It was exactly nine years ago this month that Managers On A Mission (MOAM; now known as Uncommon Sports Group) was launched. What had started as a class project during my final semester of grad school officially became a real organization.
In May of 2013, I had thought the organization could simply be an “on the side” type of thing while continuing my career within the sports industry. By May of 2014, the Lord made it clear to me that I needed to either go all-in with what was developing for me career-wise or move back home to focus on the growing needs of our organization.
Below is an excerpt I wrote shortly after moving back to Minneapolis, Minnesota in June of 2014. To say that I was overwhelmed and fearful would be an understatement.
I struggle with feelings of loneliness and depression as I come to accept I have no job lined up now that I am back in MN. I struggle with trying to comprehend and accept that Managers On A Mission has become so heavy on my heart that I quit my job at Auburn, and have walked away from what I believe was a very promising career in the sports industry. There are times when I experience a great sense of freedom when thinking about the opportunity I now have to pour even more effort into something that means the world to me in Managers On A Mission, but I’d be lying if I said this doesn't also make me feel extremely overwhelmed as I have no clue how my financial needs will be met, and often long to have a sense of normalcy or security that a regular job can provide. I struggle with the fact that for so long my identity has been too closely wrapped up in my career in sports. It has been easy to find pleasure and joy each Fall through games every weekend, and the excitement and attention that each game garnered from my family, friends, and fans throughout the country.
I rejoice in God’s promise that He gives perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and place their trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3). Do I, or the rest of our Board know exactly what is to come for Managers On A Mission? No. But we do have great reason to rejoice and view the future with hope as we know God is sovereign and in control.
I never imagined when I made that decision to leave Auburn University to move back home that our organization would develop into what it is today.
There is no shortage of mistakes that I have made, and lessons the Lord has taught me throughout the past 9 years, but arguably the most significant item He has revealed over and over again has been the reliability of His promise in Proverbs 3:5-6.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
If I were to write a letter to myself 9 years ago, here are a few of the items I would remind myself of in light of Proverbs 3:5-6.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart”
As my journal entry above attests, I had zero idea what would happen when I first moved back to Minnesota to focus more time and energy into MOAM (now USG). I did not have a road map or even aspirations of MOAM becoming my full-time career anytime in the near future. My plan at the time was that I was moving back so that I could get a ‘normal’ 9-5 job that would give me the opportunity to spend evenings and weekends working on MOAM.
When I moved back to MN in 2014, I was fortunate to have enough money saved up that I could afford to be patient before jumping into a new job. I had no grand plan, but God gave me clarity that one small step I could take for now would be to volunteer 100% of my time on MOAM for the rest of that summer to see what may develop. By the end of those 3 months, the organization was in the position to hire me as a full-time employee.
As I reflect upon USG’s 9 years of existence, I can honestly say that there is not one defining moment that seems to stand out in the development of our organization to what it has become today. When first trying to launch our organization, I had always envisioned there would be one magical moment where a big donor buys into our vision, or a brilliant leader comes alongside me and turns my vision into reality.
The development of our organization has instead seemed to be a journey of thousands of very small steps day by day. Frank Beamer’s motto when I worked at Virginia Tech was “Take care of the little things, and the big things will come.” I believe this motto is exemplified by the Parable of the Talents in the Bible, and I have experienced it to be trustworthy.
“Lean not on your own understanding”
I have also come to recognize the blessing of not always knowing what awaits us around the corner. “Ignorance is bliss” as the saying goes. I often tell people that if I had known what would all need to transpire for this organization to become a reality and the challenges it would entail, there is no way I would have pursued it. I had no idea the number of donors and partners and mentors and staff members the Lord would need to bring alongside this organization at exactly the right time. I certainly had some tangible estimates of what the needs would be, but I am also incredibly thankful that God helped me to “lean not on my own understanding” in regards to all that our organization would “need” these past 9 years.
It will be hard, but “He will make your paths straight”
A final item I would remind myself of is that it will be hard. I would tell this to myself not so that I would be afraid, but so that I would not be blindsided. One of the things I most appreciate about the Word of God is that it doesn’t hide the challenges and heartache we will experience on this side of eternity. While our organization has certainly been incredibly blessed to experience a lot of fruit in the lives we have been able to impact throughout the college and pro sports industry, there has of course been no shortage of challenges as well.
Difficult employee situations, long seasons of being understaffed, uncertainty about how we will cover payroll, criticism from those closest to you, and the list goes on and on.
These things are challenging, but I am incredibly thankful that God constantly reminds us in His Word that this earthly life is not our home, and “He will make our paths straight”. This not only protects me from being blindsided when challenges and heartache inevitably come here on earth, but it also fills me with great hope as I fix my eyes on the eternal inheritance that awaits all who trust in Jesus.