Professional athlete couple put family above career

by Erik Lenhart

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During the Rio Olympics several Olympians mentioned that their choice to pursue Olympic glory came with a heavy cost, including being away from loved ones. The broadcast of these sacrifices was intended to be something laudable to inspire us. "Giving one's all" for something greater is certainly praise-worthy, but does an athletic career qualify as something worthy of complete and total devotion? Jrue and Lauren Holiday's recent disclosure to the press gives us a good example of prioritizing marriage and family over career especially in unimagined difficulties.

Last October, Lauren retired at the peak of her soccer career. Lauren was the 2014 National Women's Soccer League MVP, and was a key piece of the 2015 USA National Team with an assist and a goal in the World Cup final against Japan. Her stated reason for retiring highlights the conflict between an athletic career and one's calling in life:

"I feel like this team isn't my identity, it is my choice. There is power in making a choice. I chose this team for 10 years and now I am going to choose my family."

If a vocation is the gift from God that is prized before all else, Lauren's retirement from soccer gives us an example of "selling all" for that pearl of great price.

Her husband, Jrue Holiday, point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans is no slouch in either his sport or vocation. Jrue has been a dependable play-maker his whole career. His unselfish play helped the Philadelphia 76ers defeat the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the 2012 playoffs. The most impressive assist of his career, however, involves stepping away from the game to attend to his pregnant wife, who was recently diagnosed with a benign brain-tumor.

Adversity can bring out the best in us, even as it challenges our priorities and character. The Holidays gave testimony to this in their athletic careers and now give greater witness to it in their personal lives. Announcing an indefinite leave of absence from his team to the Times-Picayune, Jrue said, "My family comes before basketball, I'm obviously blessed to play this game and be in the position I am in, but my wife is the most important thing in the world to me. She comes before anything else."

The Holidays' doctors are confident that the tumor poses no risk to the unborn child. While the removal of the tumor will have to wait until after the child's birth, Lauren is expected to make a full recovery.

"Obviously, we were and are still very excited about the birth of our first child," Jrue continued. "But our focus shifted from having this magnificent blessing to making sure everything is going to be OK with Lauren and the child. Our priorities right now are being able to manage Lauren's symptoms and still have a fairly healthy pregnancy." Jrue asked for prayers for his family. "We can take all the prayers that we can get."

Athletes sign contracts, but marriage vows create a covenant for sickness and health, good times and bad. Sickness and health does not mean just an ankle sprain or a muscle tear. Good times and bad can even occur simultaneously and try us in unanticipated ways. Pray for the Holidays and pray that their child will inherit not only their athleticism, but also their priorities and character.

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