In my years of coaching, I’ve had frequent opportunities to hear God’s Word on game days through a variety of speakers in player chapels, many of whom have had a profound effect on my spiritual walk. There’s something about hearing God’s Word in the anxious moments of life, like the hours just prior to a game, that helps the message become more meaningful. In the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to share with college baseball players, and now with players from my own basketball team, in voluntary player chapels. Last week prior to our last game before Christmas, I shared a message that I had gleaned from Pastor Rick Warren’s Daily Hope Devotions in which he had discussed the role of the wise men in the Christmas message. John Wooden once said “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts,” and Warren’s words showed me another dimension of the Christmas story that was too good not to consider, to share with those players, and to once again show me that God continues to speak to me by connecting His word with my passion for basketball. So, let me work backwards and share a faith element and then how it works in life and basketball. Continue reading
In evaluating players during the recruiting process, coaches often throw out adjectives like athletic, strong, intelligent, and unselfish. We look for qualities like being aggressive, playing unselfishly, and possessing multiple skills and we consider how focused players are, how coachable they are, and how competitive they are. One term that has always confused me, though, is when a scout says a player plays with emotion. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? We all have emotions and we all feel things throughout the course of a game, but how we handle those emotions, coaches included, often affects our performance. Continue reading
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are one of the college teams I like to follow. I respect the job Mark Few has done with a so-called “mid-major” program and try to catch as many of their games as I can. A few years back, Gonzaga’s rivalry with St. Mary’s College was a must-see game, in large part because the Gael’s Aussie import, Matthew Dellavedova, was a pesky thorn in the Bulldogs’ side! While not fitting the profile of most superstars, Dellavedova always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, taking charges and getting steals, hitting big shots and directing the offense. He was a great college player who got a shot in the 2013 draft with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but has played in relative obscurity behind Kyrie Irving. Averaging 17 minutes or so and just over four points per game, Dellavedova burst into ESPN’s Sportscenter highlight reel with an amazing sequence that propelled the Cavs to a Tuesday night win over the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors. Even in a sport where team play and collective responsibility is required, his performance is a reminder to all of us that one person can make a difference – on the court and in life!
BASKETBALL – Impact
Playing in just his second game after sitting out for four weeks with an injury, Dellavedova logged a seemingly uneventful stat line of six points, three rebounds, and five assists, but played 21 minutes, including the entire fourth quarter with the Cavs’ premier headliners LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Aside from the stats, Dellavedova’s impact is best described by Tim Legler on ESPN:
Can one back-up point guard truly impact a team? In this game he obviously did – listen to his superstar teammate LeBron James:
“He’s just scrappy, man,” James said. “Delly is a guy that’s always been counted out. Saying he can’t make it, he can’t do this, he can’t shoot enough, not fast enough, not tall enough. One thing about it: Heart and effort will take a way a lot of the things that you cannot do. I’ll take a guy like that any day on my team.”
Again, what kind of impact did Dellavedova have on Cleveland’s biggest win in the season of LeBron’s return? As Chris Fedora reports on Cleveland.com:
Dellavedova was everywhere in the fourth quarter. He guarded Kyle Lowry, who shot 1-of-8 in the final 12 minutes and 6-of-18 on the night. He fronted the bigger Patrick Patterson in the post. He matched up with James Johnson at times and contested shots from Terrence Ross. He took charges, dove on the floor for loose balls, hit some big shots and made a pair of slick passes to Tristan Thompson, which led to the first four points of the fourth quarter. Most of all, he frustrated the Raptors.
Delly continues to show every player at every level, that there are significant ways you can impact your team whether you score or not. So, what kind of impact do you have on your team? Do you play with passion? Does your example rub off on those around you? And if it does, is it a positive force?
LIFE – Every Day is a Great Day
Art Briles, the football coach at Baylor University, is another example of one person having a profound impact on a larger group. His reconstruction of the football program at Baylor has led to one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the reputation and success of a major university in our time. The Baylor community has seen firsthand the impact that one man’s passion can have. Many have told that story, but in his recently released book, Beating Goliath: My Story of Football and Faith, Briles provides the story behind the story. I’ll admit it, I’m a diehard BU alum and fan – but not only has Briles been a Godsend to an institution that reflects my faith and values, his personal story is an example to all of us. All that has been accomplished in the past four years under Briles – a Heisman trophy winner, back-to-back Big Twelve Championships, and a new state-of-the-art campus football stadium are a direct result of Art’s infectious passion for football and faith. That passion, though, comes despite the significant, life-changing loss of both his parents who were tragically killed while traveling to see a young Art play a college football game. After also losing his brother, Briles has accepted the challenge of using his life to inspire others. By imploring those around him to value daily life in which he sees every day as a great day, one man has impacted an institution and community to continue to impact the entire world! So, what about you? Can you have an impact on the people with whom you work? Can you impact your family? Can you be a gamechanger and make a difference?
FAITH – Impact for God
God can use you. Your life has purpose. Every one of us can have an impact for God. It may not get attention and it may seem insignificant, but God can use you. He can use you on a basketball team to inspire others around you in how you play. He can use you where you work to plant the seeds that lead co-workers to ask deeper questions about life in this world. He can even use the tragedies and challenges of your life to impact the world around you. How do I know that? I open up the Bible and see example after example, like the apostles of the early church – look at the impact they had:
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)
or the great leaders that God raised up in the Old Testament like Moses, Joshua, and Gideon or even some seemingly insignificant people like Othniel and Shamgar (Ever heard of those guys?). God can use all of us for His glory, so don’t back down. Don’t sink into obscurity. Stay ready and make a difference!