CIT: A Taste of the Big Time?

CIT LogoTo the uninitiated, it’s difficult to explain what happens each year at the Concordia Invitational Tournament.  Many of you might be skeptical when I tell you that the intensity and passion of play rivals the high school state championship games and NCAA postseason games that I’ve been involved in, but it’s true.  Year in, year out we witness the highest level of competition at the CIT, even though all four teams on the men’s side this year are battling through .500 or lower seasons!  It’s difficult to explain.  It helps to know the ties and connections between schools, teams, participants, and fans, but quite simply you have to experience it.  I’ll try to clue you in, but to understand it, you have to experience it.

Photo by Jordan Vredeveld

Photo by Jordan Vredeveld

BASKETBALL – The Big Time?

After a hard-fought 68-64 loss to Concordia Nebraska in the championship, the Bulldogs celebrated at the middle of our floor.  Last year we did the same thing on their floor!  The rivalries are intense, as many of the fans and participants have multiple connections to the teams.  Families are often split with alums and students who attended different schools.  High school classmates and fellow church members are often wearing different colors, but in the end, all of us sit down to wrap up the tournament with a short devotion, worship song, and prayer.  It unifies us, despite the intense competition we just took part in.  This year, though, I was unsettled by a closing comment that suggested that for one brief weekend, our athletes get to feel the “big time.”

Photo by Jordan Vredeveld

Photo by Jordan Vredeveld

The intensity and the passion certainly match the big time of college athletics, but in my coaching opinion, the big time is not created by the circumstances surrounding a couple of games between rivals and sister schools.  To me, just getting to play college basketball is big time.  We don’t need to tell our athletes that for one short weekend they’re big time.  That puts all the focus on the exterior things like hyped-up student sections and fired-up alums.  You can be big-time in whatever situation you play.  Each time players step on the court they can determine if they’re going to be big time by the passion and intensity they’re willing to bring.  That’s what makes you big time!

A few years back when I was recruiting at the Division I level, we talked to an all-state player from Indiana who told us she wasn’t interested because she was going “big time.”  We were coming off a conference championship and our program’s first NCAA tournament win, but we weren’t big time enough for her.  At the same time, we were bombarded with requests from hard-working, passionate players who just wanted a shot at Division I, thinking that it was the holy grail of big time college basketball.  I remember advising some of them that there’s nothing wrong with trying to play at the highest level, however, you can still have a “big-time” experience playing Division II or Division III.  You see, big time is all about giving everything you have to compete in whatever situation you find yourself.  The external things shouldn’t matter.  You determine if you’re big time by your approach.

LIFE – The big time requires focus.

The problem with the concept of “big time,” is that far too many of us compare our life situations to those of other people, rather than focusing on our own.  Too many of us fall victim to the old “grass being greener” saying, rather than embracing the concept of watering the grass we have.  Things in life don’t always meet the society’s standard of big time.  My checking account certainly isn’t big time, nor is my social calendar.  My clothes aren’t big time and I certainly could drop a few pounds, and big time abs probably aren’t in my future.  Do you know what is big time for me?  Helping my son figure out a All Pro Dadway to stay out of major league debt as he works his way through college, listening to my daughter as she sorts through the demands of her high school activities to identify her life passion, and teaching my youngest son to learn what it means to eat right as he takes on high school athletics next year.  Being a Dad is the big time!  Not for one weekend every year, but for a lifetime.  That’s one of the reasons I love the group that Tony Dungy is involved with called All Pro Dad.  It helps me stay focused on what truly is the big time in my life.

FAITH – The real big time.

Playing in big time games and even striving to be a great Dad, though, pale in significance to the big time available to each of us. Jesus offers each of us forgiveness for our sins and a true purpose for this life.  Whether you play D-III basketball, play in the NCAA tournament, or the NBA, Jesus makes you big time.  Unfortunately, many of us will twist that up as well.  If I’m not careful, it becomes so easy to listen to Satan’s lies telling me I’m not big time enough for God.  After all, God doesn’t speak to me through a burning bush or blind my sight.  He hasn’t favored me with a grand ministry or mission opportunity and he hasn’t blessed me with extraordinary skills or finances. Yet Jesus considers me to be just as significant as Moses or Paul or that guy in church who is the nicest and most generous man I know.  Jesus makes us all big time and all I have to do is take a closer look at my life, my circumstances and my relationship with Him and I’ll see it:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.      Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you . . . (2 Corinthians 13:5)

As you look at your own story, I think you’ll see that you’re big time, too!

The Name on the Uniform Says it All!

I learn more from players than they’ll ever learn from me!  As our team prepares to host the 63rd Annual Concordia Invitational Tournament, our senior captain Noah Kegley, agreed to share a message he gave to his teammates.  Noah helps answer a question I hear on a regular basis – What is Concordia?

Kegley_Noah(1)_120313As a pre-seminary studies major, I am all too familiar with studying, whether it’s theology or parsing obscure verb forms, it’s what I do. With high hopes of attending one of our synod’s fine seminaries in the fall, one night over Christmas break I forcefully locked my uneager self in my dorm room and began to do what I do best – study. I was paging through a thick, heavy, and loaded doctrine text in order to pass a qualifying test for my admittance to seminary. I took hours attempting to slay the beast, and my energy plummeted by the minute. My interest wavered the further along I read. What seemed like centuries later, the end was near, the amount of pages I needed to read before I finished was so close I tucked myself underneath my covers. Then it hit me. It was one of those light bulb moments in the cartoons. I scanned across a term in my textbook that resonated with me. The term was concord, in Latin it’s concordia. According to my textbook, the word means “from the heart,” and “refers to the desire to bring about full union and understanding in the Christian church through a common confession of doctrine and not simply an external unity.” I realized that concord has everything to do with basketball.

BASKETBALL – From the heart!

As a member of the Concordia University Wisconsin’s men’s basketball team, half of my wardrobe says Concordia. However, merely wearing the name Concordia does not cut it. Basketball is more than a jersey, or an external unity. Unity is found in the heart. Just as it is with the Christian church on earth to strive for one confession of faith, that is, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, our team strives for one confession, one heart, and one goal, a championship.  This is easier said than done. It’s at this point in the season where it’s easy to shred a team’s concordia. Hearts grow dull in practice, ears ignore a coach’s constructive words, and our eyes roll when we are told we mess up again. Players begin to get tired of the same drills, coaches getting on their case, various forms of injuries, inter-squad issues, the list continues. If a team is merely a group of guys wearing a jersey with the same name and colors on it, forget it! It no longer has concordia.  But, the teams that maintain their oneness, in other words, their concordia, are the teams playing deep into March. Coaches can scout a team to the finest of details, simulate as many game-like situations in practice, and give as many pre-game pep talks as they like, but it’s ultimately up to the players on the floor to execute the game plan. Concordia on the basketball court must come “from the heart” of each player on the team.

LIFE – Family Unity

Kegley KidsWhen I was growing up at home life was similar to a zoo with all of the different activities we had. My parents were constantly driving us around to different places and my two younger sisters practically grew up at my soccer tournaments. Our family also saw health issues with my father, and in the midst of all of the craziness, our parents are the glue that held our family’s concordia together. No matter what the situation was, and still is today, we are still Team Kegley through it all. All of our hearts are together. We have each other’s back.

FAITH – Unity of Believers

When Adam and Eve sinned, humanity became separated from God. It’s part of our sinful nature to separate ourselves from God. We try to tuck away those sins which we think are not so bad, or puff ourselves up to make ourselves feel better than what we are. We do not understand what it means to be concordia.  In Matthew 13 Jesus speaks to crowds using parables. The disciples asked why Christ speaks using these parables. Jesus says, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt 13:13). We are like the crowds and do not understand what it means to be concordia  with one another because of our sinful nature. Thankfully, through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, we now have Concordia with God and eagerly await eternal life with Him in heaven. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and we can live with our hearts together in serving Him.

“ So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from live, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2)

CITThe Concordia Invitational Tournament brings together four institutions from the Concordia University system.  All four teams will wear Concordia on their uniforms, but year after year, the champion is the team that best plays from the heart and plays with unity!

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3 Point Wisdom is a website for coaches, players, and fans of basketball illustrating the three-point connection of Basketball, Life, and Faith.  Catch up with the latest articles like Notre Dame & UCLA: The Day the Earth Stood Still! and popular articles like Sex and the Pick and Roll.