Friday, February 16, 2018

Take Your Best Shot

We are in off season basketball mode. We practice each day but for a shorter time than in the season. Yesterday we got to NINE in a game called On The Glass, a free throw competition where you win by not scoring points.What this means is we made eight consecutive free throws as a team, an impossibility several months ago. Improvement is so much fun! This is from August 22, 2006.

My middle school basketball team has a practice period built into our schedule. Only two young ladies trying out for the squad have played in a junior high game so we are very inexperienced. Contrary to what you hear coaches say, we concentrate almost exclusively on offensive skills which are more difficult to master than defensive techniques. Today, we began working on shooting. We (Christian Chevis, my student assistant, and me) break shooting down into easy-to-learn repetitive steps. We get in a stance. We shoot an imaginary ball concentrating on follow through. We lay on our backs and mimic our shooting stroke, again without the ball, and rewind each shot like a video tape. We use mirror form drill where the girls have a partner critique their form on an imaginary shot. In fact, we do fine... until we add the ball. Once we begin actually shooting, technique takes a back seat to result and we forget everything we have so diligently worked on. We instantly revert to bad habits. The kids judge themselves in shooting by only one criterion- whether the ball goes through the basket. If it does, they consider it a good shot regardless of their form. A high school coach in Tennessee did something that was very smart. When teaching shooting to his players in spring practice, he would place a lid on the rim, making it impossible for the ball to go through the cylinder. In doing so, he hoped to eliminate the players worrying about they perceived to be success, i.e., making the shot. I wish it were that easy.

Life imitates the shooting of a basketball. It's not hard in theory but in the practical stage, the skill breaks down quickly. It's easy to say what we would do in a situation until we are actually in the real-life arena. It's like adding the ball. Nobody knows if you make or miss your practice attempts without the basketball. I tell the kids to visualize each imaginary shot swishing through the nets. Mental success is easy; practical success is not. Life, particularly the Christian life, is not lived in a vacuum. It's easy to memorize Jesus' teaching in the Sermon On The Mount but we find it excruciatingly difficult to actually fulfill his commands when we put the Bible down and leave the sterile environment of our homes. I can teach thirteen year old girls how to shoot but shooting in a setting that matters, a game, is up to them. I can devour the scriptures in the comfort of my apartment but it does no one else any good until I put it to use outside my door. Will my girls learn to shoot? The jury is out. Half of them are also in my eighth grade Bible class studying the gospel of Luke. The more important question then becomes, will they learn how to live? My prayer is that they do. That's how we should judge coaches and teachers.

Applicable quote of the day:
"We're shooting 100%: 60 % from the field and 40% from the free-throw line."

Norm Stewart/ University of Missouri Basketball Coach

God bless,

Luke 18:1
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