Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Ball

Our basketball season ended on Friday. It was unlike any season of coaching I've had in either baseball or basketball. Twice, I coached baseball teams that qualified for the high school state tournament in Georgia. My first middle school team at WCS went 24-2 and my high school squad here won the state championship in the private schools' division. On the other hand, my first high school baseball team won one game and a number of my basketball teams had sub .500 records. But records and emotions can deceive. The best coaching job I ever did was with a team that posted a 4-27 mark and coincidentally, my favorite team ever. My 2011-2012 WCS Middle School Lady Wildcats did not win a game. In our final game on Friday, we were tied at the end of the first quarter, the deepest we had been in contention all season. That same team had beaten us by forty points in November so we talked about the strides we made. Only one girl on the team was not a sixth grader and we played an eighth grade schedule. These kids, while tall for their ages and decently athletic, had zero basketball experience among themselves. If they work hard, they can be competitive and perhaps even very good by the time they finish eighth grade in 2014. As with everything, time will tell. Regardless, in the past six months, these mostly not yet teens have secured a place in my favorite team category.

When I started with this bunch of girls in August, we stressed the most important concept of the game which is team. As we began learning on the court, we stressed the most important thing is THE BALL. It was something we struggled with all year although showing marked improvement late in the season. We did not always value possession of the ball and were very careless with it. On defense, we taught the two primary rules:

It sounds simple but if you have played, you know it isn't, especially if you are a novice at the sport. The game revolves around THE BALL. At the start of each year, I ask the kids, "How many points did Lebron/Kobe/etc. score last year?" They always give a variety of answers, usually in the upper twenties to lower thirties per game range. It's a trick question because Lebron/Kobe/etc. NEVER score, it's THE BALL that goes through the hoop and so it is vital to know where THE BALL is at all times. If we learned nothing else this year, I think we are beginning to grasp this concept.

As a Christian, I sometimes struggle with the same thing as my basketball players but instead of the ball, I lose focus on the cross. I sometimes don't value it as I should. I lose sight of it. Other things in life distract me with little resistance on my part. Without the ball, there is no game. Without the cross, and the One who willingly gave it meaning, my existence is fleeting and of little value. My players will mature in basketball if they choose to make it part of their life going forward, and we always make sure they understand it should only be a small part of their life. The question is, will I grow into my view of the cross as I go onward or will I be content to be stagnant in my relationship with the Lord? Basketball is seasonal; Christianity is daily....or at least, it needs to be. Check back this time next year and I'll update you on some girls and THE BALL and their coach and the state of his vision. We pray for improvement on both fronts!

Applicable quote of the day:
"In sixth grade, my basketball team made it to the league championships. In double overtime, with three seconds left, I rebounded the ball and passed it - to the wrong team! They scored at the buzzer and we lost the game. To this day, I still have nightmares!"
Zac Efron 

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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