Moving the 3-Point Line for Christmas?

As I flew home last night with our team from Puerto Rico, I was asked “Coach, are you going to write about our trip on 3 Point Wisdom?”  In fact, I had been hoping for some inspiration during our four-day trip for the Puerto Rico Basketball Classico, but after losing our first game I wasn’t in much of a writing mood, especially since the most powerful thought I was having was a complaint.  Who wants to whine or complain when you get to experience a new culture, great food, and 80 degree weather on the beach?  But as I prepared myself for this week’s celebration of Jesus’ birth, I found the complaint I was having was also reminding me of the truth we find through faith in the birth of that baby over 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem.


IMG_92191As we prepared for our first game in the Classic, the tournament organizers arranged for us to practice at a local YMCA in San Juan, which is fairly typical for this type of tournament.  It adds flavor to the experience as you play at the grass-roots level with no air conditioning in a dusty recreation league gym.  As we practiced though, the floor had two lines for 3-point shooting – one at the NCAA college level distance and one a foot farther out at the international distance.  As we practiced, our players asked which line we were using and since we were playing NCAA sanctioned games, we logically thought it would have to be the normal, NCAA-required distance. That was until we showed up at Ruben Rodríguez Coliseum, home of the Bayamon Vacqueras, 10505355_10153238305009668_6558152105051496243_nand saw just one painted line, the international 3-point line.  As coaches, we chose to ignore the line knowing that we have some really good shooters who have deep range, but then questioned ourselves as our normally 42% long-range shooting team made just one three in the first half against Salisbury University and went 4 of 16 for the game, which turned out to be a one-point loss in a defensive struggle influenced greatly by the 3-point line.  To be fair, the game was a defensive war against a team ranked in the Top 25 for Division III with referees who were not NCAA officials, but there’s no doubt that a part of our game we rely on was hindered. Thankfully, we adjusted well and bounced back to make 14 of 28 in our second game to easily defeat Randolph University from Virginia.

1661198_10207543464238436_532893555055556080_nMy complaint for the tournament organizers?  If you’re going to host NCAA-sanctioned and countable games, NCAA rules should be enforced.  Both teams we played, as well as all the teams we watched, were not prepared for the international line and struggled with the distance.  Either tells us up front or do what has to be done to put down a temporary line.  Changing a standard like a 3-point line affects outcomes and can affect the fortunes of a team battling for post-season consideration.  OK, that’s my rant.  Our guys helped me out by making the adjustment in the second game without us having to adjust our philosophy.

LIFE – Changing Standards

Unfortunately, changing standards is commonplace in today’s world, especially when we allow the world around us to set them.  Just think about how the standard for personal success and the myth of an affordable college education  have changed throughout this generation or think about how our standards of morality have fluctuated. Politics have changed our definition of life, the definition of marriage, and even have reinterpreted our nation’s founding principles and beliefs.  And scientists seem to give us contradictory revelations on a weekly basis about global warming, the origin of the universe, and the balance of good cholesterol and bad cholesterol – how much fat you should eat and how many carbs you can have.  The standards just keep changing.  The only way to deal with that effectively is to identify consistent standards that won’t fluctuate or change – a tough task for us all!

FAITH – The Christmas Standard

nativityStory_birthGod’s message for me during the celebration my family will have as we remember the birth of Jesus is about standards that will never change. Even though our culture continues to adjust the standards of Christmas and blurring the true meaning of what we celebrate, God’s plan remains. Through faith, I believe that God’s commandments and God’s love never change.  All of us will fall short of the standard required to be with Him in heaven when this world ends and that’s why we need a Savior.  The line doesn’t move.  There’s nothing you can do to adjust or to be better prepared for a different standard.  That little baby in the manager, though, allows each of us to meet the standard.  That innocent baby takes on the sin, the shortcomings, and the failings of each of us and through the death he will experience, allows each of us to meet God’s standard:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  (John 3:17)

Our standards often change like a 3-point line, but God’s standard will never change. Jesus did not come as the babe in the manger to show us we don’t measure up.  He comes to meet the standard for us.  Find joy, peace, and comfort in confidence as we celebrate the true standards of Christmas!


Coaching From the Bleachers

While I was hoping for better results, last Saturday was a hoopfest in my family.  My team lost a heartbreaking one-point decision to a team ahead of us in the standings, and my son’s high school team had a chance for their first win of the season only to lose to their biggest rival in overtime. However our hometown Milwaukee Bucks pulled off a stunner when they snapped Golden State’s amazing win streak at 24 with a 108-95 victory at the Bradley Center.  As I switched hats from coach to parent to fan, I took in some of what I was seeing and hearing around me. As usual, it seems that everyone has an opinion of what should be happening on the floor. But as I considered that, I also realized that while I easily get frustrated with the comments and behaviors of those not directly involved in a game, and while I’ve seen so many disturbing examples over the years, I’ve also been impacted by tremendous examples of proper parent perspective.

BASKETBALL – Know Your Role

Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford made news when he was ejected from a basketball game – a high school basketball game; his son’s high school basketball game. It sounds like it was an overreaction on the part of an official, but it reminded me again of how difficult it can be for many of us to remember our roles when it comes to a basketball game. Players play, coaches coach, officials administer, and parents should support.  Problems inevitably arise when parents confuse their roles with their kids taking on the brunt of that decision.  Long time NBA assistant coach, Kevin Eastman has this wonderful perspective:

As Eastman’s suggestion illustrates, parents and fans who insist on coaching and instructing from the stands rarely have a positive effect on their kids and as Travis Ford considered after his ejection, rarely have a positive effect on the officials.  Ford’s official statement says it all:CV-e4KeUsAAsxWD

I’m going to assume that his apology was also directed to his son.  As much as I want so badly for our son’s team to win, for him to play well, and for the officials to be fair, it’s not my job as a parent to influence the game on the court.  It’s my job to raise and support our son, which can and often does lead to many discussions and suggestions for him to improve as a player.  When I do, I take the same approach that I use with our team and do all I can to prepare him before he ever hits the floor for a game.  I figure that if I’ve done my job correctly, our son will work well with his coach and can handle all of the uncertainties that can arise during the heat of a game. For our youngest, there’s still plenty of work to do

LIFE – Embrace Your Role

11222122_10156262806815065_4242815544180809524_nPrior to our son’s tough loss that day, our Concordia team lost a nail-biter as well.  We are blessed to have some wonderful parents, including a few coaches.  One is Pete Kittel, who was just selected to the Wisconsin High School Coaches Hall of Fame after coaching at Brillion High School where his son Eric played.   Another is Brian Krizenesky, who has coached with Pete at all levels at Brillion and also helped coach his son, Trevor.  Eric and Trevor play vital roles on our team as their fathers have taught them so well. And while both fathers are experienced, competitive coaches, they are impeccably respectful in their roles as parents.  It’s a helpful reminder to me as I observe them support and counsel their sons.  Both Eric and Trevor have grown as players because their parents laid a foundation that not only taught them the fundamentals of basketball, but taught them how to be young men who crave instruction, compete with integrity, and positively impact their teammates.  As their sons have moved on to play college basketball, these dads have easily transitioned to the role of fan.  Rather than shouting out instructions or criticisms of their sons or their coaches and rather than hunting down staff members or officials to voice their opinions, Pete and Brian take pride and comfort in the confidence that the training of their sons has positioned them for success.  I’m thankful for their example!

FAITH – Influence

I realize that not every parent in every sport situation can select the coaches who will instruct their children, but I have always felt that if I instruct and influence my children as God intends, they will be able to handle the ups and downs of the coaching they receive and will learn to handle the emotions of officials’ calls and the pressure moments of the game.  King Solomon encourages us:

 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6)  

FullSizeRenderThe influence we have as parents will be displayed in all aspects of our children’s lives in the same way that coaches influence their players.  In the heat of competition, players play and coaches coach, but ultimately the performance of players is determined by the training they’ve received prior to any game they play – or in other words, train up a player in the way he should play:  and when he competes, he will not depart from it.


Late Game Heroics

I recently had a conversation with a player who is feeling a bit overwhelmed with all that goes into being a student-athlete.  When I coached at the Division I level, it was fairly easy to identify the motivation to play as every player was on full-scholarship, but at the Division III level it can be a bit trickier.  Playing the game is not the means to pay for an education and many athletes have moments where a cost analysis has to be conducted. Continue reading