Archive for the ‘Teamwork’ category

First Day of Cross-Country Practice

August 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     August 14, 2018

                            

It was an optional practice day so the other coaches and I were a bit surprised that about 25 middle school students showed up for it. “I thought there would be four or five!” exclaimed Coach Barry.

But here they were! About 25 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders wondering what the next hour and a half would hold for them, their lungs, and their legs!

“I’m Coach Wolfe, and it’s great to see all of you here this afternoon!” 

Some smiled back at me.  Others looked down at the ground like they feared a sudden sinkhole would open up and swallow them down into the depths. One girl with shaking knees was hoping for a sinkhole!

A hand shot up. 

“Coach Wolfe, what will we be doing in our cross-country practices?”

“Well, let’s see! We’ll watch some Justin Bieber Youtube videos, have Fudgesicle eating contests, and finish each day with some tug-of-war competitions.”

He looked at me in disbelief.

“No, that’s a different sport I’m thinking of! In cross-country we’ll…RUN! We’ll run long, we’ll run fast, we’ll run easy and hard, up hills and down hills, on paths through the woods and sidewalks around the neighborhoods. We’ll run down to 7-11 and get Slurpies and to Boriello Brothers and get pizza…okay, strike the pizza idea! Basically, we’ll run in a variety of ways!

“Coach Wolfe!” This time the girl hoping for a sinkhole had her hand up.

“Yes.”

“How far will we run?”

“Some days further than others. Roughly three miles a day.” Her eyes opened as wide as the sinkholes she hoped for.

“Just three miles?” asked a new sixth grader. “I’ve been on a running team that competes in the nationals each year and we usually do six to seven miles a day.”

“Go for it! When we get done with our practice you can do a Forrest Gump and just keep running!”

A young man with blonde hair and a heavy dose of anxiety raised his hand halfway and looked at me.

“Yes, sir!”

“I just moved here from Texas. Do you think I’ll have a hard time with the altitude change?”

“Yes.”

“Oh!” he replied with a facial expression that resembled when the time his mom told him Santa Claus doesn’t ride in a sleigh.

“It will take you a while, but you’ll get used to it.”

“Thank you,” he said as he bit his lower lip.

“Each of you is at a different point than everybody else. Some of you have been running since you were about the size of a ladybug and others are brand new. Your coaches will seek to help each of you get better as a runner and also understand how to run. We’ll expect you to work hard, but we also want you to have fun!”

At the mention of having fun a few eyebrows went up, like I was saying that it was fun to go to the doctor and get a flu shot, or it was fun to wear underwear inside-out and backwards! 

But it will be fun! In fact, today…Day 2 and another optional practice before the first official practice on Wednesday…I’m getting popsicles for the end of practice. For a popsicle I bet the one young lady would even jump over a sinkhole! 

And I’ll high five each of them and joke with them and then send them all home thinking, “This is going to be awesome!”

Parents Following Directions

August 12, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             August 12, 2018

                                   

This past week I was doing laps around our middle school track. It was also a day when students were stopping by the school to check in and get their assigned locker. Most of them had a parent with them.

Our middle school is undergoing a construction project at the school entrance to provide a more secure environment. The work is not done yet, thus there were two construction indicators on the sidewalk leading up to the entrance. The first was a sign that informed parents and students that construction was being done on the entrance. It directed them to enter the building by the side entrance. The large arrow pointing the direction to the side entrance was visible at least twenty yards away.

The second indictor was a line of orange cones across the sidewalk. 

Each time I came around the track I saw the decision-making process taking place. First, a parent and their child, or children, would walk up the sidewalk to where the sign was located. They would then either turn and walk towards the side of the building…or walk past the sign and past the orange cones and proceed to the front entrance. 

A rough calculation of those I observed indicated that half followed directions and half didn’t! (One good thing about the experience is that it took my mind off the laps I ran!) 

Half followed directions and half did their own thing! And these were the parents!

Was there misunderstanding? Were the orange cones not bright enough? Was the arrow pointing towards the side entrance confusing? Was the sounds of the drill and the pounding of nails disorienting?

There may have been a few reasons why so many of them continued on the forbidden path. My cynical and critical nature tells me that some of them felt the sign didn’t apply to them. It was for those OTHER people! Kind of like those handicapped parking spots are okay to park in when no one is parking in them! Or that additional check-out line that just opened up  at the grocery store is meant for them even those six people are in front of them in the previous line! Or that person who believes he can speed by the waiting line of cars on the highway even though the road sign a mile back told him his lane was ending due to road construction!

There’s parental entitlement that is seeping through in various subtle ways. 

I know, I know…it’s only a door! Yes, maybe I’m reading too much into it, but my guess is that all of us have experienced every one of those situations I mentioned…and we gritted our teeth in frustration or dropped our mouthes open in disbelief. 

Perhaps Little Jimmy’s apple of attitude didn’t fall too far from the tree!

The Troubling of Sports Officials

August 8, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  August 8, 2018

                          

It’s a situation that basketball game assignors started dealing with a few years ago: too many games and not enough referees to cover them safely and effectively. So a trend started! Games on heavy volume days began to be rescheduled…or, in a few cases, officials had to cover three games in one day…often at two different locations. 

It was a warning sign that most wanted to pretend wasn’t happening; that the number of people officiating basketball games was gradually decreasing while the number of games being played gradually had been increasing. A few people saw the impending crisis, but most went on like there wasn’t any problem. After all, how do you fix the part of the basketball game that is best seen but not heard. That is, officials long to run up and down a court where the participants with numbered uniforms play the game fairly and under control, to the point where a whistle rarely needs to be blown.

I still remember a girl’s varsity game I officiated several years ago at St. Mary’s High School in Colorado Springs. St. Mary’s was hosting Trinidad. Two excellent coaches, George Dasko and Mike Burkett, led their teams. I can even remember my officiating partners for that game: Rachel Martinez and Kevin Kizewski. We rarely had to blow our whistles in a contest that was well-played and close the whole way. I remember that, even with the ten minute halftime and the uncertainty of the outcome down to the last few seconds, the contest was finished in an hour. 

Unfortunately, most basketball games are not like that! And that hints at the problem. It gives us an inkling of why the number of people willing to put on a striped shirt, run up and down a court with a whistle in their mouth, and have their intelligence questioned is slipping.

I’ve been on both sides of the sidelines, wearing a black and white striped shirt inside the lines and a shirt and tie on the other side of it. I’ve asked coaches to stay in their “box” (the designated area in front of their team bench that runs now from the baseline to the 28-foot line) and also been the one standing in the box.

Sixteen years as a basketball official and twenty plus years as a basketball coach. After the 2017 high school basketball season I decided to hang up the striped shirt. I made that decision for several reasons. 

The first two were quite simple; I wasn’t getting any younger, and I enjoyed coaching much more than officiating. Two good reasons…except for the acknowledgment of my advancing age as an AARP member!

The other reasons, however, were troubling. 

Parents! How do you fix parents, specially parents of young athletes? In the increasing of games that need to be covered, youth basketball games are like a locust storm. In helping out our game assignor in the covering of some of these games I had to deal with parents that were belligerent, unrealistic, and obnoxious. One mom, who I asked to relocate from underneath one of the baskets to the side of the court because of her language during a 5th-6th grade game, told me she had paid admission to get in. Since I heard her urge her son (I’m assuming it was her son!) to kill one of the opposing players I moved her and informed her that we weren’t going to start the game again until she relocated. She had lost perspective! She forgot that this was a game that was being played by young boys and it was for their enjoyment, not for her “revenge on life” attitude!

How do you fix parents? I tell the parents of the players I coach to keep perspective on what it is we’re about. If anything needs to be said to an official I’ll say it, not them. 

In saying that let me also say that most parents are great! They understand that having their child’s team beat the archival is a great moment, but not life-defining. Finding a cure for cancer would be life-defining for the discoverer and the people helped by it. Being a community peacekeeper would be life-defining. Walking with a family through struggles and heartaches would be life-defining. Most parents understand that and help their adolescent athletes develop a balanced view on life.

Here’s another reason! The blurring of authority. That is, the minimizing of the respect for the ones blowing the whistles. The disrespect comes from fans, coaches, and players. For every coach with integrity like Mike Burkett there’s a coach on the other side of the fence who sees the referees as the enemies. In recent years the number of assaults on referees has increased. A recent basketball game between two club teams ended with players from one of teams physically attacking the officials. Physical assaults happen just as much at contests between teams of younger-aged players as they do with high school teams.

In other words, those wearing the striped shirts have become the targets to aim at for frustrated players, coaches, and fans. People have forgotten what the purposes are for there to be people wearing the stripes. Perhaps it’s simply a smaller arena example of how authority has become blurred in our culture. 

Ask public school teachers if changes have occurred in regards to the respect of their authority during their teaching career! 

Ask coaches about the attitudes of their athletes. Even though the size of the ball has remained the same the way they coach their players has to now contend with some attitude warts.

The examples of the abuse of authority has contributed to the disdain of authority. 

As a coach I keep perspective on how things are. Last year I coached two middle school basketball teams and a freshman team. The officials we had were often new officials who still make the same boneheaded decisions that I made in my first few years of refereeing. So I would tell my players that new officials need to start someplace, and we’re the place they usually start…so it is what it is! Let me be the one to ask them questions! My players saw that I wasn’t contentious or abrasive, but rather that those wearing the striped shirts and I each had a role and a purpose and we, in most situations, tried to work together to be participants of a great athletic contest. 

After all, if there aren’t any people to wear the stripes and officiate the games who will do it? 

The parents?????

The Now Whats of Life

August 6, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      August 5, 2018

                                     

On Friday I reached my summer running goal of 200 miles. It’s a challenge that I gave to my middle school cross-country runners at the end of their school year, and since I challenged them I took it up myself. 

Yesterday, the first day after reaching my goal, I found myself struggling with any motivation to run even three miles. I did, but the drive wasn’t there.

I realized that I had reached the “Now What?” moment. Goals are great and result in significant achievements being made, but after the conquered goal where does one go? It’s like a clear path through the woods that suddenly seems to fade. You can look behind you and see with clarity where you have come from, but now you’re not sure where you should be going.

The “Now What?” isn’t just a running situation. When I retired from pastoral ministry after 36 years I reached that “now what?” moment. Think of it! We look towards retirement as that goal we strive for, but when it’s reached many people flounder in the aftermath. The way has been paved through forty hour work weeks…week after week after week…and then the Monday morning after handing in the keys to the office arrives. Through the exhilarating sense of being freed the question rises within us: Now what?

In the midst of every success and milestone the question looms. Someone’s new CD goes gangbusters, a team wins a major championship, a company reaches a new sales record, a politician wins a race for office, the last child leaves home and it’s now officially an empty nest…the list goes on and on.

As I contemplated my attitude of apathy yesterday it made me go deeper. Why run? What are the benefits of continuing? Is it something that I simply go through the motions with, or does it answer a need I have? If I continue putting in the miles it needs to be because I want to, not because of a goal I’m running towards…or should I just set another goal to run towards?

When I pastored the “now what?” came up quite often. We spent so much time focused on Christmas and Easter that the question surfaced right after those energy-draining ministry times. It surfaced every year around budget preparation time. If the congregation had been spot on with their giving the question was raised in the midst of a group of optimists and pessimists. Depending on one’s view of life and the church, the “now what?” was answered with either holding steady or taking that next step of financial faith.

So I’ve had to battle the dual attitudes of optimism and pessimism within me about the next “leg” of my running journey. Why keep doing it? Well…because I am physically in better shape than I have been for some time, and because it’s part of my quiet time. As I huff and puff I pray and ponder, think and consider. And like in life, some days are more difficult than others, and other days have me more motivated than others. 

Finally, I reach that “now what?” moment every time I write a blog post. It’s done, so now what? What can I possibly write about next? 

Funny! God always seems to spring up something in my mind. 

When You Journey Together For 39 Years

July 29, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        July 29, 2018

                          

It was a hot day in Clarendon Hills, Illinois when Carol and I stood at the front of Community Presbyterian Church and said our wedding vows to one another. It was July 28, 1979 and the baby of the Wolfe family was marrying the middle child of the Faletti clan. I had graduated form Northern Baptist Theological Seminary less than two months before that, began a ministry position at First Baptist Church in Davison, Michigan, and was entering a new phase of my life that could optimistically be entitled “New Discoveries”, but more accurately be called “Clueless!”

We said our vows to one another and headed down the aisle towards the exit. When a bride and groom leave a wedding ceremony they never know what they’re headed into. No, I’m not referring to the reception and honeymoon. I’m talking about the journey of walking into life together. The starry eyes of saying “I do!” soon enter the planned and unplanned happenings of a shared life. 

39 years later Carol and I have said goodbye to each one of our parents, my dad being the final one to depart this past February. We’ve had one dog and five cats. In order of their stays with us there has been Eusebius (C.B), our only experiment into the canine world, Tickles (who lived to be 20 and a 1/2), Prince Charming Kisses, Duke, Katie Katie Cocoa Puffs, and Princess Maliboo (Boo). Our daughters always named the cats, in case you’re wondering!

We’ve lived in two apartments and four houses in the 39 years. We still remember the couple that lived in the apartment beside us the first few months of marriage. They were rather loud as they engaged in their romantic activity. Carol and I thought that maybe there was something wrong with us since we didn’t make noises that sounded like someone was in pain.  We soon got over it!

The journey took us to three different hospital delivery rooms to experience the incredible blessings of God upon us of three children. The birth of our  child, Kecia Corin, involved a Code Blue as she had swallowed some fluid. I stood beside Carol’s bed in the delivery room holding her hand and praying as they worked on our first-born just a few feet to the left. To hear that first scream trumpeting from her lungs was an answer to prayer and reason for praise.

We’ve lost friends that have gone on to Glory, walked the final days of life with several of them, and cried the tears of heartache. We’ve also said goodbye to so many people because of relocation from one place of ministry to the next. The toughest part of ministry is leaving, knowing that the people whose lives have been intertwined with yours for so long will no longer be those that you walk with. We moved from the certainty of what was to the uncertainty of what is to come. 

Carol and I have journeyed together for so long that we know the story that is about to be shared by one of us without even a clue as to what is about to be said. We know our tendencies and our bad habits- my desire for Starbucks coffee in the morning and her Diet Coke from Kum and Go, with a few ounces of regular Coke mixed into it; my snore and her punch in my side; her desire for something sweet while I like something salty. 

When we exited that church sanctuary 39 years ago we didn’t know the valleys we would have to cross or the exhilaration of the mountains we climbed. We weren’t thinking about 39 years when we galloped down the aisle. I wasn’t thinking about much at all except what was to come later on that night! 

It has been 39 years where we’ve trusted in the Lord, but, quite frankly, at other times we haven’t trusted in the Lord. The grace of God has been a dominant part of our journey.

And we love each other more today than every before. Thank you, Lord!

Rants, Raves, and Wonders

July 26, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        July 26, 2018

                                 

I’m not a complainer. I whine a little bit about the heat, overcooked beef, and wimpy water pressure in the shower, but other than that…and a few other things, I’m pretty mature and rational.

And so I let things simmer inside me…thoughts, rants, unanswerable questions, things that prick at me like when you find out that pinching in your butt was a wood splinter all along! (And then you start wondering “How did a wood splinter get inside my underwear?”)

My ranting and wondering this time around was ignited by recent experiences with American Airlines. In all of my checking in and gate experiences I never experienced a smile. In fact, I thought I had been transported back in time to the lunch room aides at Williamstown Elementary in Williamstown, West Virginia in 1961. They were ladies devoid of happiness and consumed with straight student lines as we walked towards our executions by way of the consumption of the worst mac and cheese ever created. 

Perhaps they had flunked out of flight attendant college and had been offered positions terrorizing passengers before they boarded…I don’t know! All I know is they looked like they had been sucking on lemons.

That was a rant!

On my first flight from Colorado Springs to Dallas (The first of three flights! It takes some doing to get to Huntington, West Virginia!) I was amused by the instructional video that was shown before we departed…you know, how to put your seat belt on and what to do if the plane crash lands in water. The video was well-done, but what plane were they on? There was like three feet of space between each row! And no one in that video had ever been through a buffet line! They were all slim and orderly and probably don’t even eat pie ever. On my last flight back last night my seat was next to a man who flowed over on my side because of his size. He was a nice guy, but he definitely had not been in cast as a passenger in the pre-flight safety video. This morning I’m leaning to the right out of habit!

That was a rant with a small wonder!

My brother and I went to church last Sunday at the Southern Baptist church we were raised in back in Winchester, Kentucky. One question! Why do so many churches, Southern Baptist and other flavors on the conservative side, only have females in staff positions that deal with children or hospitality? The church we revisited (The last time I had been there was when I was 8!) had four pastors for pastoral care, youth, worship, and teaching…and then one female name at the bottom of the list for children’s programs!

That was something I was wondering about, albeit a confused wondering! 

This morning a lady in front of me at Starbucks mentioned to Rhea, one of the baristas, that it seemed warm and humid in the place. I wanted to correct her, but I held back. I wanted to say “Honey, you don’t know what humidity is until you’ve been in Proctorville, Ohio, situated on the banks of the Ohio River, in late July. It’s so humid there I could squeeze juice out of my face!” 

I didn’t say that, however. I just looked at her and smiled.

One last thing! Why does Bob Evans sausage taste so good? I had sausage patties and sausage gravy yesterday on the way to the Huntington airport. Before I met another round of American Airlines employees with sour dispositions I wanted to leave Huntington with a good memory- breakfast at the restaurant where Dad and I would dine. Bob Evans is also the only restaurant I know of where I can get fried cornmeal mush! Yum, yum!

And that, my friends, is a rave!

Muttering and Complaining About Church

July 20, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            July 20, 2018

                         

My friend, Ed Stucky, recently preached a sermon on the “First Church Business Meeting.” Coincidentally, the small town small tiny congregation where the two of us speak and worship was scheduled to have a church business meeting that morning after the worship service. 

Ed used the text from Acts 6 that tells of the crisis that the first congregation in Jerusalem had to contend with: the taking care of a group of widows who were “different from the rest of us!” These widows were Jewish, but had come to Jerusalem from other cultures and regions. At some time and place they had become followers of Jesus. One of the repercussions of that was the loss of a care system that the Jewish synagogue provided to its widows. The Jews took care of their own. Now…what about the new Christian church? And these women weren’t even native born! They were transplants…immigrants, if you will!

And there’s a lot of them! 

And the group of immigrants that the widows are a part of are “murmuring and complaining” against the native Hebrews. That is, the newbies are complaining about the people who have always been there! Today we’d describe the native Hebrews in this story as the people who would say something along the lines of “This is OUR church!”

It is the fertile soil for a cultural battle. I can hear the excuses.

“We’ve only got so much food.” 

“We can only do so much.” 

“We’ve got to take care of our own first!”

“Y’all eat different kinds of food than we eat!”

“It’s not our responsibility!”

And so the Grecian Jewish Christians muttered and complained, and the Twelve said let’s figure out a solution to this problem! 

The process was quickly defined. 1) A meeting was called of all the disciples. 2) The problem was identified. 3) It was determined that what was happening went against the core values/beliefs of the church. That is, it needed to be solved, not neglected! 4) The solution was found, put into practice, and the way the church functioned was changed accordingly. 

Huh! How ‘bout that!

The thing is this first century crisis could have torn the church apart. Just imagine a new church plant today that has half of its attenders wanting to meet on Saturday night and half who are firmly anchored to Sunday morning. Or half the people who mutter and complain about having a woman as the lead pastor for the congregation and half who believe she is who God has called to be the leader, that gender has no bearing on God’s calling.

The disciples decided that the widows of the Grecian Jews had a legitimate complaint and took care of the matter. They didn’t let it fester. Shortly before this they had witnessed the “drop dead” experiences of Ananias and Sapphire. That was an awakening moment for the Jesus followers, just as the two deceivers crumpled to the ground. It was a moment when the church got serious about this Kingdom business.

Let’s be honest! There have been numerous churches in recent times that have exploded because of muttering and complaining attenders/members who don’t feel they are being heard; and there’s churches that have people rushing for the exits because of complainers who want it their way or the highway. 

We live in a culture of entitlement, and that has filtered- sometimes like a flash flood- into the church. Some followers of Jesus feel entitled, while others are prone to discount anyone who differs from them. 

We’re like a bunch of dysfunctional Baptists! Oh, wait! Dysfunctional is not a term that has to be used with Baptists these days. It’s now just implied!

And yet the first church was able to figure it out! Huh! How ‘bout that!

Oh, and by the way! Our church business meeting right after Ed’s message that Sunday was productive, punctuated with laughter, and…short!