Post-College Identity

    For as long as I can remember, sports have been in the center of my life. Whether it was pickup football in my neighborhood, or a regional championship in college, I have always been playing a game. Since high school, the main game has been baseball. I played throughout both high school and college, and this involvement in my sport has helped shape and mold me as a person. I can truly say that playing collegiate baseball changed my life. The game beat me down and picked me up at the same time. Whenever I thought I had it figured out, the game reminded me that I didn’t. Whenever I thought I had nowhere to turn, the game was there. It taught me how to persevere, embrace challenge and fear, and accept failure. It taught me that I could love something bigger than myself, that being a teammate meant more than sharing a field. The game showed me that I could love a person like a brother, that family is more than blood. The game showed me a part of myself that I never knew existed, and taught me how to push myself beyond my limits. The game taught me that failure is inevitable, but quitting is unacceptable. To the last point, out, or buzzer, I learned that there is no excuse to quit until the game is truly over. To me, the game is more than a game; it is a teacher, a builder of character, an art, a bond between brothers. The game’s effects on both my character and me as a person far transcend the field of competition, and I grew and learned things about myself and my potential that the rest of my life had left untapped. However, for me, the game is over. The last out has been made, I’ve worn the school colors for the last time, and my cleats are destined to hang indefinitely in my room as beaten and torn reminders of where I’ve come from, and where I now have the potential to go. After so long identifying as an athlete, a hitter, and a teammate, the one thing the game didn’t seem to prepare me for was life without it. As much as it prepared me for life outside of the game and gave me skills both internal and external, it did not equip me to deal with the void that inevitably appears when an athlete’s last game is done. The feeling is hard to express, but it feels a lot like the emptiness associated with heartbreak. There’s nothing quite like taking the field with your brothers, and after our last game, we all know it. But, fortunately for me, I have the hope of Christ to fill that void. Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have not once questioned my identity, or felt lost, or wondered where my place is, or wondered if I even have a place anymore. They may not say it, but most athletes struggle with this after their careers, and sometimes they never find answers. But with Christ, I know better. My identity is in Him, I once was lost but He found me, and although I do not know exactly where I’m headed, I know that my place is forever serving Him and the people He puts in my life, wherever that may be. That is what is so amazing about A4ONE to me. Here is a group of people, all athletes of extremely high caliber, constantly pushing each other with an athlete’s competitive spirit, but who all know that the void is not truly a void when you follow Christ. They all understand the athlete’s mentality and the effects that sports can have on a person’s character and growth. And here they are, joining that with the unfathomable power of Christ. For so long, I competed and grew during my career, but it was not until I came to follow Jesus and bring Him into my career that I was able to realize my full potential and actually find direction and purpose with the gifts I had been given. A4ONE can help young athletes see that, and provide them with the ability to grow not only physically and in the realm of athletics, but they can show these young athletes the love and power of Christ through that realm. This is a powerful combination, and it has the ability to reach souls that may not otherwise be reached, and change lives immeasurably. This is a group of people that have been blessed by God with the ability to love and teach and do these things I have mentioned. I have seen it firsthand. Christ used these people to work personally in my life and to bring me to follow Him. I love the game, and it has played a pivotal role I my life; I cannot imagine having lived without it. That being said, the power of Christ in my life far surpasses that, and I haven’t known that for nearly as long as I’ve known the game. Bringing the two together and having them work together in the lives of these athletes has the potential to do wondrous things, and A4ONE has already begun serving the Lord through this work. For that I am both excited and grateful.

-Nathan Qualls