.

I watched kids play team games that were into it with full heart and soul and saw kids who just really didn't care.

I watched kids throughout the week with slings on their arms, walk around on crutches and have bandaged knees.

I saw kids with bruises, walk with limps, but they still participated and had smiles on their faces.

I saw kids who were exhausted from all the activity and still paid attention each night at the chapel service.

I saw kids make decisions that will affect their lives and the lives of those around them.

As we were driving back Saturday, my van with seven boys (which was rather interesting) I reflected back on the week and how it was just like a sports team.

There are kids who give it everything and kids who are just out there.

Kids get hurt in various ways and those kids still participate (remember, there is a difference between hurt and injured).

Kids are exhausted during training camp for any sport, but must always listen to the coach to know what to do next.

Kids make decisions on a sports team that affects them and their teammates.

Have they studied their playbook?

Do they know if the free safety does this, then they do that?

Do they show up for practice 10 minutes early or 10 minutes late?

Do they make excuses?

When returning a serve in volleyball, do the back row players follow the ball out of bounds, or do they stand there and guess?

Does the high school golfer try a shot just because or do they hit a shot they have practiced to help their score and the team score?

Does the basketball player shoot an extra 50 free throws knowing they will come in handy in the final seconds of a game?

Will the wrestler spend the extra 20 minutes on the mat or does he find a reason to leave 10 minutes early?

Well, at the Wilds, it is about God, your testimony and your walk?

In high school sports it's about the win and doing so graciously.

But high school sports is also about leadership from within and it's hard to be a leader when you slack in the weightroom, in the classroom and during practice.

It is also about your walk.

If you never say a word and bust your behind in those three places, kids will follow.

If you say you are the guy and slack in those three areas, you are far from a leader and will be a devisive part of the program.

Your walk also shows if your team is gracious in loss and even more gracious in victory.

No one likes a sore loser or a cocky winner.

I saw kids at the Wilds who lost competitions but still cheered, because that is what was expected of them.

I know no high school team is going to cheer after a loss, but they must always walk like champions after one.

Your walk is louder than your talk.

After every contest there is a winner and a loser.

That is athletics.

But, that doesn't excuse being either with an atrocious attitude.

That is inexcusable.

The first night at the Wilds, Tom Farrell preached on having an "Attitude of Gratitude."

The man is straight to the point with God's word.

He talked to teenagers (and us adults) about being grateful for what we have and quit complaining about what we do and don't have.

It's really easy to look on what others have and wonder why we don't have that same possession, attitude, responsibility or demeanor.

As a society we just spend way too much time on "what if" on what just happened instead of "what if" this can happen.

Are you backing the program or stabbing it and everyone involved with it in the back?

Do you say "thank you" when someone holds the door?

Do you say "you're welcome" after that person says thank you?

Is "please" in your vocabulary?

Sir or ma'am, anyone?

"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." - Romans 1:21

What would happen if communities spent from Aug. 2 to Oct. 30 in Ohio and from Aug. 2 to Nov. 6 in West Virginia doing nothing but being positive about the football program.

I know kids really like when they come home on Friday night after a loss and hear:

"Your team, coach, play-calling, defense (and whatever else you want to throw in there) stinks."

I know coaches really like hearing:

"Why didn't my kid play? Why did he only play in the fourth quarter? (and whatever else you want to throw in there)."

Be thankful your child is wearing a football uniform and not complaining about those who do.

Be thankful your daughter is a band geek (said with all love) and not one who laughs at those who are.

A negative attitude wears thin and wears down a program.

A positive attitude energizes and invigorates a program.

"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." - Philippians 4:11

We all want what is best for our children and adversity on the athletics field is OK.

Adversity in the classroom is OK when two term papers are due on the same day.

Adversity helps us understand our limitations, expectations and qualifications.

Do you think Maurice Clarett is thankful to be out of jail and back at Ohio State?

If a football team goes 2-8, the returning coaches and players do not want a repeat of that situation and must change the way they do things to ensure that doesn't happen again.

A 3-7 team can be a 6-4 team based on a lot of different things, intangibles like injuries being one of them.

A volleyball team can win a point if the serves rips into the top of the net and falls on the floor, regardless of which side it touches.

You can practice all you want and a return of serve when that happens rarely happens.

A wayward tee shot can hit a tree and bounce back into the middle of the fairway and a great tee shot right down the middle of the fairway can finish in a divot and options are limited.

What isn't limited is how people react to the situations.

If a golfer gets all incredulous that a perfect tee shot is lying in a divot and can't believe his or her luck, there is a good chance the next shot will not be good and bogey or worse is on the horizon.

If that same golfer accepts what just happened and moves on, I like the chances of a good shot being hit, setting up a chance for birdie or par.

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." - John Wooden

We can all be better in our daily lives.

I am the first in line because I sure know I can be a better husband, father, brother, uncle, nephew, friend, coach, teammate, sports editor and son of God.

The Wilds is not a perfect place because it is run by humans.

A church is not a perfect place because it is frequented by humans.

A workplace is not perfect because it employs humans.

Athletic teams are not perfect.

Sports is grounded in mistakes because they happen all the time. That doesn't mean you excuse the mistakes, just learn from them.

Nothing is perfect in this world because of humans.

But, that doesn't excuse us from bemoaning a bad break or a rough situation because there is a really good chance your neigher has it worse.

We make mistakes and we all let our emotions get the better of us far too often.

We want to see our high school sports teams win.

We want to see our bands and cheerleaders win competitions.

We want to win and we hate to lose. I believe we must be thankful we are able to do either.

"Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it." - Lou Holtz

I understand many people do not agree with me in this column. I don't expect you to.

If you do it means I am not doing my job and I love this profession.

I know many people think this is just drivel and that's Ok by me too.

I am just thankful you read it.

Thanks for reading!

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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