Today is International Women’s Day. It is a day “celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” And while I have shared posts about some women in the history of this blog space, the content does tend to be more about men than women simply due to the nature of availability of resources (i.e. articles I can find about the athletes). But there are many women athletes who have accomplished amazing things and demonstrated a strong faith both on and off the fields of play. And so on this International Women’s Day, I would like to draw attention to the story of Margaret Court.
Margaret Court (nee Smith) was born in Albury, New South Wales, Australia on 16 July 1942. She began playing professionally in 1960 and quickly found success. Her career numbers are staggering.
From her Wikipedia page:
Her career winning percentage of 91.68% (1180–107) is one of the best of all time according to the Sporteology website. Her open era singles career winning percentage of 91.37% (593–56) is unequalled, as is her open era winning percentage of 91.7% (11–1) in Grand Slam finals. Her win-loss performance in all Grand Slam singles tournaments was 90.12% (210–23).
When she retired in 1977, she had won 192 career titles including 11 Australian Opens, 5 French Opens, 3 Wimbledon Titles and 5 U.S. Opens. She also competed and excelled in doubles and mixed doubles.
As you can read in this article from the Goal, success didn’t translate into contentment or happiness. In fact, she decided to retire. She says ” I achieved every goal I had set but then I lost my desire to continue competing at the top level.” She got married and then found her competitive fire again, returning to tennis and to her winning ways. She had grown up in a Roman Catholic family and says “I praised God for this success, for I had always seen my tennis ability as a gift from God. However, in 1973, during a tournament in Paris, I realized that something was missing in my life – a closer relationship with God. I knew God was there and thought I must be able to know Him in a deeper way.
A short time later a friend gave me a book on becoming a Christian. I read it and soon after, I made the decision to become a Christian, accepting Jesus Christ as the Lord of my life.” She continued in tennis, but her new passion and desire was to know God more. So in 1976, she again retired from pro tennis. She continues “At the end of 1976, I decided to retire from tennis and devote myself to looking after my family and getting to know more of Jesus. The next few years were a real struggle for me dealing with a heart condition, depression and insomnia but what got me through was total devotion to God and His word, the Bible. It gave me inner strength and brought healing to my body and mind. A verse that really kept me going is Galatians 2:20, “I have died but Christ now lives in me. And now I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me.”
In 1982, I went to Bible College and since then my goal has been to go out and share God’s Word with as many people as possible. I love to tell them how they can renew their lives and how they can overcome fear by really focusing on the Word of God”
These days, Court is a Pastor at Victory Life Centre in Australia. Here is a video of her sharing the importance of a life of faith and some parallels we can learn from the world of Sport to the guide our spiritual life.
Here are my takeaways from Court’s story:
1- Training the Mind –
She talks about training the mind. Not focusing on losses in the past, but thinking about the current match and thinking about victory at the end of the match. This has been a struggle for me in my life. I find it so easy to focus on the negative and the defeats and failures that I have known. But that is not how Christ sees us. He doesn’t see us as failures, He sees us as he loved children and knows that the potential is in us to carry out the mission that He has called us to. And with Him on our side, Victory is ours. He sets us free from the hard things that life brings our way, not by removing those hard things, but by showing that he is bigger than those things are, and that if we are with Him, we will know ultimate victory, too.
2 – Anonymous Champion
In one article I read, Margaret Court referred to herself as an “Anonymous Champion”. I will admit that I am a casual tennis fan – I don’t pay regular attention to tennis, but I tend to be aware of the top ranked players at any time over the course of my life. And while Court played before my life began, with statistics and history like she has, as one of the best ever, I should have known about her – but I had not heard of her until today. To me she was anonymous. She had accomplished much, but so many people are not aware of what she had done. The same is true about Jesus. He accomplished much – he came and lived a perfect life, he died in our place to pay for our sins. He did this for all people, and yet, many don’t know Him. It is our task to tell others about his exploits and the difference He has made in our life. Let’s share His love with the world.