As my wife and I travel to pack up our daughter after her first year of college, we’ll be staying in the heart of a major college town over Graduation Weekend. It’s hectic and crazy, but can also feel a sense of accomplishment and hope in the air. As I think about our senior players who will soon be graduating and as I watch the NBA Playoffs unfold, two themes have been on my mind – college players moving on and NBA players finally playing some defense!
BASKETBALL – The Base
With superstars like James Harden and Isiah Thomas going off for 50-point games, somebody has to play some defense as teams progress. CBS Sports added three key guys – Boston’s Jae Crowder, San Antonio’s DeWayne Dedmon, and Memphis’ JaMychal Green – to the discussion in Three Key Underrated Defenders Who Deserve More Recognition to join traditional stalwarts like Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, and yes, LeBron James. But what I’ve been watching for is when these capable defenders really lock in to stop the most talented scorers in the game. And without exception, it begins with their stance. They dig in, maintain their balance, and keep their feet solid so they can react to whatever a scorer can offer. And even when they do, it may not go their way:
But, to even have a chance against the phenomenal talents of the NBA, like Steph Curry, defenders have to begin with a solid base,
You can expect me to add more in coming weeks from the latest book I highly recommend, Jay Wright’s Attitude: Develop a Winning Mindset on and off the Court. The Villanova head coach frequently refers to the words of their team chaplain, Father Rob Hagen who once eloquently reminded the Wildcats why they say the Lord’s Prayer before each game. Even players without faith can understand the lesson drawn from Jesus teaching his disciples, and all of us, in Matthew 6:7-15 about how to talk to God. That prayer sets the tone for how we approach God and it is the basis for our relationship. In the same way, getting into a stance prepares a defender to play. It sets the tone for the game. So as the playoffs continue, look for those moments where the truly great defenders buckle down and commence to play some D.
LIFE – Commencement
Jay Wright writes a wonderful section in his book about his graduating seniors in 2015 that mirrors how we feel about our seniors who will be leaving us next week. The word “commencement” that we use for graduation actually means “to get started” or “to get going.” As college institutions send graduates off to the next chapter of life, those young people will get going with the rest of their lives. Some have been focused and prepared for the reality to come, some have been doing all they can to enjoy their youth and are hoping that they can find a way to continue the fun and delay responsibility, and still others are wandering aimlessly in search of a clear path. Whatever the situation may be, Jon Gordon, who just published his newest book The Power of Positive Leadership, has some wonderful reminders:
1. Where you are now is not where you are going to be.
2. You don’t have to be perfect to start. Just start.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail.
4. Sometimes you have to lose a goal to find your destiny.
5. You are here for a reason. You have a purpose and you are meant to live and share it.
6. You don’t have to be great. You just have to have a great desire to be your best and bring out the best in others.
7. Ignore the critics. Just show up each day and do the work.
8. Stay positive. God has a plan!
9. If you believe your best days are ahead of you, they are. The best is yet to come.
Gordon reminds all graduates who have a dream to get in a proper stance and set the tone for the rest of our life!
FAITH – The Mission
When I think about young people moving on in life, even though I have all kinds of truly wonderful advice and tips from a life full of mistakes, I am drawn back to when Jesus left his disciples. They had followed him for three years. They had questioned him, doubted him, and learned from in him, but Jesus knew that they were ready for the next step and left them with these words:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
We have the instructions of what we are supposed to do – make disciples, baptize, and teach, but to accomplish that we have to set our stance. Jesus reminded them and us that the base is to remember that He is with us – always. He will keep us on balance and ready to handle whatever this life has to offer and when we do, we can commence to complete the mission He has given.
Enjoy the playoffs and celebrate the graduates. It’s a wonderful time of year!