This past winter I had the privilege of beginning one of my most anticipated dreams: coaching high school basketball. I was just an assistant at Mid-Prairie High School, but I must say that it was one of the most satisfying, beneficial, and stretching things I have ever done. God taught me so much through this last season, and I would like to share just three of the many things I learned.
1. Success takes hard work.
You might be reading this and be thinking “well, no duh!” It may surprise you, however, how many people say this is a true statement, but allow their actions to say something completely different. Each member of the team wants to be a starter, or to be a great ball handler, or have a solid jump shot; but not every player will actually put in the time to play pick-up ball whenever it is available, watch good basketball to learn the game better, or commit to shooting 300 shots a day in the off-season.
Christians often have that same mentality. Every Christian wants to be seen as a spiritual leader whose voice is heard when a problem arises, serve in the most important areas, or have God drop a million dollars in their lap so they can give it all away. However, not every Christian will devote themselves to the daily study of God’s Word, step up to the plate when help is needed in a “non-glamorous” role, let their opinion go when it isn’t being received well, or even commit to giving on a regular basis. Being a solid Christian takes a ton of grace and a commitment to hard work.
2. Everything always looks easier from the outside.
Ever since playing in high school, I have wanted to coach basketball. I remember talking to my dad and my friends about it. In college, I talked about problems, schemes, and strategies with my fellow players and captains. I thought that I could always correctly diagnose a problem and that I always had the perfect solution. When I became a coach, I knew my team had only one win the season before… I thought to myself that any coach and team should be able to win more than one game in a season just by sheer motivation and hard work. I thought it would be easy!
I was right about one thing, you can win more than one game in a season by motivation and hard work. However, I was very wrong about it being easy! Getting stomped by 30 points in our first game put things into perspective really quick. I helped with three different teams (Freshman, JV, and Varsity) and our combined record was roughly 15 of 65! That is a lot of losing. I have never personally played on a team with such a poor record, and I quickly saw how hard it was to motivate players to work hard. It really gave me a new perspective on seeing other people’s problems, because from the outside, things always look so easy and the solution seems so clear.
In the Christian life, it can be easy to point fingers at leadership and tell them what they need to do to fix things. It can be easy to look down on struggling Christians and think that you are so much better because you don’t have the same problems. It can be easy to look at the heavy hitter and think he has it made in the shade because everything is “given to him.” The truth is, however, that until you decide to step up, help, and get your own hands dirty; things will always look easier from the outside.
3. Basketball is not the goal, Christ is!
I love basketball! It is something that I have enjoyed since I was a kid, so much so that I really need to guard my heart against it at times. That is not why I decided to coach though and my wife would not have let me coach for that reason alone (good for her)! I decided to become a coach because I knew it would be a great way to meet unsaved people (and boy was I right). Thirty seconds into my first practice a kid swore at me and told me to get lost! Right then and there I knew there was no way I was going to be able to do this on my own, and I began to pray. And by the end of practice that kid had apologized to me!
That really set the tone for the rest of the year. Each day on my way to practice or a game, I would turn my radio off and pray for the basketball team. I would pray for my relationships with the coaches, the team, individual players and for opportunities to share the Gospel. Each day I walked away with answered prayer and it was amazing! Now that basketball is over, the real mission begins. I have already spent time with many of them outside of basketball and am now praying for opportunities to share Christ with them. That is the real reason I became a coach, and I love it!