Hank Raymonds: The Ball is Golden

Hank Raymonds-IOne aspect of coaching at Marquette that I cherish was the opportunity to interact with some of my childhood heroes.  As a kid growing up in Milwaukee I was glued to our black & white television watching Al McGuire, Hank Raymonds, and Rick Majerus lead the Warriors.  I even rode my bike across the 35th Street viaduct to sneak a peek at the MU players and coaches outside the Old Gym.  Fast forward some twenty years and I found myself conversing with Coach Raymonds on a regular basis!

BASKETBALL – Protect the ball!

Hank replaced Al McGuire after Marquette won the 1977 NCAA Men’s Championship, served as the athletic director for several years, and by the time I got to Marquette was retired, but an avid supporter of our women’s team.  Hank left a lasting impression on me after a loss at Duke in which our team had more turnovers than a bakery!  He excitedly approached me, grabbed me by the shirt and pushed me against the wall – no, he didn’t really do that! – but he did put his Hank Raymonds-IIIhand on my shoulder and very passionately said “Jon, you have to teach them that the ball is golden!  You have to protect it.”  An old school remark, but one that has stuck with me and that I pull out with every team I coach.  That season, our staff took it to heart and we devoted time in every practice and shoot-around to taking care of the ball.  You can find some suggestions we used in The Ball is Golden Drills and Diagrams.  Simple, fundamental drills that helped strengthen our program.

LIFE – Protect your purity!

So what’s golden in your life?  What do you need to strive for and protect in your own life?  As I deal with young people, I am concerned more and more about the messages they are bombarded with about their sexuality.  What happened to saving yourself for marriage?  Is that an old school thought, too?  Young men are exposed today to many temptations and suggestions such as there’s nothing wrong with looking at porn on the internet – it doesn’t hurt anyone; you’re not a man if you’re not hooking up with as many women as you can; and it’s your right to pursue as much pleasure as you can.  Young women are told that men will let them down when it comes to commitment  so why not use your body to get what you can.  Need to feel loved and accepted?  Just use your body.  Am I touching a nerve?

My concern for our society involves the breakdown of the family.  With the explosion of the divorce rate, the movement to shun marriage and commitment, and the focus on self-gratification, our society is changing before our eyes and I believe much of it comes from a loss of purity – the purity that seeks to commit and share the deepest emotions and intimacy with one life-long partner.  Whether you’re married, hoping to be married, single, or divorced, if more of us would treat our purity like gold by protecting and preserving it we would help make a difference in our world.

FAITH – Keep your relationship with God pure.

While purity is a gift we can share with our spouse and a lack of purity can lead to pain for others in our lives, purity is really a matter between you and God.  Purity involves the quality of your personal relationship with your Savior and your Creator.  King David had every blessing anyone could want, yet by pursuing an illicit affair with a married woman and by hurting numerous people and relationships along the way (2 Samuel 11) the greatest error he made was in damaging his relationship with God.  After coming to grips with his indiscretion, David wrote Psalm 51 as a personal confession of the damage he did to his purity as he states (v. 4):

“Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight . . .”

Protect your moral purity as if it were gold, for it represents your relationship with God.  Practice and focus on keeping it pure, just as Coach Raymonds taught us to value the basketball.  It’s gold!