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Unmerited Points

Unmerited Points

MAY 16, 2024

/ Articles / Unmerited Points

by Connor Lund

“Come on Maddie! You got this!”, we screamed from the sidelines. My wife Autumn and I cheered on our 11U volleyball girls, fervently hoping they could bring their record up to at least .500 by the end of the season. We’d started coaching as a way to get involved in our community and the local
Parks & Rec department posted the volunteer opening at just the right time. A husband and wife duo with no kids coaching a bunch of random children?


The majority of our girls were nine and ten years old, barely eligible to enter certain rides at a Six Flags amusement park. Their tiny bodies barely had enough energy to lift their backpacks, let alone thwack a serve over a 7 foot net. To make matters worse, the majority of them had never played
organized volleyball before. We knew this season would be focusing on teaching the girls the fundamentals and facilitating an encouraging environment as they learned a new team sport together.

At least, that was the hope. Before long, we had quite the losing streak as we got schlacked by other Parks & Rec teams the first few weeks of the season. This caused some of the older girls to start voicing their frustration regarding their younger and weaker teammates. Eyes started to roll.
Complaints were uttered. Factions were formed. Feelings were hurt.

Autumn and I did everything we could to cheer up the girls who were struggling while still reiterating good sportsmanship and fair understanding to the older girls who felt they were being held back from better competition.

The turning point of the season came during an unexpected point in one of our close matches. The team we were facing was very beatable. We so badly wanted our girls to get a win to boost their confidence. Especially Maddie. The smallest girl on the team, she had yet to get a serve over the net
thus far in the season (even though the girls were allowed an extra five feet in for the 11U league already!). To make matters worse, poor Maddie was as timid and sweet as a butterfly. She was always smiling and blushed each time we complimented her progress. Blunder or success, Maddie knew she
could count on our commitment to her. Sound familiar?

“Pretend the ball is your little brother!” her dad would yell in an attempt to get Maddie to muster up enough grit to lurch the ball over the net. Her poor body didn’t have enough power.

Until today. A beefy eleven year-old on the other team was stepping up to serve again and she hadn’t missed. In this league, each girl is allowed three points in a row to serve before moving rotations for another to serve (to guard against overpowered players like this kid). The girl tossed her serve, ushering
in what we thought would be another quick three points for the opposing team.

With a thwack, the ball sailed over the net with impressive velocity. Straight for Maddie. As usual, Maddie hesitated, only attempting a few short scuffles in the direction of the piercing orb. She stuck out her arms away from her body as if the incoming ball was carrying the plague. She might have even closed her eyes. We continued to stare wide-eyed as the ball slammed into Maddie’s arms with perfect contact, heading straight back over the net to the opposing team’s side. Untouched. Our point.

The roar that came from both the sideline of parents and our bench of girls was straight out of a movie. I’m not going to lie, I started tearing up. I was so proud of her. And Maddie could tell. Maddie beamed from ear to ear and quickly got ready for the next point. From that moment forward, Maddie had
developed a chip on her shoulder. Our team won the rest of our games during the season.

I reflected on my heart towards Maddie during that moment and feel that’s likely how God looks at me. I’ve spent the majority of my life as timid, weak, and with few successes to my name. There’s absolutely nothing I’ve done to earn his favor, kindness, or smile. And yet, He still smiles at me and calls me His.

1 John 3:1 – “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.”

Maddie knew she wasn’t a star volleyball player. She knew she still had a long way to go as she continued making mistakes throughout the season. Maddie won that point for her team out of sheer luck. No skill. Unmerited. And yet, favored. Sounds a lot like grace.

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