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…

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Dropping the Ball: When Leaders Cause Fumbles

Football season has officially started. I actually know quite a bit about the sport. One thing I know is that when a fumble occurs, everyone tries to jump on it.  A lot of fumbles happen because the person carrying the ball, usually gets grabbed and it falls loose.  However, there are some occasions when the quarterback, the leader of the team, is the one who drops the ball; he’s the one who is guilty of the fumble.

A couple weeks ago in class I “dropped the ball”. I fumbled.  I was teaching my students, I had my lesson all planned out, but going into it, something wasn’t right that morning.  Something about my mindset and attitude.  I knew I wasn’t as prepared as I could’ve been.  And unfortunately, it showed.  I was not on top of my game that class.  I was out of sorts and just “not having a good game”.

As the quarterback of my class, I can’t afford to drop the ball. My students depend on me to make the right calls at the right time.  They look to me to guide them and execute properly.  It all comes down to the little things.  If a quarterback throws the perfect pass to a wide receiver, who is completely open with no coverage, the QB expects him to catch it.  He has a job.  If he isn’t doing the little things right in preparing for the game, chances are a fumble is going to occur.  Me dropping the ball in class that day came down to exactly that…ME.  It wasn’t their fault.  It came back to me.  It was my most well-behaved class, too (go figure, right?!).  I didn’t bring my A-game that day, so neither did they.  There was honestly no one else to blame for them being a little more ornery that day.  They jumped right on my fumble!  The only reason they weren’t as good as they usually are behavior-wise, is because I wasn’t as good as I could’ve been, teacher-wise.

I hate when people make excuses. For anything.  Missing homework.  Tardy to class.  Late to practice.  Anything.  I try my best to not make excuses because I want to model self-discipline to them.  I’ll be the first person to admit my mistakes.  At the end of class we had a little heart-to-heart and I said to them, “Okay, today was probably the worst day we’ve had together as a group.”  And there was a girl, at a back table, and I saw her nod her head in agreement.  Even she knew it!  She knew what her and her classmates were capable of.  And I knew what I was capable of.  I told them, it was me.  It was because I dropped the ball.  I wasn’t as prepared as I could’ve been.  I was doing the little things wrong.  I didn’t perform as best as I could’ve.

I’ll quote my Facebook status from that day: “One thing I’ve learned as a teacher and a coach is that usually when my class or team is having a rough time, and they’re just not “with it”, I can trace it back to me, as their leader also not being “with it” at the moment. Good thing I still have 5 more hours to get “with it”!” (September 3rd)

I truly believe that people will rise to the expectations set by the leader. But the leader has to have high expectations for themselves, too.  One of the best things about being a professional educator, is that even though I get paid for teaching, I’m learning, too.  About myself.  Daily.