I can’t believe that another year of basketball is in the books. This season was a unique one, to say the least. It started off with learning how to use an overflowing bench (we had twenty-one players on the team), and then it finished with some crazy weather & cancellations. At the end of the season, we had to go a week without any practices or games, play a game or two, and then go another week without any practices or games. Despite all the craziness, it was a great season. This was the most talented group I have ever coached, and we ended up finishing 16-0! Even though our record was perfect, I still learned a lot throughout the season about coaching and people. Which, to be honest, is one of my favorite parts. I think the only thing better is watching the kids learn all the same lessons.
You have to be a fan and a critic – As Christians, one important goal we should have in all of our relationships is to help others grow. However, this can be very difficult and frustrating at times. If you are only someone’s fan, then that person will begin to think that they can do no wrong and will stop self-evaluating. If you are only someone’s critic, then that person will begin to think they can do no right, and they will stop taking opportunities to grow because they think they will fail anyway. It truly takes a balance of love and truth. You can build a lot of “relational stock” in someone by being a voice of encouragement to them. That way, when you do need to tell them about an area of improvement, they can trust that you have their best interests in mind. I had a really tough time this year teaching one of my players the importance of this principal, but it was so fun to see it finally click with this player. In fact, it wasn’t until one of the last JV games that this player of mine finally figured it out, and the way it changed the team’s demeanor on the court blew me away!
None of us are going to strike a perfect balance because we all have tendency to lean one way or the other. Personally, I struggle with being too big of a fan. So, I would just say to be very conscious of which way you lean and ask the Lord for strength in those moments you struggle with the other.
Difficulty brings people together – Another goal we should have as Christians is unity. This may seem like a no brainer, but as of late, churches really struggle with this. I believe this comes from people shying away from difficulty (myself included). As Christians, we have an idea that when life is easy, then God is happy with us; and when life is hard, then God must be upset with us. So, we rush around trying to get back to easy. Relationships get hard, so we stop pursuing. Church is imperfect, so we find another one. Life gets busy, so we stop serving. And after it’s all said and done, we find ourselves “disconnected”. I might get myself into trouble by saying this, but I really believe God grows us together more through adversity than through ease. At the beginning of our basketball season we were blowing teams out of the water, and it was fun, to a degree. It was fun because it gave the bench an opportunity to play, but after a while it got old (even for the players). I just never felt that sense of “team” like I had in previous years when the game was close, or we would be down and have to fight our way back into it. Finally, our last two home games were two of the toughest games I have ever been a part of, and they ended with all twenty-two of us jumping up and down, hugging each other, and celebrating in the locker room. And I don’t think it was because we won. I think it was because we went through something difficult together, and it completely changed our team for the better!
People are sinners, and the church is filled with them. It’s imperfect, which means that serving takes sacrifice. We have to stop scattering to the four winds every time something gets difficult. Instead, we need to focus on how God is using the difficulty to grow us and bring us together for our good and, most importantly, His glory.
Don’t get results and goals mixed – This is a lesson I learned in reading about Coach “K” (The University of Duke), and it is one of my favorite things I have learned. The lesson is to not mix up goals and results. A lot of coaches say that the goal is to win, but I struggle with that mentality. If wining is a goal, then you will be okay for really poor effort in a win to a really bad team and be frustrated with really great effort in a loss against a team that was just better than you. Instead, we need to focus on our effort in what we can control every night. That looks different for everyone. For some players, it might be doing his best to score twenty points every night, but for another player, it might be cheering for his team and reminding his team to box out every time there is a shot.
I think this translates to the Christian life really well because all too often we get caught up in making “good results” our goal. We desire to have a godly family, a thriving relationship with the Lord, or to be a spiritual leader in our church or home. Those are great results, but too ethereal to be goals. If you want a godly family, then focus on leading your family in devotions on a regular basis or having intentional conversations at the dinner table. If you want a thriving relationship with the Lord, then focus on being in His Word on regular basis or setting aside intentional time to pray. If you want to be a spiritual leader, then focus on serving in your local body. Quite expecting others to serve you and start focusing on helping others grow in their walk with the Lord. If you stay committed, and are faithful, then the results will take care of themselves. The results might not be what you thought they were going to be, but you can honestly know that you did your best and can trust the Lord with the results He provides!
I love sports for a lot of reasons, but the biggest reason is that you have opportunity to be regularly put in high pressure situations so that you can practice what God is teaching you!