I have to admit that this situation with Lamar Odom has affected me in a deep way. As someone who has never met Lamar and is a fan of the team where Lamar played his worst basketball (Dallas Mavericks), some may not expect me to feel this connection to LO. I also know all the arguments regarding the fact that Lamar did this to himself by his drug use. All that said…my heart hurts.
My heart hurts because I see many athletes who lack the support system to find value and fulfillment after their career. Pro athletes are some of the most gifted, talented and engaging people I have ever met. For many of them from the time they are young they are told how incredible they are and given lavish amounts of praise for their skills. They deserve every bit of that praise. As someone who considers himself athletic, I cannot fathom the level of talent, hard work and giftedness it takes to achieve even making it to the professional level of athletics. I will never understand what it is like to achieve that success. It must be hard whether because of age, declining talent, lack of opportunity or injury to see the door of that enormous achievement close.
Years ago God began to stir my heart for making a difference in the lives of pro athletes, specifically helping them navigate this transition out of the game. As many know I own a business that specializes in setting up autograph signings with former pro athletes called Halkman Sports. For me my hope is not just to collect autographs for customers but to be a voice of truth and encouragement for guys as they navigate the transition out of sports. I want to be an encourager, so every time I see a situation like Lamar Odom is facing now I hurt. I hurt because in Lamar I see a legion of other guys also struggling with a myriad of issues: regret, alcoholism, lack of direction, drugs, joblessness, relationship struggles, identity issues and in some rare cases homelessness. I hurt because I want to help, I want to be a voice that changes that and I see God opening doors and giving me favor with former athletes but I still struggle to see what difference someone can make who has never been in their shoes.
I guess I write this to share this calling publicly. I am called to pastor and to walk along side of pro athletes and help them transition out of the game, but what that looks like on a larger scale I have no clue. Until then, one by one and two by two I will seek to encourage and be a resource to any players God puts in my path. If I can encourage one guy and give them hope, I want to do that. I pray that the number of former players taking their own lives and walking paths of destruction will be replaced with stories of the guys who have made the transition well and are making a difference in their community, job places and the game they loved. There are many guys doing that and those are stories worth telling. I think of so many ballplayers who have struggled through identity after sports and won. That is a game far more important than sports.
God, help me to see how I can be an encouragement and difference maker. To cheer on those who are making the transition well and walk with those who hurt and struggle. I am willing.