The Art of Deception

20160104_zap_b135_037-520x400

Photo Credit: David Blair via ZUMA Wire

The art of deception is so common in our world that most of us have become numb to it.  For many basketball minds, designing techniques to deceive defenders is one way to get an edge.  False Motion is typically used to describe movements or patterns that have no intention to create a score.  By deceiving the defense, the offense looks to create scoring opportunities when and where they want them to occur.  And while the ability to control and dictate is essential in winning games, deception in other areas of life can be traced directly to the greatest deceiver of them all, the devil.  Let’s take a look at how basketball teams are using false motion, but as we do, consider how the similar use of deception allows the devil to gain control over each of us.

BASKETBALL – False Motion

DPILDWECDHAISZV.20090827195902Not to be confused with the delay offenses used before the shot clock, false motion to deceive defenders really sprang out of the Princeton Offense, which uses a series of cuts and flashes to confuse and distract defenders.  When I coached Division I women’s basketball and the 30 second shot clock was first introduced, we used a basic Princeton entry to help our team settle down when action on the court was frantic and used it to move the defense from side to side before we attacked them with a ball screen. We had a basic pattern where each of our perimeter players would touch the ball, we made two basket cuts, and then ran a wing ball screen as we attempted to exploit late hedging post players.  When we signaled the play, our players knew we could only break it off for a clear lay-up.  Click HERE for a similar motion used by the Boise State men a few years ago.

NBA teams also use a variety of false actions to confuse defenders before getting into their primary scoring action.  It can also be a good way to make adjustments or additions to offense throughout the season.  A team can disguise a highly successful, but well-scouted action, by running a different action to get into the original.  John Leonzo published this helpful video of four common false actions for FastModel Sports:

You can also read more and view Leonzo’s diagrams at :

False Motion to Create Open Shots

The critical coaching point, however, when using false motion is that your team has to understand the purpose and function of the movement.  If you don’t teach them why you’re using it and what you’re looking to gain (i.e. calming team down, forcing defense to play extended possessions, or simply delaying) you run the risk of having them go through the motion halfheartedly and ineffectively.  False motion run halfheartedly and without true purpose can change momentum within a game, so if you choose to use it, be clear about your expectations.

LIFE – False Work

8-592J_classroom-1I wish I could give you a wonderful story about my work ethic as a youngster and that I learned from a trusted mentor or relative how to build a career and how to succeed in my professional life, but I didn’t have any of that.  Professionally, I was on my own.  I made a lot of mistakes and formed some really bad habits when it came to work.  I usually did enough to get paid and was usually on the lookout for a better gig. For example, I struggled as a high school classroom teacher because my true career goals were in coaching.  I used teaching jobs to be able to coach, and consequently squandered opportunities to develop important skills in motivating students and developing methods of teaching.  I didn’t like the classroom and as a result, I under performed.  It was a hard lesson for me that I tried to justify as I chased my career goals in coaching.  All work opportunities are important, even if it’s not exactly your final career.

Sadly, I see a lot of young people who have yet to learn the painful lessons of false work. Most of us will change jobs and careers throughout our lives, so don’t fall into the trap of false work.  Make the most of whatever job opportunity you have and as you identify your true work passion, which may change in your life, work diligently to build your skills – even if it’s not the ideal situation or exactly the field or career you’re working toward. Otherwise, you run the same risk of allowing false motion to develop bad habits and attitudes within you.

FAITH – False Action

lightstock_35304_small_melissa_berger_As my pastor told us last week, the devil works the hardest within churches and Christian families.  That’s where he’s the most active and throughout generations, has created a narrative of false motion.  Unfortunately, many of us fall into his trap as we think that all of our self-righteous habits and activity will lead us closer to God.  Satan wants us to believe that just by being in church every so often, writing a check or two for a charity, and volunteering every once in a while, we’ll be in better standing with God.  Those are all well and good, but if done halfheartedly, they’re false motion.

But to follow Jesus, truly follow Jesus, means listening to God’s voice in scripture and through the promptings of the Holy Spirit:

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.  (Mark 8:35)

To follow Jesus means we give things up in our lives – our time, our money, and maybe even our comfortable traditions and habits.  Whatever it is, God doesn’t need our false motion.  In fact, He keeps it simple:

But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:60)

12642956_10153899224383713_7627580958299895281_nThere should be no false motion in preaching and living the Gospel.  So, what is God putting on your heart?  How can He use you?  What does He want you to give up?

I’m proud to be friends with Tom Stanton.  In our community he’s known as Mel after he started a fundraising event known as “Mel’s Pig Roast,” which has reached out to help the challenged and disadvantaged in our area.  Our team has partnered with him each year to hold a Special Olympics event at one of our games and it never fails to impact lives.  Mel never wants to take credit and openly talks about being led by God to show love to others. There’s no false motion in that.  He simply lives out his faith and I’m thankful for his example!

Get That Weak Junk Outta’ Here!

 Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

One of my latest internet addictions is reading articles written by athletes on The Players’ Tribune.   I enjoy reading the thoughts and perspectives of some of the greatest athletes in the world. Recently, the site has published articles in which NBA players were asked to lobby for all-star consideration for one of their teammates – that in itself, encouraging validation between teammates, is a tremendous team activity that many of us overlook in our team culture – but as I read Justise Winslow’s piece, Why Hassan Whiteside is an All Star, I was struck by Winslow’s suggestion that Whiteside’s shot-blocking prowess is being overlooked. Since our team this year does not have a prolific shot blocker, I’ve been thinking about the role blocking shots plays in the game, but also how we all need to do a little more shot-blocking in our personal lives.

BASKETBALL – Mr. Whiteside

If you aren’t familiar with Hassan Whiteside, who just put up a triple double that included 11 blocks against Denver, you can get a sense for his game in these highlights:

While Whiteside follows in the footsteps of the NBA’s career leaders like Olajuwon, Mutombo, and Jabbar, many NBA fans will point to Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell as the masters of rejection when it came to denying the shots of opponents.  Also one of the great thinkers of the game, Russell knew that blocking shots was more than just a physical act  as he famously said:

“The idea is not to block every shot.  The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.”

Blocking shots is part of an attitude of doing whatever it takes to prevent an opponent from scoring.  And even if your team does not have the physical capability to block many, deflecting passes, poking the ball away from a ball-handler, and altering shots help prevent scoring.  There’s no doubt, however, that a well-timed block after a team has perfectly executed or asserted themselves to get to the basket can produce game-changing shifts in momentum.  For your entertainment, check out this list of some of the greatest blocks of all time:

LIFE – Weak Stuff

Bill-Rusell-blocks-shotAs I listen and observe the young people around me – my kids and their classmates, our players and other college students, and the young adults I work with; I’m becoming more sensitive to the “weak junk” that permeates the society in which we live.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe in our young people and I know that many are building lives of character and integrity, but I also know that our world continues to bombard all of us with faulty morals and humanistic ideas and far too often, many of us fail to recognize weak ideas and the effect they have on us.  Let’s consider some of the weak ideas I’ve observed in the last few weeks:

Basketball players should evaluate their performance in a game or practice based on how many shots they take and how many points they score.  Weak!

Young women can only be accepted if they’re ridiculously skinny, have overly white teeth, wear the right clothes, and post the best selfies.  Weak!

If I just show up for work, my marathon Netflix sessions, late-night on-line gaming, and regular binge drinking are perfectly acceptable uses of my time.  Also weak!

FullSizeRenderI gotta’ tell you folks, I’ve heard all of these recently and it concerns me.  Or if you need some real soul-searching, consider these deeper perspectives I’ve heard from young people:

Even though the statistics are staggering, we’re going to live together because we need to save money, we know we’re in love, and everyone else we know does it.  

The Bible teaches us to love everyone, so my church should ignore alternative lifestyles, marriages, and yes, living together.

I believe in God so I don’t really need to go to church or get involved with its ministries. There are too many people there I disagree with.

We need some shot blockers, don’t we?  Too many of us let these types of ideas into our lives and before you know it, we accept them.  My advice?  Block them and head the other way!  And if nothing else, listen to what God tells you through His word.

FAITH – Reject Unbelief

Mercifully, God is standing behind us like Hassan Whiteside to clean up after our ignorance and sinful failings.  He wipes the board clean for all of us.  You can count on that.  Like a good defense with a shot blocker, God stands with us to defeat Satan and all of his temptations and the confusion he brings into our lives.

That being said, God still expects us to play defense and as I keep up with world events and with our culture, God has stirred my heart to consider one of the weakest lies we face today – religious tolerance.  In our nation built upon the concept of religious freedom, we are encouraged to allow everyone to follow and worship whatever god they choose and practice whatever principles they choose – however, God commands us to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20) – that includes Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and atheists, not just fellow Christians who have fallen away or ignore their faith.  The biggest trap we’re falling into is that we should just tolerate false beliefs and allow others around us to reject the true God.  God loves all people and want us to love all people – not hate them or argue them into submission; but to love them and teach them as Paul wrote:

. . . God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

ravi-zachariasI encourage you to reject the lie that we should simply tolerate other views of God and the purpose and meaning of our existence.  For more in-depth perspectives, consider the ministry of Ravi Zacharias, who encourages Christians to dig deeper in their faith, understand other religions, and learn how we can best address God’s call for us to spread the Gospel of Christ.

The Stink of Losing

Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi

Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi

I heard a story told about a woman who returned home to find her house consumed by a disgusting odor.  After thinking she had left something out in the kitchen or left something cooking on the stove, she scrambled to search the kitchen.  Nothing.  She checked cabinets, trash containers, and the bathrooms.  Nothing.  She climbed to the second floor, where the odor seemed even stronger, and checked each bedroom and closet – still, nothing.  After stepping outside for a quick breath of fresh air, she tried again.  She walked to the closed-door of her study, thinking “surely, it’s not coming from there!”, but upon opening the door to an even stronger dose, she suspected the source which was quickly confirmed by the soft whimpering she heard coming from under the massive desk.  There, in her favorite hiding spot, with the saddest look a big black lab can muster, was Molly the family dog.  Molly edged deeper into her hiding place, frightened by the smell, but seemingly unaware that it came from her. The woman, wrapping a towel over her mouth and nose, gently guided Molly out from under the desk, knowing all too well how difficult the process would be to rid Molly of the stink left by her nemesis on the property, the local skunk family!

Have you ever felt like Molly?  Does the stink of your own mistakes or attitudes shame you?  Does it affect those around you?  Are you even aware that you may be the cause of the stink?  Basketball teams may have to deal with some stink as well, especially when the effects of losing invade a program.  Players and coaches have to search like the dog owner for the source of the stink and when they find it, deal with it.  And, the same is true for each of us in our own lives.

BASKETBALL – It starts with me!

LosingCoach as long as I have and you will inevitably encounter programs that have the stink of losing.  And while many of us realize that growth may occur, too many of us avoid confronting the issues that lead to the stink. Losing programs are not simply losers of games.  Losing programs allow the stink to infect their relationships, their perspective, their work ethic, and their approach.  If not dealt with, the stink becomes a habit.  Our program at Concordia has experienced consistent success and we have prided ourselves on bouncing back from losses, but anytime we drop two in a row, which we’ve done this week, each of us in our program has to do what we can to prevent the stink from setting in.

Before we address how to eliminate the stink, allow me to speak to the individual player (or coach), whether you play a lot of minutes, never see time, or are recovering from injury.  Do you add to the stink of your team?  Do you try to hide it or blame it on others? When things start to slide, do you contribute to any of these conditions:

1.  Persistence Disappears:  When practice is difficult or your team faces adversity, do you step up and help the team fight through it or do you give in?

2.  Polarization Appears:  When the team hits a rough patch, do you and your teammates separate into groups and cliques?  Do you talk through struggles with your entire team?

3.  Off-Court Life Disconnect:  While focusing on the present is important, do you lose the desire to prepare and develop with your teammates away from the gym and practice?

4.  Clock Watching Begins:  Do you just want to show up and get out as soon as practice ends?

5.  Outside Masters Take Control:  Are the comments and views from parents, friends, and fans having more influence on your team perspective than your coaches and teammates?

Many players fail to even recognize these symptoms in themselves.  It takes self-awareness and it requires regular examination of attitude, purpose, and relationships to see if you’re contributing to any stink your team experiences.

LIFE – Defeating the stink!

downloadWe all have to deal with losing – as part of teams, through employment, or in our families, but also in our personal lives. The first step in dealing with losing should start with the individual.  It’s important to inventory your life and attitudes on a regular basis. Once team members take responsibility, it then becomes a matter of culture for the entire group. Sports psychologist and expert on team culture Jeff Janssen continues to develop programs that can help any sports team, but I think his work also relates to any group setting in which we find ourselves.  Preventing the stink that comes from losing is a product of team culture and as Jannsen points out, there are  6 Key Components of a Championship Culture – credible leaders, clear and compelling vision, core values, standards of behavior, aligned systems, and committed and unified team members.  As you read through that list, take a moment to consider how those components can help your family, your church, or your place of employment grow to better deal with whatever losses you may encounter. For me, I’m asking God to help me with the Cain family culture, and I encourage you to apply it in your life as well.

FAITH – The stink of sin!

LabradorRetrieverBlackDozerRescueDog2When I consider the sin in my life and the times that I have ignored God, I can easily feel like Molly.  I’m ashamed and I want to hide.  And many times, I don’t even realize that the stink is coming from me!  Each of us, though, has the stink of sin.  The question is more about what you do with it.  Do you know that God loves you just like that dog owner loved Molly?  Do you know that He will completely clean you up no matter how badly you smell? It doesn’t matter what you have done or how long you’ve tried to hide, Jesus through His death on the cross removes our stink.  Isaiah told us:

” . . . In your love you kept me
    from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
    behind your back.”  (Isaiah 38:17)

Don’t crawl into the pit.  Don’t give in to the stink of your sin.  Admit it.  Deal with it and live the way God wants you to live by improving the culture around you.   And above all else, know that God has cleaned you and removed the stink.

You can read more from Jeff Janssen about team culture on his website at http://www.janssensportsleadership.com, including this insightful blog post 6 Things Responsible Athletes Do That Irresponsible Athletes Don’t.