Filling Your Soul with the Good Word of God

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

In honor of it being Super Bowl weekend I thought I'd share a story that I really enjoyed from a past Priesthood session of conference by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin. Here is the story told by him in his own words.
I’ll never forget one high school football game against a rival school. I played the wingback position, and my assignment was to either block the linebacker or try to get open so the quarterback could throw me the ball. The reason I remember this particular game so well is because the fellow on the other side of the line—the man I was supposed to block—was a giant.
I wasn’t exactly the tallest athlete in the world. But I think this other guy may have been. I remember looking up at him, thinking he probably weighed as much as two of me. Keep in mind, when I played we didn’t have the protective gear that players have today. My helmet was made of leather, and it didn’t have a face guard.
The more I thought about it, the more I came to a sobering realization: if I ever let him catch me, I could be cheering for my team the rest of the season from a hospital bed.
Lucky for me, I was fast. And for the better part of the first half, I managed to avoid him.
Except for one play.
Our quarterback dropped back to pass. I was open. He threw the ball, and it sailed towards me.
The only problem was that I could hear a lumbering gallop behind me. In a moment of clarity, I thought that if I caught the ball there was a distinct possibility I could be eating my meals through a tube. But the ball was heading for me, and my team was depending on me. So I reached out, and—at the last instant—I looked up.
And there he was.
I remember the ball hitting my hands. I remember struggling to hang on to it. I remember the sound of the ball falling to the turf. After that, I’m not exactly sure what happened, because the giant hit me so hard I wasn’t sure what planet I was on. One thing I did remember was a deep voice coming from behind a dark haze: “Serves you right for being on the wrong team.”

William McKinley Oswald was my high school football coach. He was a great coach and had a profound influence on my life. But I think he could have learned his method of motivating players from an army drill sergeant.
That day, during his half-time speech, Coach Oswald reminded the whole team about the pass I had dropped. Then he pointed right at me and said, “How could you do that?”
He wasn’t speaking with his inside voice.
“I want to know what made you drop that pass.”
I stammered for a moment and then finally decided to tell the truth. “I took my eye off the ball,” I said.
The coach looked at me and said, “That’s right; you took your eye off the ball. Don’t ever do that again. That kind of mistake loses ball games.”
I respected Coach Oswald, and in spite of how terrible I felt, I made up my mind to do what Coach said. I vowed to never take my eye off the ball again, even if it meant getting pounded to Mongolia by the giant on the other side of the line.
We headed back onto the field and started the second half. It was a close game, and even though my team had played well, we were behind by four points late in the fourth quarter.
The quarterback called my number on the next play. I went out again, and again I was open. The ball headed towards me. But this time, the giant was in front of me and in perfect position to intercept the pass.
He reached up, but the ball sailed through his hands. I jumped high, never taking my eye off the ball; stabbed at it; and pulled it down for the game-winning touchdown.
I don’t remember much about the celebration after, but I do remember the look on Coach Oswald’s face.
“Way to keep your eye on the ball,” he said.

There are many things in our lives that call for our attention. We have families, friends, school, work, church, hobbies, and many more things we have to do and we want to do. But there is only so much time in our lives to accomplish what we came here to do, to prepare to return to live with our Heavenly Father again. It’s easy to get distracted and lose focus on the things that are most important in life but we need to "keep our eye on the ball" or on what matters most to us and to our Heavenly Father. The relationships we have with our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, and our family members will be of greater value to us in the eternal scheme of things than other things we may put our time and efforts into.
     That doesn't mean that we shouldn't enjoy the hobbies or good fun things this life has to offer. But we need to have a good balance and keep our eye on the ball. We can't afford to let the things of the world distract us from what is most important. I would encourage you to examine your life. Decide where you are and what you need to do to be the kind of person you want to be and then Keep Your Eye On The Ball!

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