It is no secret, I am a sucker for sports, especially high school and college athletic programs. To me, this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Where raw talent and personal determination are at their very best and not yet jaded by the professional world of payment for performance. A place where an athlete can become a part of something bigger than him/herself, all the while absorbing valuable life lessons brilliantly disguised as a sport.
The Thrill of Victory and The Agony of Defeat
Every school year boys and girls participate in a chosen athletic realm out of the pure desire of their hearts. They rise and fall only to get back up and go again. They get knocked down and mowed over. They take shots to the head and elbows to the gut. They nurse sprained ankles and massage sore arms. They turn black & blue and spit bright red. Why? Because they know if they push themselves to take one more grounder, run one more sprint, catch one more ball, make one more tackle, or take one more swing they just might capture that much desired pinnacle every athlete dreams of.
Each student athlete possesses a distinct and private motivation that carries him/her onto a field or court. For some time I have had a strong desire to write a post about a student athlete, but not just any student athlete. I was not particularly looking for the best athlete or the one with the most accolades. I wasn’t looking for the most popular athlete who held the highly coveted position. I wasn’t looking for the “perfect” athlete, student, or person. I was hoping to discover a young man or young lady who held a unique and inspirational quality. Someone who was not afraid to disclose their flaws and failures. Someone who embraces that life is messy and we all do not originate from a fairytale in storyland. I also wanted a student athlete who strived to live unashamed of who he or she is in Christ on and off the field. I wanted the “real deal”.
Ada High Cougars
Nestled upon a grassy knoll on the south side of town, sets a maroon brick building where champions are made. It is not difficult to realize you have stepped onto sacred football ground as a monstrous school billboard proclaims championship teams past and present. This, my friend is where Friday Night Lights are made and no one knows it better than the Ada Cougars. To help you better understand the Ada Cougar tradition of champions, below are some statics from the Ada Cougar Football webpage following the 2017 season:
- Won 10 games to extend the all-time Cougar mark to 802 wins — No. 1 in Oklahoma.
• Won game No. 800 with a 42-19 win over Elgin. There are only 23 teams with 800 wins out of 15,000-plus teams in the United States. Ada is in the top 99.85% of all US teams in wins.
- Won district title No. 45 in Ada history, also tops in Oklahoma.
• Qualified for the state playoffs for the 58th time and that is a state record.
• Won three more playoff games, giving Ada 106 postseason victories, also a state record.
• Played in the state finals for the 23rd time. Of course, the 19 state titles is also a state record
And yet, amongst all of this notoriety and razzle dazzle stands a gentle giant; just what I’ve been looking for. The Real Deal.
Proudly wearing #9 and playing the safety position, Garrett Christian helped put Ada Cougar Football back on the map during the 2017 football season. After a seventeen year drought the Cardiac Cougars (as they were deemed due to tight games) found themselves back in contention for yet another state football championship. G, (to those who know him well) ended his high school football career where every student athlete wants to be; the final game of his final season of his final year-the championship game. Although the end result was not what he or his teammates had hoped for, their season rekindled a fire in the competitive belly of the community and I dare say sparked a long awaited hunger within the program. Real Outcomes
I have known Garrett for several years now, as my path crossed with his family through little league baseball. Oh, the glorious days of little league. Where children will stand there looking up at their coaches through squinted eyes as if they understand every word; only to venture out onto the field and chase the first butterfly that innocently swoops by. Real Fun
G and Ryan, not only played baseball together they became childhood friends. They spent time in each others homes and going on short trips with family and friends. Those wonderful days of little league are long gone, but not soon forgotten are the cherished memories and relationships we will forever share. Time and the change of seasons have a way encouraging children to grow up, and that is just what Garrett did. Real Life
As a young boy Garrett was quiet, somewhat shy, extremely reserved, yet surprisingly competitive. He had a smile that would brighten your day and manners that would melt your heart. He expected to win each time he took the field and had a tendency to become inwardly upset when other teammates did not take the game seriously. The same can be said about him today. When I asked Coach Wade Boyles and family friend Jenny Cypert what words describe Garrett the best? Their responses only shored up what I already had come to know. Competitive, hardworking, kind, leader and successful; but there is no way I can stop right there. No, there is so much more to this young man than meets the eye. Get to know him and you will want to take him home. Talk to him and you will discover a very grounded, hard-working young man. Mention Jesus, and you will quickly understand who and what his first priority in life is. What you see is what you get and then some. Garrett is Real
A Powerful Investment
What creates these qualities in a young person? Are these attributes one is born with or are they developed over time? Are they something special granted to only a chosen few? Or is it a choice where one decides this is how I want to live my life? These questions became the motivation for my quest as I continued with my search for the “Real Deal”.
When asked who has made the greatest impact on his life, Garrett has no problem stating it is his mom, Dawn. It is from her he has learned how to talk through his struggles, how to treat other people and most importantly how to love God. He proudly claims his dad Cheyenne, is his hero because of his hard work ethic and the respect he shows to others. Now tell me, what parent would not love to hear these words flow from their child’s heart? Never underestimate the power of influence. As we are watching others, others are watching us. Real Love
Family is extremely important to G as he knows this is where an abundance of unconditional love and support flows freely. Family is a special place that provides him with the unspoken knowledge each member will always be there for him no matter what life tosses his way. But family is not just the blood that flows through Garrett’s veins. Family is a mom whose life found new purpose upon learning of his future arrival. Family is a man who made the choice to make him his son. Family is a younger brother and sister who look up to him with great admiration. Family is grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who adore him and he them. Family is welcoming new members into your life without reservation. And to G, family is extended. From friends old and new, to teachers and coaches, to his brothers on and off the field; Garrett has discovered that families come in all shapes, forms and packages. This Is Real
And there you have it. The discovery I was looking for. This my friend is what helps develop outstanding qualities in a young person…real investment by real people who really care. Now, don’t get me wrong I completely understand it takes making personal choices as to which path one will follow; but I am also a firm believer that an investment made into a child’s life is an investment that produces great dividends. Show me a young person who is surrounded by unconditional love and support and I will show you someone who has the potential to make a huge impact upon society. The Real Difference
Turn on the daily news and you will be greeted with disparaging stories in regards to the current generations latest mind-numbing actions. It does not take long for disheartening thoughts to invade your mind as we are left to wonder what the future holds for all of us if today’s youth are our future. I would like to challenge you to look further than your television screen. Go deeper than the latest addition of your local newspaper. Don’t let today’s headline discourage you from making an investment into tomorrow’s future. If we want to make a real lasting impact in our homes, communities, schools, states and nation; than each one of us needs to stop complaining and start putting forth a valiant effort into investing into the lives of young people. This is what happened in Garrett’s life and this is what he is already doing in the lives of others. Being Real
Pomp and Circumstance
The days are fast approaching for Garrett Scott Christian to make his final walk within the hallowed halls of Ada High. Life as he has known will all too soon change. The hustle and bustle of the changing bell will be replaced by decisions that will lay the ground work for the next phase of his life. With one click, Garrett will close his locker one final time and turn to face the dawn of a new day. He will exit the confined doors of high school only to be greeted by the wide open spaces of his future. I have not only been encouraged by digging a little deeper into Garrett’s life, but I have been inspired by the realism of a very special young man. Not knowing what lies ahead for a future graduate can be somewhat unsettling, but I can honestly say I have no doubt Jesus will be walking close by this young man’s side as he sets out on this new journey and begins a whole new adventure. Living Real
So with that I leave you with this as my challenge to not only Garrett, but to all of us to go forth and Live Real In Christ…
“Instead, let them place their confidence in God, who lavishly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good actions, to be generous, and to share. By doing this they store up a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future, so that they can keep their hold on the life that is real.” (1Timothy 6:17-19)
Go meet someone at their greatest need today!
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you
A special thank you goes out to Cheyenne and Dawn Christian – Thank you for putting forth the effort to raise an incredible son and for sharing him with the rest of us. Carry in your hearts that you have provided him with all the tools a young man needs to go forth into this world and charter his own course. You have loved him, supported him and taught him; but most importantly you have lived out your lives in Christ in front of him. You have done well my friends, you have done well.
Thank you Jenny Cypert and Coach Boyles for providing behind the scenes insight into Garrett as you personally know him. Your words are a true testament to who this young man is and how he lives his life. When an adult proudly shares how a teenager has impacted their lives or better yet the lives of their children, well then that is a special teenager!
And finally, thank you G. I do not believe I can adequately express my heartfelt gratitude as you so eagerly agreed to be my topic of conversation for this post. You have a heart of gold and you embody the true spirit of Christ. I pray God’s richest blessings upon your life. Thank you for being you, thank you for living real and most of all thank you for being the Real Deal!!