Friday, September 12, 2014

The Focus Factor

We have basketball practice the first period of the day. Our middle school boys practice on one end of the gym and we practice on the other. At times, due to activities of the previous day, the bleachers are left out and we cannot lower the curtain that normally divides the two groups. The result is predictable. The girls struggle to keep their minds on what we were doing. The following, from September 11, 2006, illustrates the dynamics of the situation.

We moved into our new home today. My middle school basketball team has been displaced for five weeks as a remodeling project takes over our gym. It will be worth it. Our old rubber floor has become dangerous, bubbling up when the temperature rises, creating hazardous playing conditions. A new wooden floor and a revamped lighting system will provide a much improved atmosphere for basketball and volleyball, as well as for chapel and school functions. This morning marked our first workout in our temporary arena. Our address for the time being is the classroom courtyard at the adjacent Westbury church of Christ building. This court has no markings or bleachers; it even lacks baskets. Our practice would seem unconventional to most. We never took a shot and the four balls we used were Heavy Trainers, basketballs that are identical in circumference but weigh about 2 1/2 times more than a regulation model. For thirty minutes, we worked on passing and catching, footwork, and turns. These drills might seem very mundane but I was exhilarated as we stacked it up and talked before our closing prayer. You have to visualize our setting. The courtyard is 50' by 50' square and completely walled in. Sounds of the outside world were shut out, save for the chiming every fifteen minutes from the next door Catholic Church bell tower. The kids don't always evaluate practices like I do but they were genuinely tuned in today. Perhaps it was the novelty of the setting but I asked them why we had a high level of concentration. Their unanimous answer was, "No distractions." I have coached young ladies long enough to know that response is girl-code for NO BOYS. When we practice in the gym, our junior high boys' team is on the other end, obscured by a dividing curtain, but believe me, the girls know they are there. They can hear them and they catch glimpses of them. Today, we were isolated, our own basketball island. With the girls admitting the boys interfere with their athletic performance, I asked how many of them would want to attend an all-girls school. Again, the answer was unanimous; NO! Why not? TOO BORING! I guess our enrollment, coed by nature, is safe!

You know, if we played our games in that tiny courtyard, we might be pretty good. There were elements missing this morning that would not be absent in a game setting; cheerleaders, referees, parents, and of course, the opposing team. These girls aren't going to be totally focused on basketball and I wouldn't want them to be. Our makeshift court is terrific for learning skills of how to play but eventually, we are going to have to actually play basketball. Dealing with a swirling environment is part of the process of maturing as a basketball player as well as a Christian. Isolation can help us focus in the short-term but life plays out in a group setting. Jesus separated himself for a time from the crowds, even from his apostles, but he quickly returned to the arena where he was desperately needed, the world stage. In mid-October, we will come home to our new basketball dwelling. I hope the time away will help us appreciate the facilities we have. Who knows, this month long adventure may become a tradition with my girls. I'll let you know in five weeks!

Applicable quote of the day:
"Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short."
Adam Hochschild

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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