Why Am I Not Playing? Examine Yourself!

With our players back on campus, I’ve already been asked, “Coach, how do I get more time this year?”  Everyone wants to play, but on an expanded Division III roster like ours, not everyone will get to play and so that question will be asked excessively in the next few months.  Our guys love to play and they all hope that this year they’ll play more.  It doesn’t matter the level, all players want to play, even when they know it’s impossible for everyone to play.  In the same way, I had my own humbling experience as I recently pursued a possible career change – not out of coaching, but in a new position to supplement my career.  When I was told they were moving on to other candidates, I felt like our players who hope to play more – it’s disappointing and leaves one with a multitude of questions.  Let’s examine that process and find a different way to address the inevitable questions that arise.

BASKETBALL – Patterns of Failure

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer:

When it comes to advising players, I’ve changed my tune a bit.  Most coaches advise players to use their strengths and improve their weaknesses and to focus on what they bring to the table for a team.  That’s really important.  For example, if a player can shoot, they need to strengthen that ability and be ready, willing, and able to shoot when they play.  And guys who rebound hard or can lock up on defense need to use those strengths so their coaches can rely on them.  In the same way, players can increase their opportunities to play by improving the weaker aspects of their game like ball-handling, passing, help defense, or conditioning.  That can also improve a player’s playing time.  Here’s where I’ve grown a bit, however.  It’s not simply about a player’s strengths and weaknesses.

Playing time often comes down to fit.  How do you fit into what your team is doing on the court?  And in many cases, that’s not always obvious.  It’s not just about what a player CAN do.  It’s often about what they WILL do or even more importantly, what they won’t do.  I think it’s healthier and more beneficial for players to look beyond their strengths and their weaknesses to patterns, to those things they tend to do and those things they tend to avoid.  And by looking at the patterns, particularly the patterns of failure which most of us tend to repeat, a player can examine their game and make adjustments.  Here are a few common areas that many players have a pattern of weakness or failure:

  1. Taking Good Shots – Too many players use their own interpretation.  Listen to what your coach defines as a good shot .
  2. Making the Extra Pass – Break the pattern of selfishness by making the extra pass when appropriate.  HINT:  It’s more appropriate than you think!
  3. Knowing What’s Going On – Pay attention in practice and team meetings, make adjustments, know the plan for each opponent, and understand plays and responsibilities.  If you don’t know, you can’t play.
  4. Consistent Effort in Rebounding – NBA teams track every player’s response to every loose ball because it’s critical to team success.  How do you respond?
  5. Utilizing Space – Effective offense requires moving as the ball moves or as teammates move.
  6. Handling Pressure – Are you tough with the ball?  Do you handle your emotions?  Does the crowd or situation get to you?  What about bad calls?
  7. Communicating – Do you say the right things at the right time and just as importantly, do you listen and respond?
  8. Being a Great Teammate – Do other players play better when they play with you?  Do other players like to play with you?

If you want more playing time, look beyond your strengths.  Examine your patterns and do something about it!

LIFE – The Job Interview

For some reason, many people are often intimidated by me.  For some reason, I think I’m engaging, passionate about serving others, and willing to express my faith.  I did that in a recent interview with three women, two who were half my age.  I thought my strengths as a caring mentor, an experienced parent, and a ministry-minded servant would overcome my weakness of specific experience for the job – but it’s not about my strengths and weaknesses.  It’s about my patterns – my patterns of weakness.  So, the next step is for me to examine my patterns of failure and then it’s up to me the make the necessary changes.  Too many of us, especially in mid-life, want to fall back on saying “I am who I am,” but that’s not helpful and it won’t help you improve in any area of your life.  Erwin McManus’ new book The Last Arrow is have a huge impact on me in this areas right now.  Take a look at and if not, expect me to share more about it in the coming months.

FAITH – Examine

I recently read a devotion from Rick Warren that left an impression with me, despite not being able to track it down in my inbox.  The message, though, has stuck with me the past few days as I’ve considered ways to help our players prepare for the season and as I’ve examined my own career.

“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT).

Look at your past and consider your patterns of failure.  When we ignore the mistakes of the past we are likely to repeat them. That was the problem for the Israelites in the wilderness. Their trip to the Promised Land should have only taken a few weeks, not 40 years. But they refused to learn from their experiences and God’s tests. Each failed test meant more time in the desert.

The Bible says in Job 32:7, “The longer you live, the wiser you become.” That verse is a possibility, not a promise. There are plenty of people who are old and dumb. Wisdom does not automatically come with age. Maturity is when you find meaning from the everyday patterns of life.  Like our players who need to examine their patterns, I intend to examine my life and look for the patterns that have held me back from being the faithful person God wants me to be.

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There’s No Such Thing as an Off-Season!

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As I sat in church one Sunday this past summer, I realized attendance was down on a beautiful summer day and my thoughts were tracking with some observations I’ve had about the basketball world.  We are technically in the off-season, but these days there really is no such thing.  As the NBA Finals wound down, we were bombarded with news of the draft and free agent signings, and tuned in to watch triple-headers of NBA summer league games – yes, summer league games.  And now we’ve analyzing the blockbuster trade between the Cav’s and the Celtics.  But it’s not just NBA basketball, as our normal family decision to attend church together was impacted by summer tournaments for both our high school son and our older, now coaching son.  Both of them realize this is a chance to improve and I’m all in favor of it, to a certain degree, so we made some accommodations, but I don’t want it to be a habit for me or for my family.  And yet, church attendance is frequently down during the summer months for a variety of reasons, as if churchgoers are in an off-season, but should they be? Continue reading

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Cavs & Warriors: Beyond the Talent

  • While the NBA attempts to maximize revenue by waiting over a week for the Finals to begin, we have heard quite a bit about the “talent” that will be on display.  Is LeBron better than Jordan?  Are the Warriors better because of Durant?  All we hear about is the talent. Make no mistake, there will once again be plenty of talent on display in the rematch we are about to witness, but talent is only part of the equation when it comes to winning a championship.  Let’s consider three elements beyond the talent that often determine champions and consider how those same elements are the keys for each of us to maximize our own God-given talents and more importantly,  our God-given faith. Continue reading
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