Posted tagged ‘influence’

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!

The Saints That Go Before Us

June 16, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             June 16, 2017

                                     

I’ve been blessed with many of them! Saints, that is! Saintly people who didn’t know they were saints, just men and women who were walking steadily with God, stepping humbly forward in daily obedience.

They didn’t know they were making an impact, impressing young lives, and marking out a trail for those of us behind them. They just lived a day at a time, but another pebble would be placed in the vase of wonder each of those days. Over time the pebbles crowded out the uncertainty and marked the life with weighted consistency.

Yesterday I took my dad, one of those saints, to see another saint who has impacted my life. Bill Ball, with a nine in front of his age, has been an encourager of me and many others for years and years. I remember his words of encouragement when I was a high schooler trying to break my school’s record in the mile run…and that was 45 years ago. My record has long since been broken, but Mr. Ball’s words of encouragement have stayed with me. Now in the final lap of his journey he would be awed by the number of people who have been impacted by him.

Saints are like that…hesitant to believe they are making a difference and convinced that they are no one that is anything special. When I asked my dad what he would like to do and where he would like to go while Carol and I are visiting from Colorado his response was quick. “Go visit Bill Ball!” The number of times his friend has visited him during my dad’s hospital stays have been numerous. Yesterday was my dad’s chance to visit Bill in the care center he has recently become a resident of.

We’re all familiar with the official saints. St. James, St. Paul’s, St. Mary’s, and St. John’s…the names mark the places we worship at and the school’s we attend. My dad has resided many times these past few years at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia. “Saints” is a term we relate to locations and a professional football team.

For me, however, saints have graced my life all along the journey. They appear in my memories and stories…Ken Bystrom, Russ Vincent, Rev. Gale Baldridge, Rev. Floyd Norton, Rev. Chuck Landon, Rev. Tom Bayes, Irene Voss, Marie Lyons, Glenn Fairchild, Ben Dickerson, Rex Davis, Virginia Welsby, Charles Slusser, and Pauline Jones. Names that don’t mean anything to most folk, but conjure up adventures and appearances in my life.

A tragedy is a life that never realizes or recognizes the appearance of the saints, never understands the gifts that they are. In a culture that is very much self-absorbed there are a lot of people who are blind to the saints around them.

The thing is…a life that is blind to seeing the saints that have graced it is a life that lacks guideposts and clarifiers. It is a life without teachers, a vessel without a rudder.

I’m increasingly thankful for the footprints of the many who have helped me stay on course, encouraged me to keep on going and redirected me when I wandered. As I said at the beginning, I’ve been blessed with many of the saints.

Eighty-Eight!

June 18, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 18, 2016

                                           

My dad is celebrating his eighty-eighth birthday today! Unreal!

He is the last of the generation immediately above Carol and me on the age pyramid, a gentle gentleman who never seems to be rushed in the sharing of wisdom. Wisdom and advice needs to be dished out and savored like smooth Kentucky bourbon whiskey…slowly and with great contemplation. I wouldn’t know, but my older brother, a tour guide at the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery outside of Frankfort, has told me so.

It is remarkable that my dad, Laurence Hubert Wolfe, has made it this far. He has overcome a boatload of challenges through his nine decades…if you round it off to the nearest whole number. Named after two Baptist ministers, Laurence and Hubert, who helped his dad get out of the bottom of the drinking problem barrel, Dad brought us up Baptist. My brother, sister, and I frequented services and events at church three times a week…Wednesday night, Sunday morning and evening. I equated the trusted firmness of Dad’s arm with the unwavering love of God, as I leaned up against him about the time Pastor Zachary launched into his sermon. I will never know how heavy my head felt to him by the time the sermon was rounding thirty minutes and heading for an hour, I just knew that my “lean-to” never wilted.

That memory, that picture, is a telling illustration of who my father has been and still is. Consistent, solid, dependable, tender, strongly compassionate.

Dependability seems to be in short supply these days, as fathers do their own thing and seek to romance whatever or whoever pleasures them. Dads who stay the course, who keep their promises, are a rare breed.

Dad has been that rare breed. Interestingly enough, my siblings and I didn’t know that was unusual. We thought our dad was like all the other dads. We thought all dads embraced their wives in the midst of the kitchen, like my dad did, and then obediently would give my mom a kiss after she had said to him “Kiss me slobber lips, I can swim!” We thought that was normal! We thought we were normal! We thought all dads were patient, and all dads were home on Sunday nights after church eating popcorn and watching Ed Sullivan on TV. We thought all dads listened to their wives vent about what Myrtle had said to Thelma about Betty’s potato salad that had been brought to the Penney’s employees’ potluck that day. In those days there were no baseball games on TV to divide a husband’s attention, so Mom had both of Dad’s ears…and she used them with no consideration of moderation. Like Dad’s arm in the Central Baptist Church sanctuary pew, he was my mom’s “lean-to” for listening. He stayed with her in the midst of her rational and irrational moments.

Moving ahead a few decades he also stayed with her as she dealt with ill health, and then became bedridden, and then as her illnesses took away her ability to verbalize her thoughts and feelings. In their sixty-five years of marriage he had heard her say enough to know what she was thinking even when she could no longer say it. Even in the midst of Mom’s confusion towards the end of her life when she thought that Rachel Ray was Dad’s new girlfriend because her picture was on the front of a magazine laying by her bed, Dad stayed the course.

Now that he has his own apartment in a senior adult living complex that is heavily populated by widows, and lean on widowers, he gets to listen to a swarm of women every day. And they love him! He’s now the lean-to for a bunch. Valerie, Bonnie, and Bernice bring him his morning newspaper. Bernice is 93! She looks at his dinner plate as he passes by to see if he is eating healthy, even though she isn’t! Bonnie’s door is right across the hall from Dad’s staring at it, in his son’s opinion, too uncomfortably close! Robin, the building’s manager, is wonderful as she converses with him, always seeming to cause a chuckle to rise to the surface.

A lovely ninety-six year old was talking to Dad this week about the women all buying bikinis, and she was considering going topless! Dad listened and laughed. I blushed!

Tomorrow Carol and I begin our road journey home. We will worship together with my sister, brother-in-law, and Dad, and then say our tearful goodbyes. It will be hard to release the embrace, but we have our own family…that is, two generations below us on the age pyramid…to go home and hug. Three children, two son-in-laws, and three grandchildren to be the “lean-to” for. Tomorrow I’ll sit in church with Dad, just like I did fifty-five years ago. His physical strength has waned since then, but I know that his strength of character is abundant.

In new kinds of ways he’s still my “lean-to!”

The Determination of Whacked People

June 20, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     June 19, 2015

                                      

The sadness of nine people murdered in the midst of a church bible study gathering! Different people put different spins on the why and how. I guess these few words may very well be another opinion.

For me it comes down to a lot of different things, and yet just one standout observance. People who are whacked often are determined to do whatever it is that has invaded their hearts and minds. If it is to go into an African-American church and start shooting because of white supremacist beliefs…and he can’t see past the hatred, there isn’t much that can be done to unconvinced him.

Whacked people are imbalanced and irrational. They come in all age groups and nationalities. How they arrived at such a state of weirdo-ism is on unexplainable. Dylann Roof didn’t just wake up in the morning and decide to kill nine people. He sent time allowing the seeds of racism to grow in his mind and soul. He was influenced by people who could use rhetoric to distort reality while motivating. He let an illusion what a hero is to infect his judgment. At some point he had made up his mind, but that point was after he had crossed the line of common sense and “whacked status.”

Unfortunately, we are getting used to the whacked doing news-numbing things. As the number of different ideologies increases the number of whacked jobs will increase as well. People become passionate for the right reasons…but also for the wrong reasons! A person who is passionate for the wrong reasons is often terrifying to the rest of us.

The tragedy is that there will be another person who is whacked sometime in the next few days, weeks, or months who determines to do something unthinkable…and despite our best efforts won’t be able to prevent it.

I’ve been on a college campus today and I’ve noticed the concrete posts in front of various buildings meant to hinder any vehicle that tries to get close. The college security is trying to the best of its abilities to deter a tragedy from happening, but sometimes determined whacked people keep looking until they find a way.

God help us!

The Dad Effect

June 16, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    June 16, 2013

It’s Father’s Day, a special day where it’s okay for dads to watch back-to-back football games…except it’s not football season. Obviously the placement in June of Father’s Day was a conspiracy created by moms who felt guilty that they had a day that honored them…but not too guilty!

Our dads affect us in different ways. This has been a hard week for me, knowing that my dad has been in a Huntington, West Virginia hospital for part of it with heart problems…while I’m here in Colorado within a couple of miles of the devastating fires. I was able to talk to him on the phone today. He sounded tired and he promised me that he had his feet up as he was watching the U.S. Open golf tournament on TV.

I see the remnants of my dad’s mark upon my life in numerous ways. For instance, I like a freshly groomed lawn. I didn’t learn that from Home and Garden magazine. It came from my dad. Even today as an eighty-five year old he has I nicely manicured yard, although it is now my brother-in-law, Mike, who does the cutting on it.

He exercised patience. Grilling hamburgers was meant to be done with care and attention. The patties were even turned carefully. A neck tie was to be tied until it was right. Polished shoes for Sunday church was not to be rushed. I can see it today with how he cares for my mom, who is now bed-ridden. He feeds her dinner, a process that requires a good forty-five minutes if Mom is cooperating; more if she decides not to. Dad doesn’t press. When Mom’s attention fades he very gently draws her back to the present. People will tell you that I’m a patient person. You have to be to coach girls’ basketball, but I learned it from watching my father. Although I have some of his patience, I am not on the same level as him. For instance, I’ve encouraged him not to make spaghetti for Mom at dinner time ever again- an experience in torturous perseverance.

My dad is about as friendly as you can be. When he is able to attend Sunday worship at church people’s spirits are raised just by his presence. People have described me as friendly. I would like to think that a big part of that trait comes from my Dad’s influence upon me. To him everyone has value, and everyone needs a friend. Although he is a long-time Democrat he makes Republicans feel listened to and valued.

Perhaps most of all, my dad has affected my spiritual walk. We always went to church when I was a kid. If we weren’t home we were usually at church…Wednesday night, Sunday morning, Sunday night. But church attendance wasn’t an indicator of his faith. I remember countless times walking into the kitchen/dining room of our house and seeing his Bible and Sunday School teacher’s guide laying open on the table. We always prayed at dinner. When I travel back to southern Ohio to visit now I feel honored when he asks me to say the blessing for dinner, although I am deeply moved when I hear the words of a prayer coming from his lips. Being a pastor I have tried to never use guilt with my kids about church…although I’m sure that there have probably been a few times through the years when I have been guilty of using guilt. I desire for each of them to have a faith walk, which isn’t necessarily the same as a church attendance sheet. My hope is that I’ve been a good example for them, a person of conviction and faith. If so, the influence of my father has extended to two generations, and now with our two grandkids, both who battle to say meal grace, three generations.

I’m extremely fortunate to have a dad, and the dad that I’ve had. I think of the increasing percentage of children who now have absentee fathers, or don’t even know their dads, and I think, who will be the person to step into the gap for them?

Thank you, Pops! Thanks for being real, not put-on. Thanks for keeping high standards, and expecting your kids to have high standards. Thanks for loving us even when we were unlovable.