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

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Inevitability of Impact

Rugby is a full contact physical sport. Anyone watching the game for the first time could be excused for wincing at the sheer force of the impacts. With the advances in training and fitness regimes, the modern player is also faster and more mobile than ever before. The harnessing of speed and force make for a dramatic spectacle, but also combine to create the shuddering impacts synonymous with the modern game.

Whilst researching the physical implications for players, particularly in youth sport or in development squads, I came across a fascinating article outlining a study in New Zealand looking at identifying signs of concussive injury. I was drawn to some of the statistics produced in the study. By using sensors attached to players and built into mouth guards, the researchers were able to accurately measure the number of impacts in a game and the G-force exerted in the impact. The results were revealing.

In one game, there were over 3000 impacts. The average impact was 22g. Given a fighter pilot can experience a force of around 9g, admittedly over a more prolonged period of time, the individual impacts in rugby are nonetheless quite remarkable. One recorded hit was over 200g. It almost seems impossible that players are regularly encountering physical forces that would normally be experienced in road traffic accidents. The remarkable thing is the physical resilience of players and for the record, how few concussions there actually were.  Now that's not to minimise the importance of looking for this type of injury and being aware for the sake of player safety. But it set me thinking. One thing is inevitable if you play rugby. You will experience knocks and have to take the impact.

Some of those impacts will take you down. Some will cause you pain. Others will require you to simply put your head down and press on, using all of your strength and stamina. Sound familiar?

There is another arena in which there is an inevitability that we will encounter impacts. Life. But as with the great sport if rugby, how we react to life's knocks will often determine the outcome of the passage of life we're experiencing. Some things take us down. Some things cause us pain. Others call for every reserve of strength or staying power for us to press through. Our response can be critical to how things turn out. When we get knocked down, we have a choice - to stay down or get back up regardless of what took us down. We may be different as a result of the impact, but we can chose to stay down or stand again. We may experience pain, but ours is the choice to let that pain forever define us or to allow it to become something that helps strengthen us for the next challenge. We may feel totally exhausted but ours is the choice to live depleted of our reserves or to shift our thinking to recognise that resilience, resistance work and recovery are essential elements for building strength and endurance.

The bible has an interesting observation, made by the man's man Jesus Christ. He had observed life over an extended period: working in a carpentry business, with all the demands of hitting deadlines, keeping customers satisfied, financing projects. He carried the social stigma of living in a small, rough town, that few people admired. He lived under harsh government regulation, with a though tax regime. He was the oldest in the family he was born into and carried the responsibility. When he set out to make a difference for people, he was looked on with a familiarity that was driven by envy and contempt for his lack of formal religious preparation. No wonder he said to his team "in this world"(the one we have described, the one we live in), "you will have trouble". It's as inevitable as the impacts in rugby. However, he followed that statement up with one that was as astonishing as his previous comment was inevitable: "I have overcome the world." In other words, I have a way of getting through this. A way of getting through these impacts. Whilst there is the undeniable forward look to his destiny at the cross, this man's man was saying there is a way to overcome the world and what it throws at you - by simply not letting it define who you are. You are not defined by your current circumstance, your background, ethnicity, perceived economic value - your definition is not external, it develops internally. Through the relationships that we build. Through the kind of men we become. Through the faith we extend beyond our own limitations. The man's man blew away the final limitation, opening up a way for all men to meet and be comfortable in the presence of their maker.

Whatever, life is throwing at us, has thrown or will ever throw - should never truly define us and  therefore ever truly defeat us. Experiences good, bad and ugly shape us, but true definition is forged through a faith with the friend of all men, who has taken the ultimate hit for us.