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Jonathan Van Horn: SHIFT to Life after Sport

On this episode of Pro Mindset® Podcast, Jonathan Van Horn, Associate National Director of Athletes in Action, shares how he helps professional athletes transition into life and establish their identity after their athletic careers. Jonathan played soccer at Ohio Wesleyan University, where he was originally introduced to Athletes in Action and began his mission to integrate faith and athletics. In 2002, Jonathan joined the AIA staff on the campus of Ohio State University, where he ministered for four years. He is now the National Associate Director for the Pro Soccer Ministry of Athletes in Action, as well as the team chaplain for the Carolina Railhawks.

Jonathan shares how faith plays a huge role in competition and how it helps athletes maintain their identity after they have completed their professional careers.

Jonathan explains that many athletes struggle with their identity after their sports career has come to an end. Sports give athletes a sense of identity and a support system. Often when their careers end, they lose their sense of self. Jonathan explains how his faith helped him transition out of his athletic years and how he is helping athletes make the same shift. “My faith really helped significantly in my life.” Jonathan explains, “For me, it was my faith, just the reality of having a faith in God and realizing that I was still secure in my faith. I knew that God still loved me whether I played, or I didn't play, whether I had a job or didn't have a job. I knew that I was accepted. Those key ingredients for me were significant. They allowed me to make the transition and really have a secure identity. It gave me the freedom to try new things. Realizing that whether I failed, or if I was successful, my faith in God would allow me to be successful and continue to move forward in the midst of that.” His belief and confidence in God have given him an internal peace that he could not receive anywhere else. Jonathan knows that through every stage of his life, he is fully loved and accepted by God and Jonathan hopes to share this message with other athletes.

Jonathan shares the biblical story of David and the reasons why David has been such an inspiration in his life. “Probably one of my greatest biblical heroes is David. I just love the tenacity he had.” He also believes that there is much to learn from the relationship between David and Jonathan. They had a strong brotherly friendship, and they were willing to put the other’s interests above their own. He believes that this friendship depicts the love that God has for us. “I love that because not only does it depict the love of God, but also gives a real-life example of what true friendship, as well as what true team dynamics, can look like in life.” The story of David and Jonathan reflects these dynamics. A team must have the willingness to fight for each other and additionally, fight for their common goal.

Jonathan believes that there are two elements that maximize an individual’s God-given talents. The first element is joy. “Something I work with my guys…is that in the midst of the difficult moments or the crazy, amazing success, intentionally choosing joy in the moment is imperative.” A player must perform with joy and with a child-like attitude. When you play with joy, you have fun, and you’re not as stressed. The other element that Jonathan mentioned was the development of character. “When we have an intentional focus on our character development, not only do we get better as athletes, but we make everyone else around us better.” As an example, the development of your self-discipline will not only improve your own life but will also influence the lives around you as well.

Identity is one of the seven elements to building a Pro Mindset®. A person’s identity plays a huge role in their outlook on their career and life. Jonathan found his identity and joy in Jesus. He found a way to include his faith in his competitive career. There's an emotional weight that's lifted off your shoulders when you're able to see your identity and value through God's eyes. Becoming secure in your own identity will help you obtain your own Pro Mindset.

To listen to Jonathan Van Horn’s full interview, click here or search your favorite podcast platform, including Apple & Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and many more.

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