There were hundreds of high school softball players in the Denver airport two Sunday evenings ago while I was there. Apparently there had been a large tournament in Denver that had attracted teams from across the US and our paths crossed as they were departing.

As I was waiting at my gate for my flight to Spokane, I overheard a conversation between a coach and a player from another team. Actually, it was more like a lecture. The coach started by admiring the girl’s skills. Apparently the girl, the star of her team, had beaten the coach’s team. The coach told the girl that she had potential to play in one of the premier college programs and could receive significant financial aid.

However, his tone quickly changed. He asked her, “Do you want to play ball with a leading college team?” She hesitantly responded that she did. He followed up with, “What is your GPA.” She mumbled, “About 3.5.” He asked, “How many times have you lifted weights in the past two weeks?” She responded that she had been to the gym once since school left out. He asked about her diet, how much time she had spent preparing for the SAT, and how many phone calls she had placed to college coaches. She responded weakly to all his questions.

The quizzing went on for what seemed like a long time. I felt uncomfortable. This girl had just won a major tournament and she was expecting to return to her Idaho town a hero. But this man, who she did not even know, was ripping her to shreds. He was pointing out one weakness after another. He exhorted her that she needed to improve her “pitiful GPA.” That she needed to pay attention to her diet and exercise. That she needed to immediately begin preparing for the SAT and that she should regularly call college coaches to confidently let them know why she is a great recruit. Most importantly, he said, “You need to want to play college ball.” He emphatically asked her again, “Do you want to play softball with a big-time college team?”

At the time I hurt for the girl. She was embarrassed. However, after reflecting on the situation, I realized that this stranger was giving her the best advice available. He seemed to know what he was talking about and he believed in this girl. He wanted her to succeed and he realized he would have only one opportunity to help her. There is probably no one in her life who can and will give her the kind of exhortation that she needed. He could and he did. I am sure she felt a little hurt, but I hope she realizes the gift she received. If she heeds his advice, she has a chance to be a college softball player with a nice scholarship.

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” This stranger was not her enemy, he was her friend.