As I watched the Milwaukee Bucks defeat the Orlando Magic in Orlando on Sunday night, a coaching point we had stressed with our own team for a victory on Saturday played itself out for the Bucks as well. Being available is often overlooked by so many players. Too many of us tend to force the issue, and when things don’t go our way we often blame others or even hide. Players do it on the basketball court and many of us do it in our lives, but God has always taught a different way!
BASKETBALL – Henson’s Availability
If you take a look at these highlights from Sunday’s game you’ll see a recurring theme – John Henson was available around the basket, a lot; and as a result, he led the Bucks in scoring with 20 points.
Henson did his work out of ball screens, off of put-backs, and lurking behind the defense for dump passes. In our dribble drive offense we tell our post players the same things. Do these three things, as well as run the middle of the floor hard, and you’ll be available for a multitude of scoring opportunities.
We went a step further with availability for our opponent on Saturday as so far this season they have played an uncontrolled defensive style that can entice an offense into a wild, ugly affair. We always want to run and we want to attack, but we needed our team to do that responsibly and with great awareness. And most importantly, when this team looks to trap, our players needed to “be available.” We have a simple way we address any traps or presses we may happen to see. Whenever and wherever a trap occurs we want a player available behind the trap, a player available in the middle of the floor and on-line between the ball and the basket, and a player available on the sideline. Any time in the full-court or half-court when one of our players is trapped, he should be confident that he has three available teammates. And the fifth, he needs to be available, too, as the unguarded attack man when the ball is passed out of the trap. The key concept for them all is “be available!” Don’t hide. Don’t sit back and hope your teammate can find you. Be available. Good players do that and thankfully, so did our team on Saturday.
LIFE – Unavailable?
I frequently write about lessons I have been slow to learn and, more often than not, these messages are for me. Maybe you’re a bit like me, too. I’m not always available. As I chased the coaching dream, I wasn’t always available to my wife and our young kids. As a coach in a career characterized by turnover, I wasn’t always willing to make myself available to new opportunities and it hurt my career. As a son, I became less and less available as I dealt with my own world of hurts rather than extending myself to others in our family who went through just as much grief and turmoil as I did. And as I’ve transitioned out of full-time coaching, I often forget to be available for whatever tasks or opportunities are offered to me in the workplace, in the church, and with others around me. Are you like me? Do you find yourself to be unavailable?
I can’t stress enough to the young people I work with to be available. I watch interns ignore availability, only to see them struggle to land full-time jobs. I see others lose jobs simply because they can’t be available and I see promising relationships wither and die as a crisis of availability surfaces. Certainly we all have conflicts and demands, but being there, truly being there, makes a difference.
The hardest part is that there’s no easy, quick-fix, 180 degree turn you can make. There’s no system. It’s an attitude and you have to change your attitude. And attitudes grow from our beliefs. There’s the rub for me. Being unavailable does not line up with what I believe. I believe that God has a purpose for me in every situation – my family, my job, and my free time. Why should I hide or be afraid of what might happen?
FAITH – Be Available
Mention availability in the church world and you may hear the story of Jonah making himself unavailable and running from God only to end up inside a whale (Jonah 1). Or, you may hear of Samuel calling out in the middle of the night “Here I am, Lord” (1 Samuel 3) and Philip making himself available to share the Gospel with an Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40). Those stories teach us and encourage us to be available for whatever God has planned. You may also hear somebody refer to Jesus standing and knocking at the door to see if we’re available (Revelation 3:20) to hear His call and follow him as the original disciples did. But my simple question for you is “Are you available?” For exactly what, I don’t know, but are you available for whatever God has for you?
Here are four circumstances where I have learned to be available for what God has to say to me:
- Reading the Bible – God has a roadmap for this life. Are you willing to hear it?
- Listening to teachers – God uses pastors, teachers, and even coaches and often speaks through people who have experienced life and have studied God’s word to lead us.
- Observing our culture – As we watch the world around us, God leaves impressions on our hearts that lead and inspire, but also convict us.
- Experiencing life – God directs us and teaches us through the inevitable ups and downs, joys and tragedies of this life – all of which can strengthen our relationship with him.
Are you available for whatever God has for you? I’m not suggesting a one-time decision or some new turnaround in your life. I’m not suggesting a quick-fix or the latest therapy. Instead, just simply be available.