Christian Faith

Gruenwald: ‘The Big Moment’

jim gruenwald
Jim Gruenwald -- Photo: Wheaton College

During his remarkable career as a Greco-Roman athlete, Jim Gruenwald managed to become a two-time Olympian and one of the unquestioned leaders of the US National program. He was an elite international competitor who was uncompromising and vicious on the mat; yet filled with a love for Christ and a willingness to passionately share his faith off of it. Today, he is the head coach at Wheaton College in Illinois, as well as a highly-influential voice pertaining to all matters of encouragement, devotion, and Christian servitude. 

One of my favorite descriptions of “The Big Moment” concept comes from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest September 10th Devotional, which speaks to this very issue:

“We imagine we would be all right if a big crisis arose; but the big crisis will only reveal the stuff we are made of, it will not put anything into us. “If God gives the call, of course I will rise to the occasion.” You will not unless you have risen to the occasion in the workshop, unless you have been the real thing before God there.”

During a crucial match in the National Championships, the World Cup, the World Championships, or the Olympics, an athlete has three options: wait, force, or make. A poorly-prepared athlete will wait or force. If you wait for “The Big Moment”, it will pass you by. If you get desperate and force it, “The Big Moment” will happen to you. The only real option is make — to make “The Big Moment” happen.

To make is in the preparation. It is in the workshop, the daily training, the discipline. It is preparing physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually (morally). Developing the mind and muscle memory to make and handle the “Big” moments. We must also create “The Big Moment”, a crisis if you will, in the training as a part of coaching. Moreover, for the serious athlete, who takes control of his or her career – create some of your own Big Moments. Competition should almost be a holiday compared to training.

It is nearly impossible to succeed in a big moment for which you have never prepared. So, create one. A couple of examples include: technical reps while in a fatigued state to acquire the mind and muscle memory to be sharp in your fatigue; while keeping good form, perform a “life or death” rep in the weight room. But maintain a mindset that says, I live or die by this rep. Create urgency, aka, The Big Moment. 

An athlete should feel so familiar with the workshop, the daily training, and with big moments, that they become “just another day at the office”. These moments will not seem as daunting or overwhelming if an athlete has prepared for them. If there is no preparation, the athlete and/or coach will get sucked into The Blame Game, or the Middle Ground will expand rather than contract.

Some days are bigger than others but the concept holds true that if you have prepared properly, then you will act appropriately, or at least maximize the chance to do so because you have the right mindset. Even when “The Big Moment” is unexpected and turns into a bad moment, we rise to the occasion because of our preparation (what we can do) and our focus (serving God), which allow us to recover and conquer — even if that means fighting back for the bronze or getting ready for the next event.

Our character will be revealed by “The Big Moment”, on or off the mat. Life will have big moments, and athletic preparation can help in that regard. This does not mean that creating big moments creates drama. In fact, it is the opposite. It is learning to handle those moments and how to de-escalate rather than spiraling out of control.

Are you prepared for “The Big Moment”? Are you prepared for life? Ultimately, our example is Christ, who handled “The Big Moment” perfectly. We cannot be Christ, but we can be Christlike.

If you would like to follow up with Coach Gruenwald regarding faith development, or if you are someone who is searching, or just someone who is looking for help navigating life, he can be reached directly via email.

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