Posted tagged ‘basketball coach’

Coaching With People of Integrity

November 11, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            November 11, 2017

                               

Yesterday I began a new adventure! It was the first day of high school basketball tryouts. I’ve been a part of high school girl basketball team staffs for eleven years. Yesterday was my first day as a member of a high school boys basketball staff.

It isn’t my first experience coaching boys, mind you! I’ve coaching boy’s basketball at Timberview Middle school in Colorado Springs for 17 years, and am in the midst of coaching The Classical Academy 8th Grade boys team for the second year. (Yes, I will coach three teams this year for those who are wondering about my sanity!)

What makes this season exciting for me is that I’m coaching with five other men who I hold in high regard. They are all men of integrity. One of them, Leo Swiontek, was my son’s JV basketball coach back in 1999-2000.

I knew this was going to be an interesting adventure when we had a coach’s meeting one evening at the home of the head coach back in October. We talked about emphasizing specific aspects of character during the season…subjects such as reliableness and selflessness. The head coach made the statement that when he meets up with a former player twenty years from now at a Starbucks, and the player is now in his mid-thirties, he wants to be able to see that his former player is a person with great character, a man of integrity.

Integrity is a word we throw around a lot these days. With the numerous cases of sexual abuse that have hit the news in recent weeks it would be nice to see a man in the headlines for his integrity instead of his indiscretions. Integrity, however, is not something that a person blows his horn in announcing.

The five men I’ll be coaching with range in age from 26 to…me! I’m the old fart at 63! Three are teachers at the school, two work in other professions, and I am kinda’ retired. My wife keeps saying those words: “I thought you were suppose to be retired!”

The six of us coach at the largest charter school in the state, a school known for its academics, high expectations, and 90% of its graduates going on to college. State championships have been numerous in track and cross country, and last year in soccer. Basketball, however, has been mediocre in its wins and losses record. One reason for that is that the school does not accept any new students for high school. Families sign up their child to be a student at birth. No one transfers in, but some transfer out!

I raise that issue as a point about integrity. I see too many high school coaches hanging out at youth athletic contests hoping to influence someone who can dunk a basketball to come to their high school. Yes, it’s against the rules, but coaches who have no integrity seem to get around that…or not be concerned by that.

At this school who we have on the 8th Grade team is who we will have on the 9th Grade team, and who we will have on the JV team the next year after that. There’s something good about that. It allows us as coaches to have a greater impact on the lives of our players. Two years ago one of the athletes at the high school died. I watched the varsity boys coach walk alongside his team during that. His availability to them in the valley of the shadow of death impressed me and made me want to be on his staff.

Two years ago when I was coaching the JV girls team at the same school I had the opportunity to coach with a young woman who was a person of integrity. Even though she was less than half my age Kasey Lucero always was consistent in how she treated and related to her players. This year my 7th Grade coach is one of her former players, and I see the handprint of Kasey’s influence upon her life. That’s a win in my book!

This morning we run about thirty young men through the second day of tryouts. Some are starting to sport facial hair. Some should give up trying in regards to that. Some have reached the limit to their height, and others are praying for a few more inches. There are some deep voices amongst them and still a few others that resemble chirping birds. I hope all of them end up making the world a better place to live! That would be a lot of wins!

What Character Qualities Will I Teach My Players?

October 11, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              October 11, 2017

                    

Last night I met with four other men who I will be coaching alongside this coming high school basketball season. During the course of the evening we talked about offenses and defenses, practice plans, try-outs, and schedule, but we spent the most time talking about what the foundational characteristics were that we looked to teach our players. More than just teach, to model for our players!

Twenty years from now when I meet a former player for a cup of coffee what is that I hope to see his life rooted in? What will I be overjoyed about as I talk to someone who has turned 35?

There are a lot of coaches who have been entrusted with opportunities to speak into the lives of their young athletes…who are simply scoundrels! Being a high school basketball official for years I’ve seen how their teams have often taken on their personalities…bad attitudes, sour disposition, arrogant, prone to temper tantrums.

So the men I’ll be working with are committed to emphasizing the development of character in our young players. Last night we talked about four foundations:

            Integrity

            Selfless

            Reliable

            Gracious

All four go against the flow of our culture. “Integrity” seldom makes the headlines. Scandals and conspiracies draw larger audiences.

“Selfless” gets applauded, and yet we live in a time of entitlement. During a recent sports season I had a couple of players who had missed significant practice time because of injuries. When it came to preparing for the last game of the season both of them wanted to be the running backs again. In practice I positioned one of the players at Offensive Tackle. He didn’t like it. After a few plays he asked to be subbed out because he needed to do some more stretching. The other boy kept, who had missed the previous three games, kept asking me “When am I going to run the ball?” Both of them had exhibited actions and attitudes that communicated that they did not understand concept of team. The result was they caused more trouble than they were worth. As I begin this new basketball season the character quality of “selfless” will be the first foundation I emphasize.

“Reliable” is a word that we used to take for granted. An employee was expected to be at work…and working! My son, who is a chef, often talks about his frustrations with workers who just didn’t show up for work. The effect of such an absence puts more pressure and work on those who are there. There’s a lot of people who float in and out of our lives who can not be relied upon. “Dr. Phil” makes a living out of telling life stories of people who aren’t reliable, and the ripple effect of such.

“Gracious” goes to one of my favorite words…grace! I’ve encountered a lot of players who stepped out of line when grace was being handed out. They criticize and demean their teammates. Wouldn’t it be awesome to play on a team where there is a recognition of everyone trying their hardest, committed to a team effort, and recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and needs the grace of their teammates? Grace, on an athletic team, means picking someone up off the ground instead of making them want to sink into the ground.

So this basketball season we’ll seek to lead our teams to victories, but we will also seek to lead them on a path towards being young men of character.

I’ve been out of high school for…Good Lord!…45 years now, but I still remember the people I went to school with who were jerks. Perhaps they’ve changed since 1972, but since I now live five states away I don’t know. My impression was etched in my memory a long time ago. I will strive to take my players on a journey this season that will help lead them towards young men of exceptional character.

And then when we sit at table in Starbucks in 2037 sipping some medium roast together I’ll attempt to hold back tears of gratitude over who this young man has become!

Getting Scorched!

March 11, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       March 11, 2017

                                     

I’ve coached basketball at Timberview Middle School In Colorado Springs for sixteen years. I feel very blessed to be able to do it. Once in a while my team has gotten scorched! This past Thursday we forgot to put our “hoops sun block” on. The result was a severe ego burn! Thanks to a three point shot at the buzzer we only lost by 29!

It was the third time this season my boys had played Mountain Ridge Middle School. The first time we were blitzed on their court by 30! The second time was in the championship game of our local tournament, and we closed the gap to 12! The third time was probably the worst because we are playing in our gym.

To their credit, this group of Mountain Ridge players has not lost a game in two years. To our credit four of the five games we’ve lost these past two years have been to Mountain Ridge.

What do you say to boys who are accustomed to strutting down the hallway on the next school day after a victory with a hint of cockiness in their steps?

Welcome to reality! As someone used to say “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug, and sometimes you’re the bug smashed on the windshield!” Life is filled with conquering moments and crushing defeats!

BUT…but we live in a culture that thinks their is always a villain in a defeat! People look for scapegoats in losses. This past week the same Mountain Ridge team had played a different school that they also defeated. The next day the person who assigns officials to middle school games got a call from the school’s athletic director complaining about the officials. They had called four fouls on the school’s best player in the first quarter! It was unfair! They were obviously biased! There was no recognition of the coach’s or player’s responsibilities in the situation. Why did the coach leave him in, not only after his third foul, but after his second foul in the first quarter? What about the player’s responsibility to NOT FOUL?

As a coach I’ve been exalted and also vilified! Some have seen me as the best thing since sliced bread and others have wanted to slice me up like bread!

A different team I coached recently got off to a really bad start against a team that ended up winning our league that season. I called time out three times in the first quarter trying to escape the tsunami! Why hold on to them? If you are getting beat by twenty in the first quarter those timeouts aren’t going to do you a bit of good at the end of the game!

Sometimes we’re just the smashed bug on the windshield! My players probably get tired of me saying it, but after a loss I talk about what we can learn from the experience. When you get scorched there are plenty of teachable moments to refer back to.

The team I coach this season has a number of very talented players who haven’t learned how to play well with each other. That’s been my challenge. They hear me harping on them about offensive possessions where there has been just one pass and then someone launches a three point attempt. They hear me spout off “the lesson of the moment” about “If you can get that shot after one pass you can probably get the same shot after five passes.” They are a good team that makes one great play, but then forgets what they’re suppose to do on the next in-bounds play.

They make me look at what I need to do to be a better coach! They are a team that isn’t used to losing, but taking a loss is sometimes the best thing that can happen to you for the long journey!

Losing Perspective In the Midst of Playing a Game

January 11, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          January 11, 2016

                      

This past weekend I officiated eight basketball games (one college, four 5th grade instructional league, and 3 middle school club games), coached one game, and was on the bench for two others.

Here’s what I learned. There are a lot of parents and coaches who lose all perspective. There are very few times that players lose perspective, although a couple of Cincinnati Bengals’ players majorly go against that statement!

The best of the eight games I blew my whistle for was the college game…the game that meant the most! Coaching jobs, school reputations, school pride, recruiting potential new players, conference titles and NCAA post-season berths are all tied into the playing of a college game…and yet, it was the calmest and most enjoyable game to officiate. Players battled hard, coaches coached, fans cheered, and it was fun.

The worst of the games would be a three-way tie between one of the instructional league games where one of the coaches evidently didn’t get the memo about it being INSTRUCTIONAL!!!; one of the club games between two sixth grade girls’ teams, in which one of the coaches and the parents must have “Red Bulled” up before the game; and the JV and Varsity games I was a part of coaching, in which the parents of the visiting team were obnoxious, insulting, and blatantly immature towards the officials.

In those games only a couple of players had attitude problems, and they seemed to take their cues from either the coach or mom and dad in the bleachers.

What is it about a game that makes reasonable people lose all perspective? As a coach I value the opportunity to teach my players not just about the game, but about life…what’s really important and what is the chaff that will burn away? A big part of the teaching is the modeling of consistent beliefs and behavior. Some coaches create players who are “game-long pains” to deal with. They model that kind of behavior and/or condone that kind of behavior.

I hope I’m the other kind of coach that creates players who are able to keep perspective. During the Saturday game I coached, one of my players questioned a call by one of the officials. My response: “Sub!” She came to the bench and I calmly explained to her that asking the officials about a call was my job not hers. Players questioning officials is not to be a part of our DNA.

One brand new high school varsity boy’s basketball coach that I’ve officiated for models consistency and integrity. His team is struggling. He inherited a cupboard that is bare. As an official I’ve offered him encouragement even in the midst of a game. He’s a brand new varsity coach, the kind that our sons and daughters need to be influenced by. If I can say just a few words of encouragement to him to help him keep the right perspective I will do that.

Officials are not the enemy. They are simply the ones given the task of keeping the horses in the corral. Coaches understand that there are good officials, other officials trying to be good, and still other officials that will never be good. Officials are like a school classroom. There are those who excel, some average, and others who struggle.

The sad reality is that the number of officials is declining, and one of the main reasons is the loss of perspective by those who are coaching or watching the game. Officials in any sport can now get an insurance policy that covers death or injury during an athletic contest. Whereas most of those deaths are related to heart attacks, there is the growing concern about officials being attacked by spectators, coaches, or players.

It really comes down to a choice that people involved in athletic contests make. You either choose to keep perspective or you lose it! When people lose perspective everyone loses!

Heartache, Helpless, and Blessed

June 8, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                June 8, 2015

                                

I’ve recently written quite a bit about loss…losing people close to me who have gone on to glory. Believe me! I don’t want to write about the process of grieving for the rest of my life, but I had two experiences yesterday that have profoundly affected me.

It began with “the missing!” A dear man and his wife, 94 and 91 in age, were missing from their usual spots in worship yesterday morning. Rex helps take the offering each Sunday morning and always squeezes my finger when I put my offering envelope in the plate. He looks at me and says “I’m praying for you”, and then he gives me a wink. It’s an important moment of the morning for me…but he wasn’t there.

He’s been battling a form of cancer, running a race against old age…and the age is catching up to him. He is a dear committed man of God and serving husband to his wife, Ann.

I  called him Sunday afternoon and asked if I could bring our group of young men by to pray with him and his wife, Ann, that evening.

“Well…that would be great, Pastor Bill! Yes…I think that would be all right!”

So we went, six of us, spent time with them, heard about his “miracle malts” that his granddaughter was bringing to him that seemed to make him feel better, and then we stood with them in a circle and prayed.

Each one of us felt a bit of heartache knowing that this couple were in the midst of daily struggles to just keep going. The weariness of their bodies was now dictating what could be done and what had to be surrendered. Things that we took for granted were now only maybes for the two of them.

But we were also blessed by simply being with them, holding hands with them and praying, listening to their stories told with wit and humor. They were so thankful that we had come, but we were even more thankful that we had been there.

After we prayed and hugged on them for a while we got in our vehicles and headed down the street to the ice cream place, BJ’s Velvet Freeze, and we all ordered malts!

Right before I had gone to be blessed by this pair of ninety somethings I became aware of another kind of heartache. I young lady I had coached for three years in basketball died. Twenty years old, full of potential and primed for life…suddenly gone. I was numbed by the news. On the wall behind me in my study is a team picture from her freshman year where she is standing just behind my right shoulder, in the midst of her teammates, looking happy and almost giggly. That was one of the sweetest, most fun groups of girls I’ve ever coached. They finished 13-5 and beat an undefeated Doherty team in the last game of the regular season…a group of Doherty girls that had not lost since they started playing together in 6th grade.

And this young lady was a vital part of the team, but more than that, she was just a delight to coach that year.

And now her light had faded out!

That same sense of heartache that I experienced as I sat with Rex and Ann I also experienced as I processed the news of the death of this young woman, but this time it was tagged together with helplessness. I wished I could have said something to her to change the course of her ship, to let the wind be in her sails again. I wish I could go back to her freshman year and be blessed once again by the giggling and the solidity of those relationships amongst teammates. I wish I could rewind and know that I could say one thing that I hadn’t said before that would result in June 5, 2015 being different…being a day of celebration and fulfilled promise instead of grief and deep, deep sorrow!

A strange day of lives that have been long, purposeful, and fulfilling…and a life that had barely started…and I can’t stop thinking about it!