I always played better when I was sick. Or, at least I remember playing well when I was sick. The illness caused me to focus more on what I was doing, since I knew my body was weakened. Physical sickness on the field never bothered me. I could easily play through it. Being demoralized, on the other hand, was something I could never overcome.Proverbs 18:14-“The spirit of a man can endure sickness, but a broken spirit who can bear?”

It’s amazing how resilient we are regarding the things that hurt our bodies. Pitchers push through Tommy John rehab. Players endure injury and pain and keep going. But I’ve never met a player who can play through what this verse calls a “broken spirit.”

Here’s how it happens…

Nitpicking. In other words, the player never does anything right, at least that’s what he’s led to believe. All he hears is what he’s done wrong. Most people are hard enough on themselves. The last thing most of us need is a reminder of how rotten we should think we are.

Unspecified compliments. Praise is best given specifically. The blanket statement, “Good job,” is useless in most cases, unless accompanied by something specific. We easily see through the token compliment. Specific praise makes it mean something.

Ignoring. If you, as a teammate or coach, aren’t going to pay any attention to THAT GUY on your team, do him a favor and cut him. Bottom line: if he’s on your team, he’s on your team. Treat him like it. Give him full respect and attention, just like you would the star.

Each of us, players, coaches, and parents, have a responsibility to do all we can to encourage the spirits of our teammates, players, and sons. If you notice a player simply going through the motions, equating his performance with his worth as a person, or giving up hope, what will you do? He can play through a physical sickness, but a broken spirit will ruin his life.

Lord Jesus, help me see the broken spirits around me. Forgive me for contributing to it or doing nothing about it. Use me to bring life to them. Amen.