The Greatest Victory of All

bballI hate losing.  We had our first basketball game tonight and I can’t believe I’m admitting this on social media but… we lost 42-3.  That is not a typo.  I’m super competitive, whether I’m coaching or playing.  I don’t even like losing in a game we play in my class called “Mum Ball”.  I hate losing but I’m thankful the Lord has given me a vision over the past few years:  There really is more to coaching sports than winning. No, I’m not just saying that because I don’t win much. It’s not something “losers” say.  Even if I was a coach who had continuous winning seasons I would say the same thing.  Victories can be off the court, too.  As a coach, it’s one of my responsibilities to encourage these off-the-court victories.  Coach John Wooden puts it this way in one of his books:

“A leader, particularly a teacher or coach, has a most powerful influence on those he or she leads, perhaps more than anyone outside of the family.  Therefore, it is the obligation of that leader, teacher, or coach to treat such responsibility as a grave concern.  I consider it a sacred trust:  helping to model character, instill productive principles and values, and provide a positive example to those under my supervision.  Furthermore, it is a privilege to have that responsibility, opportunity, and obligation, one that should never be taken lightly.”

At the end of the day, there are bigger things the players need to be learning; things that are more important than dribbling or shooting a basketball correctly. There are souls at stake and lives that need to be changed and influenced in the right way.

I’ve been coaching middle school basketball for five years now.  And we’ve only ever won two games.  Yes, two.  Both of those were last season.  So I’ve seen plenty of losing seasons.  A lot of times people feel bad for me because of how much we lose.  Would I like to win?  Of course!!!  Losing does bother me.  But I’m thankful I know how to “lose properly”.  I usually need a couple of hours, just for me to process everything, a time of reflection…

I’ve grown to realize that there are bigger battles being fought: The fight for lost souls.  I’m very aware of the position I’m in and the opportunities God has given me.  I try to model Christ-like love for athletes.  Of course I fail at times… more times than I’d care to admit.  And if my flesh is being honest, it gets hard.  I have to constantly be conscious and purposeful about words I’m saying, things I’m doing, and even body language and facial expressions.

God cares more about the lives and souls of these young ladies than the wins and losses.   You can win all the games you want to but if you don’t have Christ… then what?  You can be the best player on the team but if you don’t have Christ… then what?  You can have all the skills in the world but if you don’t have Christ… then what?

I’m thankful God doesn’t look at my win-loss record in basketball or soccer!  When we leave this earth and go to one of two places, my win-loss record isn’t going to count for anything.  It’s meaningless.  There really is more to life than winning:  A relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior; the greatest victory of all.

So yes we lost 42-3 today (cringe).  But the big questions is, did I make a positive impact on my players for the cause of Christ?    As a leader I have a responsibility to live and speak in such a way that my players can see the ultimate prize in life:  Jesus.

Did they see the prize today?  Hmmm… I can always do better.  I’ll have to think about it in my reflection time, but I’ll definitely find out when I get to heaven!

Well, until next time…

…And Bless the Coaches for Their Time

Eighth grade basketball has started which means I’ve been super busy.  I feel my plate starting to overflow with life’s daily tasks. But one thing we make sure of as a team, is at the end of every single practice, to pray. It’s not forced. If they don’t want to be a part of it they don’t have to. I’m thankful everyone is though.

I love when new people step up and say they want to pray. And then a lot of times I hear a whisper from them before they start that says, “I’ve never done this before” or “I’m not good at this” or “I don’t know what to say.”  It makes me glad that a 14 year old girl has the courage to pray for her basketball team of 24 people out loud. That can be quite nerve wrecking especially if they don’t have much experience praying or public speaking.

But there’s this one young lady I coach.  There’s just something about her, every time she prays… She’s the one who when I say, “Can I get someone to lead us in prayer please?”… She’s the one that if no one says they will, and there’s that awkward silence, she always steps up to the plate. And when she prays, she always says, “… and bless the coaches for their time.”

Wow.  A fourteen year old girl asks God to bless her coaches!  That blows me away.  It really helps.  It’s encouraging.  It’s the perfect way to end practice.  Especially after long, difficult days in the classroom and on the court.  A lot of times with coaching, it can be overwhelming and time crunching.   We have to find a balance between God, ourselves, our job, our friends, and our family.  Hearing a middle school girl pray that God would bless our time is just what I need to hear sometimes.  It pushes me forward.  It makes me want to be a better coach and person at that.  I’m so impressed with the players’ courage, especially at this age group.

Sometimes the players aren’t the only ones learning.

What to Say When You DO Know What to Say

I haven’t blogged in a of couple weeks because I’m a little embarrassed to say what I’m about to say. But one of my mindsets when deciding to blog was that I would be as transparent as possible with my faith, my life, and my career. So I’m going to stick to it and suck it up.

Previously I wrote about “What to Say When You DON’T Know What to Say”, and how you might not always have an answer but you can always have a response: Prayer. Well now I’m going to talk about what to say when you DO know what to say.  You know… those moments when you just want to speak your mind and maybe you do, and the words come out like my friend Tyler refers to them as word vomit, and then it’s too late and you just can’t take it back.

As a teacher, there are moments when you just want to spew what’s on your mind, but you have to tell yourself that you need to set a positive example. There have been two occasions this school year thus far where unfortunately, I spewed. And frankly, I’m embarrassed. I could not believe I said the things I said. Let me paint you a picture.

It was our first day for the students to have their iPads. One of the groups in my class was having problems with the app we were using. I kept saying that if it wasn’t working we would fix it later, just look at someone else’s. As the lesson went on they were still bummed about it.  I would repeat myself and I could tell (and they probably could too), that my tone was changing. And not in a good way. The fact that the app wasn’t working for this group of students was stressing me out, because it was stressing them out. How sad is that?!  Finally, I heard one more student say something about it and I spewed. I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember how I felt after I said it. Low. And bad. And convicted. As the lesson went on I went back to their table and I told them I needed to speak to them after class. The bell rang and I put on my big girl pants and I said, “Hey I just wanted to apologize for what happened. You guys didn’t have control over the app not working right and all of the kinks were starting to bother me and unfortunately I took it out on you guys. I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”

The second moment I spewed in class was about a month ago. Every teacher has that one student. The one who just says whatever he wants, whenever he wants, even when people aren’t listening. No filter.  So class is about to start and THAT student says something, I must’ve already been irritated because when he said it I just reacted, and I said “BOB! (made up name).  JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE SOMETHING ON YOUR MIND AND ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO SAY IT!  (And then came the word vomit…). TRUST ME, IF I SAID WHAT WAS ON MY MIND ALL OF THE TIME, SOME OF YOU PROBABLY WOULDN’T LIKE ME!”  Oh. Wow. No WAY.. I could NOT believe that came out of my mouth. Talk about hypocritical!!  And I looked around and some of the students were like, “Oh snap Ms. Dolen!  Got em!”  And others had big eyes and were probably thinking, “Am I one of them she’s talking about?!”  Which I’m not even sure why I said that because I absolutely adore my students.  It was just the first thing that came out!  Some thought it was funny, like a burn. Others weren’t sure what to think!  Even I was confused!

I never apologized to that student. My flesh didn’t want to. But I’ve been playing it out over and over in my head the past couple weeks and I realized I do need to apologize. He’s probably forgotten about it.  But I haven’t. And I’ve been convicted to humble myself and say I’m sorry.

Word vomit. We might know what say, but we don’t always have to say it. It can really pierce someone. I wasn’t the one pierced by the words, but I was definitely pierced by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. You can bet on it that tomorrow I’m going to pull that student aside, put on my big girl pants that have been packed up for a few weeks, and tell him I’m sorry.

My best advice is this, exactly what I told that student in my moment of word vomit:  Just because you know what to say, doesn’t mean you always have to say it.  The old saying really is true:  Think before you speak.

What to Say When You DON’T Know What to Say

I’m the type of person who always needs an answer for things. And if someone asks me a question, I want to always be able to give them an answer.  But one thing I continue to learn the older I get is that it’s okay to not have an answer for something…

As a teacher and coach, there comes a time when something is said or done and you’re usually the person who always has a response. People look to you for an answer.  Whether it’s a student or a player.  I imagine the same for parents, too.  I often relate stuff to being a parent, (even though I’m not one), because I imagine teaching and coaching is like… well, parenting.  They’re just not my blood!.  I can think of two specific occasions in the past year where something happened and I didn’t know what to say, and something was said and I didn’t know what to say.

Scenario #1:  This past spring during soccer we lost a game in double-overtime to the best team in the conference.  My players were so torn up.  They collapsed on the field.  After the game I took them behind the bleachers to have our post-game talk, and they were all crying.  They were crying out of frustration and disappointment.  They honestly played their hearts out that game,  only to lose in the last six seconds, it was heart breaking. For them as players and for me as a coach.  Not because we lost, but seeing them hurting, hurt me.  I had no idea what to say to them.  What do you say to a group of teenage girls who just lost to the same team in double-overtime that we had JUST lost to the previous season in double-overtime as well?  It was a David vs. Goliath story.  Unfortunately, Goliath prevailed.  I was speechless.  I didn’t want to do the “coach thing” at that moment.  It wasn’t the time.  But I had to say something.  They needed to hear something… so… we prayed.

Scenario #2:  A student approached me at the beginning of class and said his little brother was having heart problems and possibly cancer.  He was telling me this in front of the whole class as people were gathering to their seats, and he asked me about how bad it could get, that if his brother could die from it.  I had no idea what to tell him, plus I didn’t really feel like it was my call to give him any of that information.  Again, I was left almost speechless.  But he was looking to me for a response. I analyzed the situation and tried to deter attention away from him because by now students were beginning to eavesdrop.  We ended up lining up for lunch and I privately whispered to him, “If you need anything let me know.”  I later responded on my own through prayer and asked my friends to pray for him as well.

So what do you say when you don’t know what to say?

  1. Pray.
  2. Pray.
  3. Pray some more.

We don’t always have an answer. But we can always have a response:  Prayer.

Consider the Possibilities

The other day I was on my way to lunch with a fellow coworker and we were having a conversation. I went on to say that I thought someone was intimidated by me, and my friend made a comment and said  “You do have aggressive body language.”  She says aggressive, I just say confident! (Haha)

But it’s true. I’ll be the first to admit it.  And then it got me thinking about why I’m that way.  There has to be a reason, right?  I started thinking about myself the way I think about my students.  When I look out across my students on a daily basis and some of them are a particular way, I always think to myself, What happened in their life to make them that way? A lot of things happen to us and those circumstances tend to shape us into who we are, or at least why we are the way we are when it comes to certain situations.  So I started thinking about me, and why I have “aggressive” body language.  And I can tell you three situations…

  1. I was a freshman in college.  There was a girl on my soccer team who was not afraid of what people said about her, I really admired that because all through high school I felt like I kind of let people walk all over me; I wasn’t a push over, I still knew when to say no.  But this teammate of mine in college just had this no-nonsense confidence that I wanted.  I remember talking to her about it one night and she said to me, “Kristen, people can be mad at you for telling the truth to them, but they can’t hate you.”  So I took that mindset.  Granted I had to tame it over the years…
  2. Fast forward three years to my senior year in college. I was student-teaching.  I was up at the front and of the classroom and this class would just not be quiet.  It started to get to me.  I became so over-whelmed by these fifteen year olds that I started tearing up, I ended up setting the marker down and walking out of the classroom and I went to the bathroom and cried.  My cooperating teacher let me sink.  And I’m actually thankful for that.  She came to find me later on and we talked about what happened and how I could’ve handled it, and should handle it in the future.  I’m grateful for that conversation.  That was the moment when I told myself I will never let another teenager make me cry ever again.
  3. A couple weeks later, same class, I saw a girl writing a note.  I told her to give it to me and she wouldn’t.  I escorted her to the office.  While I was out, her friend (the one she was writing the note to) spit in my bottle of Pepsi… and I had no idea.  Until after class.  A student came up to me and told me.

These moments definitely shaped part of why I am the way I am to this day. It makes me more aware that people go through things in their lives that mold them into who they are. That’s something that crosses my mind on a regular basis in the classroom:

  • A student strives for my attention.  Why?
    • Maybe they don’t get it at home.
  • A student didn’t have their assignment completed.  Why?
    • Maybe their family didn’t have enough money to pay the electric bill and they couldn’t do their work in the dark.  (True story).

And you could also look on the positive side of it too:

  • This person always has a smile on their face.  Why?
    • Maybe they have a relationship with the Lord.
  • This person is so patient with other people.  Why?
    • Maybe because they’ve been around people who extended patience toward them.

So I encourage you today, if there’s something about a person you just don’t get, consider the possibilities of why they are the way they are.  We all have our reasons.  Maybe even take the time to analyze a certain part of your life and figure out why you are the way you are in that area.

P.S.  I was not offended at all when I was told I have aggressive body language, (because I know it’s true).  I laughed and said, “That’s probably why I’m still single!”  She was telling me in love and truth.  Thankful for those kind of friendships in my life.