Posted tagged ‘sports’

Why I Wrote A Book

November 13, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        November 13, 2017

                            

I’ve enjoyed writing in my spare time, and now especially in my retired life time. I’ve progressed just a bit since I flunked English Composition my first quarter in college back in 1972. And now I’ve written a book!

Before you become too dismayed let me say that it hasn’t been published yet! In fact, two special friends who edited the manuscript for me are helping me figure out what publishers  and literary agents to send it to, and what each of those publishers and agents look for. So…it’s done, and yet it’s a long ways from being done!

The book is about a young man who has moved to a new town in West Virginia with his family. His dad is the new pastor of the First Baptist Church (Yes, that sounds familiar!), and the young man is going into ninth grade. New town, new school, and he has bright red hair. Everyone notices him! This young man is an exceptional basketball player, but also a teenager who has great character and humbleness.

And that’s why I wrote the book! In my twenty plus years of coaching and sixteen years of basketball officiating I’ve witnessed a growing trend: athletes who think the world should stop and pay homage to them for making a three point jump shot. There is the stink of arrogance that has filtered into athletics. I long to find the young athletes who have a firm grasp on the reality of life; that athletics is a form of fun and recreation and there are many other things in this life that are much more important.

That list includes such pursuits as treating everyone with respect, showing compassion to the hurting and grace to the fallen, making responsible decisions, and seeking to serve in various ways.

Young athletes need parents who are well-grounded and lead their sons and daughters towards that healthy understanding of what life is all about. Sometimes warped young people are the direct result of having parents who were already twisted in their priorities !

And so I wrote a fictional story about a kid who understood that making a free throw wasn’t as important as his friendship with the seventh grade neighbor boy who had always been made to feel he wasn’t good enough.

I wrote a book about a young man who held the idea of being a team as being more important, win-or-lose, than being the star of a team.

I wrote a book about a new kid in a place of unwritten traditions and practices who lives a life that has been planted with humility and fertilized with grace. I’m hoping that in the future I will meet that young man often and each day, whether it be a court, a field, a stage, or a track.

The Sinful Nature of Tee Ball Parents

July 12, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           July 12, 2017

                          

I was at my granddaughter’s t-ball game last night. It was a calm event, appropriately applauded by parents and grandparents alike. The game’s highlight was when the first baseman actually caught the ball that was thrown to him. Other than that it was a time of watching six year olds more interested in the plane flying overhead than the baseball that just rolled by them on the ground, baseball caps turned backwards, and kids carrying mitts about half their height. Six year old t-ball is meant to be about learning, having fun, and getting the post-game snack. A kid can belt four home runs in the game, but if he misses the post-game snack he will go home totally devastated.

Then there are the other games! In Cortez, Colorado several parents got into a fight at a t-ball game. Video circulated from the event showing women going after one another, profanity thrown around like candy, and, ultimately, the police called with one parent cited! If this was an isolated situation we could just assign it to “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”, but unfortunately it isn’t just a blip on the screen. It happens quite often.

One team in my granddaughter’s age group has parents who follow the attitude of their children’s coach…a bit arrogant and cheering that is a bit over the top. One player who fell and went to the bench crying…as any six year old well-adjusted child would…was reprimanded by the coach who yelled at him that he had two minutes to get his act together.

Being a basketball official for sixteen years I remember having a mom removed from a sixth grade boy’s club game. She had been sitting along the baseline yelling to her son, “Kill him! Kill him!” When I had her removed she protested that she had paid to get in.

What is it about their son and daughter’s athletic contests that make parents become prime examples of human depravity? It seems to be the fertile ground from which their sinful nature grows like a weed. The Apostle Paul had it right when he wrote to the people of Galatia that “…the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Galatians 5:17)

     He goes on to clarify what the acts of the sinful nature are, and while not specifically naming “being a parent at a youth sporting event” he does list associated acts like “hatred, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, and dissensions.” Ahhh…yes, sounds like some of the ingredients of some sideline parents I’ve seen.

Last summer twenty adults got into a fight during a four and five year old tee ball game in Florida over a disputed call of the umpire’s. National youth sports organizations get calls weekly about parents or coaches…or both…who have gotten into fights at games.

Years ago we had a men’s team play in a church basketball league. I used to say that the teams would pray together before the game and pray together after the game…and play like we were demon-possessed during the game!

Let’s face it! Sports bring out the best in us…and the worst in us! Parents have a hard time keeping things in perspective. Winning is worshiped. Having character is devalued. It is no longer about enjoying the sport, it’s about annihilating the competition. Common sense has exited the ball park!

Some leagues have toyed with not allowing parents to attend. Others have gone to the extreme of not allowing parents to say anything, even cheering. Associations of sports officials are seeing decreasing numbers of referees. One of the main reasons given is the behavior of parents!

Going back to Paul and his instruction to the Galatians he contrasts what the “fruit of the Spirit” are with the previously mentioned acts of the sinful nature. That is, what are the evidences of someone being directed by the Spirit of God, as opposed to “that other me” that seems to emerge form time to time. In his list he mentions things like “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Just an idea! They may not get it, but it’s an idea! What if parents start receiving a list of positive elements, like those just mentioned; and another list of unacceptable behaviors and attitudes. Perhaps some of them would recognize the spiritual connection…and file a law suit, citing religious discrimination! But maybe, just maybe, some of them would have their dusty light bulbs click on that would tell them how things should be, and one playing field intended to be a place of play would regain some of its purpose.

 

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!

One Year Retired!!!

January 22, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           January 22, 2017

                                       

On January 17, 2016 I spoke for the last time at Highland Park Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, the church I pastored for sixteen and a half years. I went from a long-time pastor to a has-been pastor.

A week after I graduated from Northern Baptist Seminary in June of 1979 I began a position as Minister of Christian Education and Youth at First Baptist Church in Davison, Michigan. For the next thirty-six and a half years I ministered and pastored in churches of Michigan and Colorado.

And then it was time!

This last year has been awesome, not because I’m just sitting around each day watching my toe nails grow! My passions have always been “coaching” and “creating.” Pastoring and coaching have a number of elements that are similar. Creating and sermon-writing are like twin sisters. This past year has enabled me to do a lot more creating, blog-writing…working on a novel…thinking…pondering…conversing. And I’ve also been able to coach middle school football and basketball, coach a struggling small-town church as it navigates the future, and, most recently, coach roomfuls of 7th Graders in the discovery of Social Studies.

I headed into retirement thinking that I would golf more, work on my slice, hone my putting game. Instead, I actually golfed 7 holes all last summer. Yes, 7! A fog bank rolled in on us as we were getting to the 7th green, and then we couldn’t even see the 8th hole!

I headed into retirement thinking that I would read a lot of those theological books that look impressive on my book shelves but have been harvesting dust. (Pause) They are still harvesting dust. I’ve read a lot this past year, but not very much theology. I discovered a new treasure- the public library! Not a week goes by that I don’t go there at least a couple of times. I’m reading history and mystery! Carol has been pleased by the decreasing number of Amazon packages delivered to our front door. I’m currently reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the outbreak of World War 1, Ken Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, and John Sandford’s Escape Clause. I just finished J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, that resonated a lot with my family’s Eastern Kentucky roots.

We headed into retirement thinking that we would travel more, and we have: road trips to Phoenix and Ohio, and a week in Hawaii; an upcoming family trip to San Diego and heading up a mission work team to British Columbia this summer.

Retirement has really been more a refocus. Carol tells people that I am now much more relaxed and less stressed. I enjoy traveling out to Simla and worshiping with the 20 folk at First Baptist Church. They have helped me fall in love with the church again.

Carol and I get to watch and be with the grandkids more. On Saturday nights I’m not worried about the Sunday sermon. This past week I sat on the couch with the two oldest “GK’s” and watched “The Secret Life of Pets” together. It was awesome to laugh with them about different parts of the film. They are a delightful trio…with their two-year old sister.

The hardest part of this past year has been the separation from many of the dear relationships I had with people of my former congregation. As a long-term pastor I’ve tried to keep my distance as the church navigated the journey ahead of them. There is a journey of loss for everyone involved, the congregation and the former pastor and pastor’s wife. I miss the Saturday morning men’s bible study group and the Thursday morning Ageless Wonders bible study. I’ve kept my distance from the Buddy Basketball program I started 14 years ago. Others have picked it up and continued it. I miss the conversation amongst the older saints, and I miss the group of young guys that I “coached” for several years in dialogue about their families and faith.

Retirement is about missing some things and moving on to others. I think the first year of ours have been done well. Thankfully we still have our health. Thankfully I can still talk to my dad every Sunday night on the phone. Thankfully I still have a couple of support groups that help keep me grounded and healthy. Thankfully Carol and I don’t get on each other’s nerves very often. (If Sister Wives is on TV I just leave the room! She did tape my snoring one night on her iPhone and sent the scene to me the next morning while I was substitute teaching. I just want to say, however,  that the film footage was very grainy, so it probably would not hold up in court as evidence!)

Year two of retirement began with a long-term substitute teaching position. What a hoot! Getting to spend most of each day with 120 7th Graders in a portable classroom! I could write a book!

Oh…I’m already writing a book!

I could write another book! Perhaps that will come in Retirement Year Three!

The New Sanctuaries: Gyms, Fields, and Rinks

May 10, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 May 10, 2016

                      

The Colorado spring weather has been as predictable as a confused moose wandering in a downtown business district. Sunny…cold…snow…hot…sleet…sunny, and that’s just one day!

The weather has played havoc on spring sports schedules. Between them, my two soccer-playing grandkids had five games this past weekend. Snow-outs got rescheduled for Sunday. Whereas, my daughter and son-in-law keep a pretty good perspective on the priority of Sunday church worship over other things, it’s getting harder…especially when it comes to a team sport. It is a challenge that will only get more difficult as their children get older. Sports organizations have minimal, if any, concern about disrupting Sunday worship services. That’s because the families and participants in their sports contests have made the venues of soccer, baseball, softball, and basketball games the new sanctuaries.

The Methodists and Lutherans are no longer the competition to the Baptists. They are in the same boat together…and losing the race! The Christians are in a rowboat. Youth sports organizations are in a speedboat!

Parents are more excited about little Johnny’s base hit than they are with the moving of the Spirit. Try to find a parking spot at the soccer complex at 11:00 this Sunday morning! Chances are, if there is a church nearby there will be plenty of open spaces to use. Families will find a church with a Saturday evening service, rather than disrupt a all-day Sunday baseball tournament for ten year olds.

One of the reasons sports venues are the new sanctuaries are because of the lure of future rewards. Whereas followers of Jesus are promised the future rewards of walking the heavenly streets of gold, parents are willing to give up a lot of gold for the possibility of future college scholarships. It is amazing the size of the “offerings” that parents will hand over in anticipation of future awards. Jenny could get a full ride to Big U for volleyball in a few years, but she will need to play about 55 weekends a year for that to happen. In other words, Jenny will need to be really dedicated. Parents are willing to take that chance. The thing is…there is a greater chance that Jenny will never want to touch another volleyball by the time she’s sixteen then there is that she will be playing after high school. Kids burn out…even when their parents want the flame to keep flickering.

“The new sanctuaries” are places where Mom and Dad get to replay their childhood dreams through their kids. In essence, their sons and daughters become the new focal points of their worship. The contest is packaged in a neat one hour time slot where the young participants can be applauded, be praised, and watched in admiration. Relationships with other worshiping parents offer the fellowship factor. Starbucks’ cups tell of the pre-game family visit on the way to the worship center.

God should get such attention!

Watch parental reactions at youth contests. When Johnny gets whistled for a foul because he clobbers another player there is often righteous indignation. When was the last time that people rose up in righteous indignation because children in various places can’t get a piece of bread today?

What to do? Here’s the hard decision. Families need to decide what their boundaries will be. I draw back from making it a hard and firm line in the sand, but perhaps a realistic perspective on what is important and what they will talk through before making a decision. At the beginning of a sports season a conversation with the coach, letting her know of your family’s priorities, would be helpful. Is the spiritual health of your family, and your children, more important than Tim’s batting average? In a few years will these parents you’re standing on the sidelines with be walking with you as you deal with a serious illness, or will it be those you are in community with as a part of a church fellowship?

And what will be your son or daughter’s perspective about your spiritual relationship when they get some distance from their childhood? Will they see depth and clear priorities, or will they be confused about how they should parent the next generation?

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!

Does God Care About Sports?

March 31, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          March 31, 2014

 

About a week ago our local newspaper ran two different columns from the sports editors in response to a letter from a young girl who was inquiring about the level of God’s interest in sports.

The writers gave some excellent examples in the affirmative to the question. God does care about sports…just not as much as we do! God does love sports…just not as much as some people who wear spikes on their shoulders, paint their faces black, and wear Raider jerseys.

Sports has an important role in our culture, but sports sometimes becomes our culture. The lines get blurred on what is healthy and what is fanaticism. When lines get blurred the weird and unthinkable starts sneaking in the back door that has been propped open. People start bulking up, but bulking up isn’t good enough! Sometimes steroids and other “Miracle-Gro” hormones get added to the equation to give the athlete an advantage for now…and consequences later.

Sports has replaced the Sunday Worship Service, ironically, as what is worshiped. People will go to a Saturday night service so they can watch the Sunday afternoon Broncos’ game…or just not go to church at all!

Once again, ironically, as a Baptist pastor I must applaud the Mormons. Last weekend the BYU women’s basketball team was playing a Sweet Sixteen game against undefeated Connecticut. The Cougars hung tough, but lost to the undefeated Huskies. But long before that game was played it had been determined that if BYU would not play a game on Sunday, March 30.

Wait a minute! This is the NCAA…March Madness…hoops hysteria!

The Mormons would not let sports shape what they firmly believe in. I find that level of commitment a bit lower in Protestantland and the Catholic culture.

God cares about sports. He cares about people realizing their potential and purpose. Shooting a long jumper with a fluid stroke that more times than not results in the “tickling of the twine” is a gift, but it often gets confused with purpose. God’s purpose for our life…I pray…is more than how well I can flick my wrist in the releasing of a basketball.

God cares about sports and the positives they can teach…the work ethic…the incredible learnings from being part of a team…the friendships…the physical development as a result of getting in shape.

He cares about the opportunities that sports can bring into a world that aches with disappointments and negative diagnoses. If it hadn’t been for sports Michigan State’s Adreian Payne would not have met an eight year old girl named Lacey who had been battling cancer. Sports, namely being a 6’10” center on the Michigan State basketball team, was the avenue that brought him into Lacey’s hospital room at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan.

But it was a little girl’s battling for her life that brought perspective into Adreian’s life.

God cares about sports, and he also cares about whether or not we can keep a healthy perspective on things that are temporal and things that are permanent.

I still love shooting the long jump shot, although my knees seem to be protesting it more and more, but more than that, I love coaching basketball and being used to have a positive impact on young people’s lives.

God cares more about my impact on the younger generation than he does about how sweet the rotation on the basketball looks as I shoot it towards the basket.

The guy who mentored me in coaching, Don Fackler, brought that perspective to me. Don had a sweet outside shot, and if I was guarding him down low he would make me pay by scoring and also sliming me with his perspiration. He sweat more than anybody I knew! But his impact on how I coach now is seen in many ways. I never used the word “discombobulated” until I met Don Fackler.

At his funeral some twelve years ago now the aisles of First United Methodist Church in Mason, Michigan were filled with his former players…young men and women who had been impacted by him. Young men and women who were now raising their own children, or pursuing their college degree, or making a positive impact wherever they now lived.

I think that’s why God cares about sports, and that’s why I also care about sports.