CIT 2017: Is There Such a Thing as Friendly Competition?

Photo by: Jordan Vredeveld

It’s that time of year.  For our team even while in the midst of highly competitive conference season in which we have fought our way back into a virtual tie for second place and an outside shot at a title, we will take a step out of conference to participate in one of the longest running college basketball tournaments in the country, the 66th annual Concordia Invitational.   In this yearly January even four of our affiliated universities square off in one of the most competitive environments you will ever find.

This year, in the middle of our season, we will hop on a bus for a nine-hour drive to Seward, Nebraska where two of our schools will field non-scholarship NCAA Division III teams and two others will bring their NAIA programs.  In some ways, the tournament doesn’t make much sense – meaningless games that may not count on a team’s record, potentially playing one of our conference opponents (Chicago) an extra time, and taking a taxing and costly trip in late January with all of its weather possibilities and just after a new semester has begun. However, the friendly competition has a habit of bringing out the best in each of us. With four schools having the same mission of Christian Education and often having intertwined alumni bases and faculties, the tournament routinely produces buzzer-beating outcomes and memories that last a lifetime.  Many players may not remember much from their regular season, but they will certainly have CIT memories!  And to top it off, we begin the tournament with a worship service on Friday morning and end it with a devotion and prayer late on Saturday night.  And while the planning and organizing between the four schools may be contentious at times and the games can become quite heated, the competition does indeed remain friendly and certainly provides opportunities for each of us to gain wisdom, grow spiritually, and learn lessons that will last a lifetime.  I am honored to have the opportunity to be a part of an incredible event. Continue reading

Find a Way to Be a Hero on the Court and Off

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Just a few weeks ago, our team was mired in a slump.  After winning our first four conference games, we dropped four in a row, including two at home to teams in the middle of the conference standings.  After scoring in the mid-80’s every game, we lost two high scoring affairs and then scored less than 70 in back-to-back games – definitely a low point in our season.  With a busy, loaded schedule ahead we had to make a pivot in the direction we were headed offensively and instituted a couple of subtle changes that have a sparked a resurgence as we have won four in a row, including two redemption wins against teams that beat us earlier, including the No. 14 team in Division III.  Those changes for our team also remind me of the subtle changes many of us may need to make when we experience challenges or setbacks in our life and walk with Jesus. Continue reading

Press Virginia Proves It’s OK to Be Aggressive

Baylor University has had a rough year. With the dismissal of a highly successful football coach and a number of administrators above him, the school has been hit with a tidal wave of bad publicity and intense media scrutiny for an outspoken Christian institution that was supposed to do better. The Baylor I know however, is full of wonderful people and is relentless in its mission to provide Christian education for spiritual difference-makers who will impact the world.  As all of us who are fans and alums watched the school change course with the football program (in what appears to be a very positive way!), Scott Drew kept plugging away, as we examined in Men of Faith Coaching in the Big Dance.  Through all of the turmoil, his Baylor Men’s Basketball team went from preseason unknown this season to the top of the basketball rankings achieving the school’s first-ever #1 ranking.  Alas, as happens with many teams new to the pressure of the position, the Bears walked into a deadly trap in their first game at the top when they met Bob Huggins’ group from West Virginia who took them down with an aggressive press that has transformed the Mountaineers into the most feared defensive team in the country.

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While Baylor fans revelled in the few days of positive acclaim, most of us know that midseason rankings mean very little and that learning how to handle adversity and working hard to make adjustments is critical in having success at the end of the year.  I’ll keep my eye on the Bears, but the wisdom I’m learning from what transpired in Morgantown has more to do with a Huggins’ approach to defense that strikes fear into opponents and keeps the Mountaineers consistently in the hunt. Continue reading