How two ambulatory athletes continue to inspire me as a coach
Last night I had the thrill of a lifetime watching one our track athletes snag first place in the para ambulatory division of the California State Track & Field Championships.
As we were waiting for her race, her mama showed me a picture of her when they picked her up from the orphanage in China. She came from a hard place, but her beautiful, dark eyes shone with light – a glimpse of her hopeful future.
Bayley was born without legs.
This Track season Bayley has been learning to run on blades. We have watched this young woman persevere through practices in the pouring rain and cold. These new blades have caused bruises and pain to her small frame, but step by step she has learned to use them to her advantage.
Every Track meet we have watched her improve. She often beat out other girls who ran on two legs next to her. To watch her run is to be inspired.
And that’s exactly how I felt sitting in the stands of a premiere stadium in California, which happens to be at Buchanan High School just up the street from our house.
I wedged myself behind her parents, my husband, and between her grandpa and my own daughter Giada who just promoted from 8th grade and has been Bayley’s teammate in the past. Bayley walked on to the track with confidence before a crowd of some 7,000 people. She waved at her parents.
And then she ran.
In fact, she ran the race of her life. Every step placed perfectly. She bested her own personal record by five seconds and soared to the finish line for a first place medal.
Yes, I was that crazy lady screaming from the middle of the stands. Yes, there were some tears. Bayley was a picture of overcoming. This young lady has defied the odds against her. She stands on determination and faith.
I’m going on twenty years of coaching Track & Field with my husband Shawn. This season we were coaching the team at our daughters’ high school, which was special because Shawn and I first started coaching at this high school with my late husband Ericlee in 2002. In so many ways, this experience feels like coming full circle. Our oldest daughter was the captain of the team and our younger two daughters are coming up behind her.
This year’s team is also special because it’s a diverse mix of athletes – some attend our high school, some are homeschoolers, some are new to the sport, while others we have coached for more than seven years. Our athletes represent many cultures. Several are adopted. Two of them are ambulatory – Bayley who was born without legs, and her sister Bethany who was born without a right arm. We celebrate the ways this mix of kids are a window into the family of God in all of its diversity and complexity. It’s been a true joy to coach them!
Tonight we watched Bayley and her sister Bethany compete in the 100 and 200 meter dash. Bethany shot out of the blocks and took first place in the 100 meter and 200 meter races with Bayley just a few steps behind her. Bethany left everything she had on the track. They both got personal records and took home medals. That put our little Christian school in first place in the Para Ambulatory Division.
Every time I see these girls run, I’m moved in my spirit by their perseverance. I am reminded of Hebrews 12:1 that says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
Friend, I don’t know what obstacles you are facing in your life race. Maybe the enemy is lying to you about your unworthiness. Maybe you are struggling with self-doubt, feeling less than or too different. What I do know is we each have a race to run. We can focus on our shortcomings or we can fix our eyes on Jesus who knew suffering and led the way to the finish line. We can run for His glory!