These thoughts are to help and inspire people like you and me to reach higher and strive for greater things, to stand for a cause more noble than self serving, seeing the good in others and seeking it for their sake. I unashamedly weave my faith, biblical insight and life experiences into a sporting context to illustrate my personal journey to this point - I hope in a small way, I can help you on your journey to being all you were intended to be....

There are now over 50 posts to check out, tweet, link to facebook or google+ Please feel free to share a link BUT If you use any of the illustrations please acknowledge the source as Phil Manchester, Bradford, England. You can follow me on twitter @philmanchester

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Calling for a "mark!"

Have you ever been under extreme pressure? Perhaps that's how you might feel right now? There's a strange rule in the sport of rugby that is a brilliant illustration of handling pressure situations. Any player in the 22m area of their own half attempting to catch a ball and considers themselves to be under pressure from the advancing players of the other team may call a "mark" - when the rule was introduced the player had to make a mark with their boot too - now, shouting "mark" is enough for the referee to halt play, relieving pressure by restarting with a free kick to the catching player. It all sounds a bit gentlemanly in a full contact sport, but the intention of the rule is to provide protection for an under pressure player and stop them being totally flattened when they are focussing on a catch. Calling for a mark is a legitimate defence and requires skill to focus on catching the ball and being aware of an imminent danger at the same time. It takes presence of mind and courage to reach for a high ball under pressure. It certainly isn't a weakness to make the call, as the alternative is a bruising! Sometimes, as a man, I feel I have to take all the hits that come my way and I try to internalize or absorb everything. But even the strongest person has a limit. Bottling things up inside until we explode can be dangerous and too often those who are the closest to us suffer as a result of our lack of communication, withdrawal or release of pent up feelings. John Kirwan, the great New Zealand rugby player has written a very helpful book about his personal journey in dealing with depression called "All Blacks don't cry". It's an honest account from someone at the very top of their game who suffered from depression. It illustrates the need to be courageous in recognising signs and the importance of having a strong support network. Alongside the practical release of pressure from open and honest communication, as a man with a faith, I have discovered that in pressure situations, I can call for a "mark", appealing to a real man's man as a source of help - Jesus Christ. The bible has a very practical description of God (psalm 46) pointing out that he is a "refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble". I know from personal experience, pressure comes and I know that there are times when I have been flattened too. We can try and absorb everything, but ultimately something gives. I have found that making the call isn't weakness: it's a sound, technical and courageous defence. Who are you calling?