Dear Warrior - Who Are You?


Dear Warrior, 

What will you do when the very thing that gives you the most joy, satisfaction, and confidence is taken away from you?

McKenzie Long once put her identity and hope in being the starting shortstop for the Michigan State softball team. But when an injury threatened to take this away for good, McKenzie wondered who she was and if her life had any purpose if she couldn’t tear up the field with her teammates.  

Soon after her freshman year, McKenzie was diagnosed with a severe case of thoracic outlet syndrome, an injury in the shoulder that compresses the nerves of her brachial plexus. Doctors would have to remove one of McKenzie’s ribs, two of her neck muscles, and one of her pectoral muscles. They would then reroute the nerve down her hand in an attempt to get it functioning properly again. Her recovery was long and according to doctors, her chances of returning to the softball field were slim. 

Maybe you’ve had something important taken away from you too. Was it an injury? Did you lose a starting position? How did you cope with this? 

“Hearing the news of my injury felt so heavy and it was hard to cope felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. But now looking back, I see that it was the best thing that ever happened to me because it allowed me to grow off of the softball field.”  

For McKenzie, she needed to find a new place to put her hope. She needed to rewrite the definition of who she was. Being a softball player was everything she had put her hope in and now it was stripped away by this injury. But looking back, McKenzie can say that she is thankful for her injury because it opened her eyes to the truth of who she really was.  

 Skill #2 - Identity

Who are you, Warrior? 

Your identity is made up of all the things that make you, well, YOU!  It can be easy to fall into the trap of building our identity on the things that we do rather than on who we are. This is the dangerous mistake that McKenzie, like so many of us, has made. 

For McKenzie, her injury gave her the opportunity to press into something that was immovable and firm, her relationship with God. One day she was challenged by a friend who reminded her that God didn’t love her any less whether she played well, played poorly, or if she even played at all. McKenzie began to seek opportunities to grow closer to God. She let the reality of being loved by a God who knows all things set her free from the need to perform well on a softball field.

“The root cause of my struggle was that my identity was in my sport and how well I played rather than being an image-bearer of Christ.  I shifted my mindset and realized that softball is not who I am, it’s just what I do. Now I know I am a child of God who plays softball rather than just a softball player who happens to be a Christian.” 

This new reality gave McKenzie a new mindset towards her injury and empowered her to lead well and make an impact on her team in spite of her injury. Knowing her worth and purpose didn’t rest on the softball field allowed her to find new confidence and freedom both on the field and off.

“No matter what you’re doing, you deserve to be confident because you have value beyond just being a softball player. That alone can give you the confidence to play in such a way that it doesn’t matter if you go 0-3 or 3-3.” 

Warrior, you’re still you regardless of the outcome. You were created on purpose and for a purpose that cannot be taken away by performance, mistakes, or injury. Your value is something that can never be decreased by your circumstances or struggles. You are loved far beyond the things that you do.  

Girl, you got this! 

Team Fearless, inspired by McKenzie Long

About McKenzie Long

McKenzie is a graduate from Michigan State University where she was a four year starting shortstop for the Spartans. She is now the Director of Training at Turnin2 Softball in Brighton, Michigan. She also coaches high school softball and an 18u national team. She is most passionate about being a selfless teammate and empowering those around her to do the same. 

“No matter what you’re doing, you deserve to be confident because you have value beyond just being a softball player. That alone can give you the confidence to play in such a way that it doesn’t matter if you go 0-3 or 3-3.”