Most people don’t look at me and say “Oh, you must be a basketball coach.” In fact, I know they don’t, but I also know that they have no idea of my emotional attachment and the impact the game has had on my life. They don’t know the ups and the downs, the hours on the road, the hours of film, and the lessons I’ve learned – lessons that never end. Last week at the Concordia Invitational Tournament I was reminded once again of a lesson for all of us about under-estimating other people and not seeing people around us as God sees them. Basketball is known as a big man’s game, but last week two of the smallest guys on the court had the greatest impact. Adam Vogt, a 5’9 shooting guard on the winning Concordia Nebraska Bulldog team and the MVP of the tournament went toe to toe, shot for shot with Eric Kittel, a 5’7 freshman point guard for our Concordia Wisconsin Falcons. Fans were amazed by their gritty determination and shooting ability, but it was no surprise to those of us who are around them every day. Both of these guys shrug it off and keep making opponents pay for underestimating them. There’s a lesson in there for all of us!
BASKETBALL – Players play!
Vogt and Kittel are what we call players. They just play! It doesn’t matter to them what you think of them. It doesn’t matter what you think of their size or their ability, they just play and they play hard. Leave either one open, and they drill it. Don’t make contact with them, and they’re getting the loose ball or a key rebound. Don’t move your feet in transition and they’ll blow by you. I’ve seen Vogt do it for four years at the CIT and now I’m witnessing Kittle do it every day. It’s a constant reminder to focus on what players CAN do and not what you think they CAN’T do. How are they going to defend bigger guys? How are they going to get their shot off? They’re focused, they work hard, and they don’t allow other people’s expectations to limit them.
Basketball fans shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve seen smaller guys do this all the time, and we’ve also seen just as many players who have all the physical tools – size, strength, and quickness – but none of the heart and determination to utilize those God-given tools. I grew up watching Nate “Tiny” Archibald and Calvin Murphy and enjoyed going through this list,15 Greatest Short NBA Players of All Time by Complex Sports. For my money, there was no one who overcame what some call the disadvantage of height better than Muggsy Bouges:
LIFE – It’s obvious, right?
Why do we constantly misjudge people? Why do we so often focus on what we think other people can’t do? Why do we do that with ourselves? Why do we allow circumstances and our own perceived limitations to get in the way of accomplishing things? Don’t we do that a lot? It seems obvious to me. Most of us allow other people’s views and society’s expectations to limit our thinking. Rather than soar to greater heights, we’re like those huge birds of prey, eagles and hawks, kept at the zoo. Have you ever seen them? They’re enclosed in netted pens or strapped to a zoo-keeper’s arm. Some may even have their wings clipped, but every once in a while you see them flap and stretch and you know they were meant for more. We’re like that, too. We let other people’s expectations or even the expectations we were raised with, keep us from soaring or to keep other people from soaring. That’s why I love coaching. It’s a constant reminder to me that each of us can overcome limitations!
FAITH – No one is small in God’s eyes!
Many of us overlook and forget about a small man mentioned in Luke 19:1-10 named Zaccheus. We often brush it off as a nice Sunday School lesson, but it’s a powerful tool to help us understand God’s perspective. Everyone overlooked Zaccheus, not just for his size, but also because people didn’t like his job. He was a hated tax collector and nobody wanted to hang with him, except Jesus. Jesus knew that, like all of us, Zaccheus was created in God’s image and was created for a specific purpose. When we learn to see people, as well as ourselves, with that same perspective, we open up new possibilities and become more of what God wants us to be. I value the constant reminders I see in basketball which push me to value people no matter their size, their skills, their personality, their demeanor, or their background. I don’t want to look at people as society does; I want to see them as God sees them. When selecting the new King of Israel, here’s what Samuel was to do:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
God sees more in us than we can ever see and certainly sees more in other people than we do with our small-minded perspective. And, that’s why we should not overlook the small guys on the court or overvalue the big guys! Basketball has room for everyone to make a difference for their teams when they play from the heart!