Archive for the ‘RED HOT Life Lessons’ category

Knowing Who You Are

January 15, 2022

LIFE LESSON (from the Red Hot Novel Series): Knowing who you are is more important than who people perceive you to be.

Earvin Johnson is six-feet, nine-inches tall. Better known since his days at Michigan State as “Magic” Johnson, Earvin grew up in Lansing in the shadow of Spartan Land. I wonder how many of his coaches assumed he was a post player, a center, before anyone realized that he was a point guard who simply didn’t fit into the perceptions of what a point guard looked like? You see, 6’9″…even 6’4″…was more often than not viewed as the player who would be down low, on the block, close to the basket, the rebounder.

Perceptions and a-rush-to-judgment are hard to change. So often younger siblings are seen through the same lens as their older brothers and sisters. A have a student who is the youngest child in a family with four kids. I coached her two older brothers in basketball and assumed, since she is tall, that she would be a hoops players as well. Instead, she has other interests not connected to athletics, is a great student and a great kid. I’m sure, however, that she has had to answer the question, “Do you play basketball like your brothers?”

Middle school and younger high school students get pressured by their classmates and friends sometimes to be who they aren’t. I’ve noticed a few eighth-graders this year who, as seventh-graders, were responsive, respectful, and made good decisions, but have been drawn into groups where wisdom and common sense have taken a leave-of-absence. They’ve allowed their identity to be reshaped in order to fit-in and be accepted. It happens quite often in those years of “figuring out life”.

The adolescent years need mentors and advisors who model integrity, strong values, and trustworthiness. Middle schoolers, especially, need non-judgmental adults who help them in the defining of who they are. Young people need those encouragers who will keep saying to them that who others want them to be is not nearly as important as being who they really are.

That doesn’t mean that every six-foot seventh-grader is going to be a point guard or every eighth-grader who isn’t afraid to sing should be the lead vocalist. It’s simply to make the point that kids these days– especially kids whose self-image is shaky– need people to help them believe they can be something different than what others are telling them they need to be.

In evaluating my own life I am so thankful for a couple of friends in my middle school years and, after a move to a new town, a couple of friends in high school who helped me stay grounded and weren’t afraid to say to me, “What are you thinking, Wolfe!!!” when I was heading toward the valley of stupidity. I’m thankful for a great church youth group and awesome adults who lead it. Those ingredients and relationships solidified my discovery of who I was and am. I can only hope that I can now be an encourager, mentor, and coach for a few as they go through these years of their lives.

Pulling In The Same Direction

January 9, 2022

LIFE LESSON:

“A successful team learns how to work together, not against one another.” 

There’s a scene in that great American comedy series, The Three Stooges, where Moe and Curly are digging two foxholes. As Mo throws a shovel full of dirt over his shoulder into Curly’s hole, Curly is throwing another scoop of dirt into Moe’s hole. In the tradition of the comedy of the clueless, it takes a couple of minutes for one of them (Moe) to figure out what is happening. 

For some teams, the difference between success and failure comes down to a tendency to work against one another instead of with one another. A step forward is discounted by an error in judgment. Something negative that happens in the school hallway resurfaces in a reluctance to pass to a teammate in the midst of a game. There becomes a battle seen by those observing the contest between some of the members of a team. They are pulling in different directions. In essence, they’re simply throwing dirt into the other foxhole. 

Successful teams find a rhythm to their work or performance. They have discovered and defined the roles of each teammate: who is the best defender, who is the best rebounder, who handles the basketball, who comes off the bench and picks the team up, who is the team cheerleader, and who is the go-to scorer? Successful teams discover those roles and succeed because of it. 

Years ago I was coaching a girls’ junior varsity team and I noticed that one of the players wasn’t passing the ball to a wide-open teammate. When I shouted to her that the teammate was open, another girl sitting on the bench said, “Coach, she’s not going to pass to her?” I asked why and she replied, “Because she heard that she (the teammate) was talking to her boyfriend in  the hallway today.”

I was dumbfounded! Differences had poured from their personal lives onto the court. 

In today’s culture there are more challenges for a team to experience success than there are ingredients of success. You can see it especially in a player’s drive for statistics. After all, a college coach is going to look at scoring average, rebounds, how well a player shoots three-pointers. The drive for individual recognition is always a tension point with team success. 

Jealousy, self-centeredness, overconfidence, lack of effort, not being coachable, not listening…all of those are challenges to a team’s rhythm and success. 

Successful teams discover a fluidness that leads them smoothly down the stream. They support one another, congratulate each other on achievements, create an environment of equality no matter whether it’s the best player or the last perps on the bench. When one player suffers the team empathizes with him. There is an attitude that says, We’re in this together!

I think of an Olympic rowing team. The importance of the oars hitting the water in a synchronized fashion determines success or disappointment. I think of teams I’ve coached where there’s been “an oar” that sticks out like a sore thumb in its bad timing or minimal effort. One person out-of-synch can detour a team away from victory.