When you are younger, it is a staple in the FAQs section for adulthood. One question mapping the entire journey of where you go and how you get there, but few are able to stick to their first response. What do you want to be when you grow up?
For me the answer was easy, clear cut with no alternatives—I was going to be a pro athlete, duh. You cannot help but roll your eyes at that now.
According to the NCAA, the estimated probability of being called upon or drafted into Olympic or professional level sports is around a 2.1% average, varying slightly depending on the sport you play.
No one ever told me that, or if they did, I did not listen.
In an interview with Kearney Hub, youth sports coach Herb Welling put it bluntly—many athletes lack the emotional maturity to handle the end of their career, so no one ever truly thinks about it.
“When it comes to an end, what you knew since you were eight years old—you put on a helmet and shorts, or you put on a baseball glove—then all of sudden your dream and passion is all gone,” Welling said. “Now you have the rest of your life.”
It is a gripping realization needing to be addressed delicately. What do you tell someone who does not realize their dream is not going to come true? The short answer—diversify.
In 1 Corinthians 12:5-6, Paul writes:
“There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”
If we use our passion to serve, then there is comfort in this verse. We have other options. We have other talents. We are bigger than how we choose to define ourselves.
This message is reinforced in 1 Peter 4:10-11 when Peter writes:
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
I always viewed these verses strictly in relation to the worship service. If you can sing, lead singing. If you can speak, then teach. But the truth of these Scriptures runs deeper than that. We are called to do more.
In terms of sports, there are distinct qualities enforced in the careers of an athlete—leadership, work ethic, discipline. Like singing, utilize these traits in a way which praises God. Incorporate what you have learned in the pursuit of your dream and turn a minor shortcoming into an avenue of worship.
If you employ this tactic while revisiting our initial question, what do you want to be when you grow up, you learn to ignore the worldly replies. It is no longer the time-tested answer of a starry-eyed kid—I want to be a professional athlete.
Try to ask it again but tweak the answer to resound with an eternal purpose. What do you want to be when you grow up? The answer should be clearer. I want to be a servant of the Lord.