On-Court Reminders

1454577_584372461629017_1792591706_nOur season came to an end last week with a hard-fought, highly competitive game in our conference tournament.  It was the story of our season – a lot of hard-fought, highly competitive games, some of which, like this one, we lost.  As we process the season, I am struck by how essential our team huddles at time-outs had become for our young team.  We had so much information and so many reminders to dispense. Basketball is such a fast-paced, free-flowing game and players must be able to process information quickly.  That’s why reminders from coaches and reminders between teammates take on such an important role in the game.

BASKETBALL – Communicate reminders.

Here are some of the reminders we were dispensing at the end of the year:  “Hold your follow-through on your free throw,” “Move in response to the dribbler,” “Fill our trap break spots,” and “Make sure you hit the boards.”  Come to think of it, we were saying those things all year!  As a coach, you have to teach in practice and then constantly remind your players when they take the floor.  That’s the nature of coaching players – you can’t do it for them, but you can do a great job of preparing them and then remind them as they go along.  And you know you have a special team when the reminding happens frequently and naturally out on the floor.  I was reminded of that as I watched a clip from one of my favorite sources of basketball reminders, the Point Guard College, and from their director, Dena Evans, and her website at Keys to the Gym.

Dena does a terrific job of teaching and her reminders to point guards are really great reminders for anyone who wants to be a better player and coach.

LIFE – Parenting equals reminding.

In my real life, I’m a parent and guess what?  I do a lot of reminding.  It’s not that I don’t trust my kids, I just know how many things are out there ready to test them, trap them, teach them, tempt them, and trick them.  When I was in school, I liked reminders before I took tests and I think it helps my kids have a better chance of dealing with things. After all, that’s what I really want, to train them to handle whatever they’ll face.  And when they don’t know exactly what to do, those reminders will help them make wise decisions.  We have kids at three levels – college, high school and middle school.  Some of the reminders never change:  “Remember to say thank you,” “Don’t forget to brush your teeth,”  and “Make sure you eat breakfast.”  Others seem obvious, but are pretty important like “Don’t ever get into a car with someone who’s been drinking,”  “Be careful what information you give out online,” “Don’t text while you drive”, and “don’t burn the house down” (I actually have to say that every time I leave my son at home – so far, it’s been working).



Some have huge life implications like “If he/she is not into Jesus, they’re not into you” or “In any social situation, remember whose you are.”  I guess, I feel that you can never have too many reminders!  And when my kids don’t get them from me I also try to give them other great resources to be reminded about the important issues in life.  One I’ve recommended to my oldest son, Life 201 from Relevant Magazine, is a contemporary source of great reminders for handling the social issues facing teens and young adults like relationships, sex, careers, and entertainment.  Since I deal with that age group a lot, I encourage you to check it out!

FAITH – The ultimate reminders.

God’s word, the Bible, is a book of reminders.  These reminders, especially in the Old Testament, were laws and guidelines for God’s chosen people, but they also serve as important reminders for us today, so important that God tells us to remind our children, like a good coach who reminds his players, on a daily basis:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  (Deut. 6:6-7)

But just as important, God’s word provides an endless supply of reminders about the loving, merciful, forgiving nature of God.  Those reminders serve as a lifeline of hope as we deal with the pains and frustrations of this world.  Remember, you can find hope and comfort in God’s Word for whatever difficulty you face!  Here are three reminders God has been giving me in recent days, and as a good coach, I want to remind you that:

1. God never gives up on you.  Hebrews 13:5 says ” . . .Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  God is with you no matter what you do.

2. There’s nothing you can do to make God love you less.  Like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, God will always welcome you back.

3. God Wins.  Jesus reminds us in John 16:33 “. . . In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  No matter what happens to you, no matter what trouble you have, in the end, God wins!


Do You Believe in Miracles?

Since 1980, I’ve been a huge fan of the Winter Olympics.  That’s the year when most of us were asked by Al Michaels “Do You Believe in Miracles?”  As far as great moments in sports, the upset of the Soviets by the U.S. men’s hockey team remains at the top of list and for many of my generation, it not only stirred our national pride, but created at least an every four-year fascination with the sport.

And so I found myself up at 6:30 am last Saturday to watch this year’s edition of USA vs. Russia, checking the score on my tablet throughout the morning, and then hearing the same question, “Do you believe in miracles?”  It’s an easy to answer “yes, ” but do you really believe in miracles?

BASKETBALL – Hoop Miracles

Before you think I’m changing allegiances, I enjoy hockey, but my life is still focused on basketball, where miracles happen all the time.  At Concordia Wisconsin we witnessed an amazing player by the name of Luke Doedens who helped lead our team to an undefeated conference season and the NCAA Tournament in 2011.  As a senior, Luke treated us to some miracle finishes like this:

and then about one week later he did this:

Miracle finishes?  Yes, but were they really miracles?  I’ve seen Luke make all sorts of shots in practice and after practice.  It was absolutely no surprise to anyone when he made those shots.  He was talented, competitive, and a player who worked on big shots – just like the U.S. Hockey team.  A miracle win?  Yes, but it took effort, united play, and a system implemented by a visionary coach.  In sports, we see those miracles all the time.

Luke DoedensGreater miracles occur though when, you look behind the scenes.  For us, Luke was a player who came back home to play after earning a Division II scholarship.  He was a player who dealt with some personal challenges and took responsibility for his life.  As I see him now, I see the miracle of growth and maturity that it is part of his life. I’ll remember the miracle shots, but I also see Luke’s strength of character.

LIFE – Miracles happen all around us.

Many of us have confused what constitutes a miracle.  We tend to use it as a term for unexpected things that happen that can’t be explained, and usually when the outcome affects us.  When it happens to other people, we use words like luck or fortune.  While unexpected, game-winning shots and dramatic upsets are usually the result of identifiable factors, the true miracles of this world have no human explanation.  Look around you and see the miracle of life!  When you become a parent for the first time, and every other time, you realize that no random luck or chance can explain the miracle of life.  When you consider the awe-inspiring beauty of the earth and you observe the intricate principles of science in our world, no worldly explanations are adequate.  Look further and see the miracles of changed lives when people deal with enormous challenges in all areas of life.  Those are true miracles and they happen all the time, but most of us ignore them or miss the significance.  If you’re a Christian, you not only believe in the miracles performed by Jesus, but you trust that miracles, the actions of God, occur every day!  And that belief, sets the tone for everything we do in life!

FAITH – The miracle of Christ’s love.



This all comes full circle as I tell you the rest of the story and why the Miracle on Ice really stands out in my mind.  When I think of that game, I think of Mark Johnson who scored two of the goals against the Soviets.  Ten years after that game and after a career in the NHL, Mark had moved back to raise his family in Madison, WI where I was coaching for the Badgers.  When Kara and I moved to Madison, we were a bit concerned about the area’s liberal atmosphere and a little unsure of where God had led us.  Through the Athletes in Action campus ministry group, we were invited to a couple’s Bible study led by Jeff and Nancy Prior, along with another couple involved with AIA, Doug and Chole Gotcher.  As it turned out, we spent most of those nights at the home of Mark and his wife Leslie.  For a short two years and at a critical time for many of us, we spent time growing in the Word and encouraging each other in our marriages.  I call it a miracle that the Holy Spirit brought us together from different backgrounds, different churches, and in different stages of life. Last week, I shared some thoughts from Mike Krzyzewski about how important it is to build relationships and when we focus on our relationships with fellow believers, God’s Spirit works miracles within us.

Occurrences like that, in mind, are miracles.  They’re God directed.  When Jesus died, He promised His followers that He would send the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 2, you can read the miracles that were performed in the early church, the community of Christians as:

All the believers were together and had everything in common.  (Acts 2:44)

As I watch this year’s U.S. Team chase a medal, I think of Mark Johnson, but I also think about our couples’ group and the miracle of fellowship that we experienced.  It was the miracle of God being among His people as he was in the early fellowship of believers, regardless of our specific church or the condition of marriages, or the status of our jobs.  So, yes Al Michaels, I do believe in miracles!


Is it (Marcus) Smart to Play Angry Like Wichita State?

Wichita State basketball is riding on an undefeated high this year after their dramatic ride to last year’s Final Four in which they coined the phrase “Play Angry” (Click for video)  Last week, though, we saw all-everything Oklahoma State guard, Marcus Smart, play angry and a media firestorm was created:

Once again, we’re presented with a dilemma, is playing angry a good thing or a bad thing?  Let’s take a closer look.

BASKETBALL – Can you really play angry?

The Shockers of Wichita State are like any other successful organization that identifies a core message, embraces it, and then uses the mantra to rally each other around a common mission.  In our corporate society, this idea is drummed into our heads.  And while the Shockers embrace “Play Angry”, I think it’s a bit of a misnomer.  Relying on any emotion to be the key to your success on the court is a dicey proposition, and as we discussed last year in my article Good Decision Foes: Anger, relying on anger is often fool’s gold.  It may help in the short-term and if channeled properly can certainly propel a player or a team to greater heights, but time and time again, we see mistakes made when anger is mismanaged.  For example, as I deal with college-aged men I see anger most often in response to referees or with each other during heated drills in practice.  As our bench erupts in anger over the lack of a call or a missed call, the tension within the team rises in a hurry.  In most circumstances, it works to our disadvantage.  It changes our focus and changes our purpose, even though it may feel completely justified!  I would suggest that what’s happening at Wichita State is more about their talent and their ability to stand united in embracing their role as a national underdog, whether they’re angry or not.  From what I’ve seen, Greg Marshall is a tremendous coach who is optimizing the Shocker talent by keeping them focused and unified.



By all accounts, Marcus Smart seemed to have acted out of character when he shoved the Texas Tech fan last week, but it also seems there’s more to the story. Some of us may focus on the behavior of a middle-aged man taunting a college athlete, especially one who could have jumped to the professional ranks where he would at least be paid to deal with the taunting of professional sports fans.  I found articles from Rob Dauster on CollegeBasketballTalk.com and Andrew Sharp from Grantland helpful in getting a little perspective.  While Smart’s action are intolerable and he was dealt a three-game suspension and the actions of the Texas Tech fan are extremely troubling, the takeaway for me is how for both individuals this incident was an ongoing pattern of anger that was developing.  For Smart, anger has bubbled over in his behavior as his decision to stay in school has turned into a troublesome season.



Wichita State has a cute slogan to rally the troops, but for Smart, playing with anger, rather than dealing with anger, has his team playing without him for its post-season life!  So go ahead, Shockers, play angry, cheer angry, and as guard Ron Baker says “Be nice angry,” but I don’t think you are.  And as for Smart, we all need to learn the lesson that hopefully he’s tackling.  Deal with your anger, don’t play with it.

LIFE – Work angry?

In my career as a coach, I’ve been in situations where coaching angry and working angry were common.  Like Wichita State playing angry to prove they deserve respect as a mid-major, I’ve coached in women’s basketball during the rise of Title IX and I’ve coached or taught in private schools struggling to compete with resources.  While the anger of being overlooked can provide inspiration to prove others wrong, it can also plant the seeds of frustration and bitterness if not dealt with in positive ways.  As I look back, too often the anger that develops within a program, business, or staff creates a tense working environment and that anger can lead to resentment, poor communication, and unclear expectations.  It sounds good to work angry, to prove yourself, and to fight for your career, but for many of us, that atmosphere of anger can be a stumbling block.  As a result, I’ve experienced and I have many coaching colleagues who have experienced, losing jobs or changing jobs in hopes of finding better situations.  The truth, however, is that anger and the lack of dealing with anger, can sour a situation.  In the end, it’s better to recognize anger and keep it in proper perspective.

FAITH – The Anger of Jesus

The Bible is filled with reminders and examples of anger, not just the anger we feel, but also the anger of God.  You may recall that Jesus felt anger when he saw that God’s temple was being used by moneylenders (Matt. 21:12-15).  He felt some pretty intense anger and it led Him to chase them out.  The key, though, is not only was His anger justified, but it wasn’t selfish anger and He dealt with the anger quickly and with purpose.  By driving the merchants out, He left an important message for all of us about the nature of His mission.  Jesus dealt with His anger.  He didn’t allow it to interfere with His mission or purpose.  He didn’t allow it to grow into bitterness.  God feels anger as our world chooses sin and to ignore Him. That’s a theme throughout the Old Testament, but God is patient and kind and has dealt with His anger by sending Jesus to pay the price for our mistakes.

Don’t work angry and don’t live angry.  As Solomon tells us (Proverbs 30:33), … “stirring up anger produces strife”  and Paul instructs us (Eph. 4:26-27) to deal with our anger “before the sun goes down,” we can learn to keep anger in its proper place.

For more great ideas for dealing with anger, check out these sermon notes from Charles Stanley’s Letting Go of Anger.