Posted tagged ‘team’

Making Grown-Ups Too Quickly

July 31, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       July 31, 2015

                                         

As a high school basketball coach and a middle school football coach I am around adolescent athletes a good bit each week. I love relating to them, seeing them create life-long friendships with teammates, and improving on their skills and understanding of the sport they are competing in.

There is growing concern about a multitude of things related to middle school and high school sports. “Helicopter parents” is a new term that is used to describe parents who are always hovering over their children to make sure that the coaches are seeing that the next Peyton Manning is right there on their football field in a twelve year old body.

We also have the “transfer craze”, where athletes are changing schools because School A has a better team than School B, plus the attached thought process that says, “I’ll have a better chance of getting a college scholarship if I play for School A!”

      Helicopter parents spend unbelievable amounts of money to have Johnny play for a club basketball team, go to several basketball camps, and outfit him with gear that an NBA player would wear…because if Johnny is going to play for Kansas, or UConn, or UCLA someday he’d better get started now.

And so grade-school boys are treated like celebrities and middle school girls start walking with swaggers because their lives are consumed with playing a sport…one sport…year-round…too excess, but nothing is too excess in the eyes of their parents.

We cut out the years of their lives where they can just be kids, playing whiffle ball in the backyard with the neighbor kids, catching fireflies at night, and having a sleep-over in the home-made tent in the basement made out of bed sheets and blankets and propped up by chairs. We eliminate the need for kids to just be kids, like it’s a wasted period to be avoided like acne, and we rush them into being grown-ups who haven’t reached puberty yet.

But the tragedy in addition to that is that when you don’t let kids grow into their lives it’s like cutting off a body part that will hinder them in some way at some time. Johnny gets to his junior year in high school and is sick of his sport, and he’s angry with his parents for making him play it excessively. Brenda’s knees ache all the time to the point that Motrin is her best friend. Tim thinks he’s a loser simply because he is very athletic, and his parents have told him he should be with all the money they’ve spent on him over the years. Judy can’t stand being around her dad because all he ever talks to her about is volleyball.

A life rule that we just can’t seem to remember is everything in moderation! Excess does not lead to success! In fact, more often than not, excess is the curb on the road to sadness.

In a few days my wife and I are having a cook-out for all the girls I coached for five years in high school. We will talk about some of the games, and a couple of our opponents, but we will mostly talk about what is going on in their lives now, the meaningful team bonding experiences they had, and the former teammate that passed away a couple of months ago. It will be a gathering of young ladies who have moved on in life and are understanding that the most important things do not have to include a round 28.5 inche basketball!

Painting Fingernails

March 1, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                        March 1, 2013

There are sometimes things that a person does just because! Like taking your daughter to a Justin Bieber concert and realizing that the average age of the 20,000 attenders…not including yourself…is 13…rounded off to the nearest year! Why would a parent do such a thing? The answer: Just because!

Last week my girls’ basketball team had a team dinner. Great food, great time together…and then the fingernail polish came out! The twelve girls were painting their fingernails five different colors in preparation for the last game of the season the next day. (When my son’s soccer team was preparing for the state play-offs each of the players dyed their hair blonde!).

You may have already figured out what comes next in the story.

Coach, it’s your turn!”

What?”

It’s time to get your fingernails painted!”

I wouldn’t call it peer pressure that have me cave in. It was more like allowing them to paint my nails…just because! My wife had her cell phone out taking pictures like it was a Cover Girl photo op!

Blue…red…silver…orange…and black…on each hand! I left the team dinner decorated! The next day I spent a good deal of the time with my hands in my pockets or with gloves on. I discovered where the nail polish remover is located at Walgreen’s for use immediately after the game.

What I discovered is that painted fingernails is outside my comfort zone. I was completely aware of my counter-cultural masculine look anytime I was in public. Actually I was aware of it most of the rest of time as well, because my hands are usually palms down in front of me instead of palms up. When one of those nails on each hand is painted with a glittery silver it’s distracting.

Everyone of us has things that are outside our comfort zone. Sometimes we allow ourselves to enter the uncomfortableness “just because.” Sometimes we realize that what we are about is more important that our uneasiness.

I had the sense that everyone was looking at me in those few hours when I was  polished. It felt like I had just accidentally burped in the midst of a high-priced restaurant. The blush radiated!

What the experience also gain me was a sense of how someone new feels coming into a church situation. Like a 58 year old man with painted fingernails, there is an intimidation factor. It used to be that churches would recognize first-time visitors by having them stand or raising their hands to receive a special gift. Some would not agree with me on this one, but I think someone visiting a church for the first time feels uncomfortable enough as it is. “Churched people” may have lower anxiety levels, but unchurched people aren’t sure what they are getting themselves into in just being there at all. They may be there “just because.” Like a parent at a Justin Bieber concert, it may very well be a one-and-done experience. What would prompt an unchurched person to want to come back again? Probably about three things! One would be an encounter with the “mystery of the holy.” That they would experience something that they can’t quite describe, but know that something has been stirred within them.

Two would be that the person senses in some way that what happens in worship has relevance for life. It isn’t a “how to” seminar, but rather a look at life through a different lens or from a different perspective.

And three would be that the person would have a sense that the people of the faith gathering are fellow life journeyers, who haven’t arrived, but are still on the journey. The church would convey words like “help”, “compassion”, “inviting”, “grace”, “hope”, and “affirmation”, not “judgment”, “arrogance”, “apathy”, and “frosty.” The reason I was willing to have my fingernails glitter is that twelve other girls had already done it. Even though it was uncomfortable think how uncomfortable…and weird…it would have been if they would have done my nails, but not done their own. Sometimes the church has a critical eye about those who are uncomfortably seeking. In a culture where many people desire to stand out there is still an uncomfortableness about standing out in new situations.

I’ve used the nail polish remover, but the interesting thing is that there is still some residue…okay, maybe a better term is evidence…of the polish. One of my thumbnails that are painted orange looks like I had an orange slushie that leaked. But as I look at it, weird as it seems, I have good memories of that evening…just because.

Kobe Leading

January 16, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               January 16, 2013

 

I am a fan of Kobe Bryant for selfish reasons. He is on my Fantasy Basketball team roster. He gets me points! I cheer for him because he helps me accomplish a purpose. Other than that I have, more often than not, rooted against him. For me, the Lakers are basketball’s equivalent of the baseball Yankees. Yankee fans are passionate, and non-Yankee fans are often passionate in their dislike of pinstripes.

Back to Kobe, though!

Kobe has always seemed to enjoy success, leading the Lakers to five NBA titles , and being a member of the 2008 and 2012  Olympic gold-medal winning USA basketball teams. Success has come as naturally as his shooting stroke.

But this season is different! This season the Lakers have struggled to find team chemistry, defense, and, most importantly, wins. On January 16 they sit at 17-22, and that includes a current two game winning streak.

Many basketball analysts, however, have taken notice how Kobe has become a better leader this season in the midst of adversity. Granted this is not a unanimous opinion, but there are many people who only equate leadership with success, victories, and good numbers.

A different kind of leadership often needs to be a part of “pit experiences.” Jesus took three leader disciples to the top of a mountain one time, and it was unanimous in their desire to stay there, but Jesus took them right back down to where the people- the common folk- were (Matthew 17:1-23). Everyone wants to be on top, but more is learned, and required, of those in the valley.

There are few books written, or articles composed, dealing with leading people in the midst of a mudslide…when it seems that things are slipping away and it is hard to get a hold.

Part of leadership is knowing that you are an anchor anchored to the rock. That is, people look to you when hope seems to be disappearing, and when troubles seem to be increasing. Part of leadership is having an anchor that holds, that stays committed and focused when others have been blinded to either the truth, the problems, or the possibilities.

“Kobe leading” as January hits mid-month is about encouraging defensive intensity, getting on teammates whose rowing speed is not with the flow of the team, and staying focused. He has had situations in the past even when the Lakers were on top of the mountain where he resorted to selfish motives and teammate bashing.

As a pastor I’ve had Sundays where it seems that I am on the mountaintop and other weeks where Death Valley would be a climb to a higher spot. But one of the many things I’ve learned over the years, and usually learned it the hard way, is that the pastor-leader is who the church looks to for hope, strength, a solid foundation, and a life that is not in chaos. It is not that pastors do not have problems and crises, but a pastor whose life is in constant turmoil is the leader that the congregation can not anchor itself to.

The pastor-leader who has been a solid earns the respect and love of his people to the point that when he/she has a crises the congregation picks the pastor up and keeps him/her from harm. In essence, the congregation keeps the pastor standing up.

“Kobe leading” this season will development qualities in Kobe Bryant that he may never have needed or known about before. Leading from the bottom gives you a different perspective.

A few years ago the basketball team I was assistant coach for went 1-22. No one wants to be 1-22, but that team learned a lot about life that year. Life lessons of persevering when you just want to quit. I’ll remember the seniors on that team who hung in there, and the fact that they were, and are, great young people.

“Being A Team”

March 6, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 March 6, 2012

The 8th Grade boy’s basketball team I coach played in a tournament last weekend that involved the middle school teams on the north side of our city. They finished second in the tournament, after a heartbreaking defeat in the winner’s bracket final of a desperation 30 footer that swished the net at the buzzer.

Result: Loss 51-50!

Finishing second, however, meant that the team qualified for the all-city tournament in a couple of weeks.

Personal Comment: I’m not big on the all-city tournament. First of all, I don’t think it’s that important to find out who the best middle school team is in the area; and second different school districts have different criteria for who is able to be on their team.

BUT I met with the parents of the boys after our Monday night game to discuss the situation. I laid out the positives and the negatives of being a part of the tournament. Two of the parents said that their sons were committed to other things on the Saturday that the final games of the tournament would be played. Another mom and dad said that their family would be away the whole weekend. Parents of the remaining eight players were affirming of the team still participating. They felt the team had earned the opportunity, and it would have them play against good competition, regardless of the outcome.

I then went into the locker room, where I had told the team to wait, and presented the situation to them. It was their choice.

They recognized the absence of the three teammates for the event, and they said this to me: “Coach, we don’t want to be in it. We’re a team, and since some of our teammates can’t be there, we don’t want to participate. We’re a team!”

I said that was fine, and then I had them follow me out, where I told the parents that their sons were unanimous in their decision not to go.

I could tell that several of the parents were deeply touched at the high value that the boys had placed on being a team. They recognized that “TEAM” (with no “i”) had been given greater value to their sons than winning a basketball game.

It’s has been a successful season for this team, but the highlight for me was that moment when they went against what is so often preached in our culture- winning and losing- and stayed committed to one another!

And that is awesome!