I’ll lead off with saying that this is certainly a book that would fall under the category of “Christian Living,” at your local Barnes and Noble store and yes, it’s a book intentionally written for today’s athlete. That being said, don’t let the subtitle, “A Gospel-Centered Guide to Glorifying God Through Sports,” fool you; this is a book for ALL athletes and not just Christian athletes, here’s why.
1. The Assist is riddled in principles of camaraderie, joy, humility and servanthood.
You’ll notice that all of the traits listed are characteristics you’d expect (or hope) to find in today’s leaders, many of which are athletes. Yet our society’s athletes seem to only be filled with these principles of leadership when things go their way, which makes athletes seem disingenuous. Win or lose, The Assist covers how to to incorporate these traits in all trials and triumphs in sport. There are more than just those four mentioned in this book; it’s hard to go more than two pages without coming across some sound advice or case study from supplementary authors.
2. The Assist reduces ambiguity surrounding sport and its purpose
It’s ok to want to “win” in sports, but there’s a higher purpose than winning- sports can be the catalyst to serve others and is an excellent avenue to practice good stewardship. Many of the chapters touch on aspects of stewarding your sport/ influence/ opportunity/ challenges, in a way that is constructive and fruitful for not just you, but those around you.
3. The Assist covers emotionally difficult topics for athletes
Once an athlete tastes success, it can become addicting to prolong a career, even to the point where it’s damaging (I’d make the argument that Brett Favre is a strong case study of this). Favre didn’t want to retire, it’s clearly evident through his years of team-hopping. Retirement is just one of those categories The Assist touches on where many athletes become filled with emotion and dismay. It’s an emotional subject for many athletes. Thanks to The Assist athletes can find more direction than dismay on the subject of retirement (seriously debating writing on this topic alone). Other topics covered which athletes seem to struggle with are- dealing with injuries and with difficult people (in particular teammates you don’t get along with and coaches); often The Assist will convict you in the way you’ve traditionally dealt with those people.
4. The Assist will convict you
As aforementioned in #3, it’ll convict you. There are portions of Smith’s book which I heavily favor, in particular chapters 1, 5 and 6. Why? Each chapter contains some sort of content that flies in the face of prosperity gospel. For those unfamiliar with the term it is often phrased like this on some flowery Instagram post, “good things happen to good people.” Christian or not, that statement is nothing more than mental debris. I could spend tons of time writing why but I’ll leave it at this, too many athletes truly believe in prosperity gospel and whether in sport or in life that mentality will damage an athlete’s psyche. Those who read will find there are topics like prosperity gospel where they feel convicted about a mindset that often is part of our culture and Smith challenges the reader to confront these mindsets. As a subtle nod to Smith I’ll say this, one of my convictions from reading your book has been “getting over it” and I know some friends (some even ex-pastors) that need to challenge themselves to do the same.
5. The Assist is marinated in truth
Fake food. Fake friends. Fake smiles. Fake results. Fake news. Fake leaders. This world needs more real… more truth. It’s exactly what you’ll find in The Assist. It’s what makes the book a convicting read for athletes who desire to be better athletes (whether as a leader or a Christ follower). Frequently I found myself questioning traditional patterns of thought because of these truths. For Christians the source of these truths is blatant and clear, no need to say more. For those who don’t identify as Christians take this as a challenge: use any source material quoted from the Bible as literary/historical wisdom, a tool which you can use to make yourself a better athlete. Don’t become cynical in thinking that The Assist only quotes source material from the Bible, Smith integrates quotes from other writers and popular stories to clearly deliver his points.
Brian Smith works with AIA Wisconsin, a Christian org. that focuses on walking with student athletes through daily struggles, mentoring them to ultimately live in a way that is glorifying to God and redemptive to the tainted image of athletes at the higher levels. The Wisconsin AIA staff have had a profound effect on my life and many others, and purchasing a copy of this book would effectively help them to reach more student athletes.