As I sat in church one Sunday this past summer, I realized attendance was down on a beautiful summer day and my thoughts were tracking with some observations I’ve had about the basketball world. We are technically in the off-season, but these days there really is no such thing. As the NBA Finals wound down, we were bombarded with news of the draft and free agent signings, and tuned in to watch triple-headers of NBA summer league games – yes, summer league games. And now we’ve analyzing the blockbuster trade between the Cav’s and the Celtics. But it’s not just NBA basketball, as our normal family decision to attend church together was impacted by summer tournaments for both our high school son and our older, now coaching son. Both of them realize this is a chance to improve and I’m all in favor of it, to a certain degree, so we made some accommodations, but I don’t want it to be a habit for me or for my family. And yet, church attendance is frequently down during the summer months for a variety of reasons, as if churchgoers are in an off-season, but should they be? Continue reading
As we prepare for the storm of madness to come, I’m anxious for the fascinating story lines and opportunities to gain wisdom from what we witness throughout the postseason. But as I prepare for that, I was considering the season that my son had playing for his high school varsity team. He made terrific progress, as did the rest of his sophomore-dominated team, and if they continue to improve, they have the potential for two terrific years ahead. As a dad, I let his coaches coach, but sometimes my views as a coach come out. One thing I know – if young players are going to improve, they have to ignore the craziness and madness and get back to simple, quiet, and focused sessions of improving basic skills one at a time.
BASKETBALL – Alone
Beyond my years as a coach, basketball has always been a spiritual thing for me I was never a great player, but I’ve always loved the game and as a child, the hours I spent alone in a church gym or at any outdoor hoop I could find, helped shape my attitudes, dreams, and perspectives on the world. As March Madness approaches and as the game evolves for most young people into an endless stream of club teams, school teams, camps, and personal workouts with trainers, I wonder if that quiet, personal time with just a ball and a hoop exists for many young players today. It’s amazing how much I learned from trying to make ten free throws in a row or practicing a Kareem Sky Hook or an Oscar Robertson floater, but do players do that any more? Can they find the time? Can they fight through all the distractions of life today?
That’s one thing my son needs. There’s plenty of things to work on. I can encourage him to correct shooting flaws and develop his weak hand and learn a counter move, but more than anything, I want him to find his own personal peace with the game. I want him to take time in the midst of a crazy high school life to work by himself. And for him, I think that starts with free throws. He’s had some success on his team as an inside scoring threat and rebounder, but he’s been a marginal free throw shooter. This season he would easily have added three or four points a game with more consistency at the line. We previously discussed the mental side of free throws in:
and we’ve looked at the need for better free throw shooting in:
But today I’m suggesting that a player taking the time, alone with a ball, is not just a good way to improve a fundamental like free throw shooting, but a necessity in helping a player discover their own identity as a player and as a person. I’m not saying that technique and drills aren’t important. He can add those if he wants or when I offer some help. My hope for my son, though, is that with solid alone time with a ball, a hoop, and a free throw line, he’ll grow in spirit.
LIFE – Time Alone
Do you ever beat yourself up because you know what you should do, but you never do it? It’s amazing to me that as an innocent young kid I was drawn to spending time alone in a gym, but how through most of my adult life, I have allowed the distractions and pressures of the world around me take that discipline away. It’s like a player who knows he should spend time in the gym, but saves all of his court energy for structured workouts, open gym pick-up games, and organized team activity. Those are all helpful, but they don’t provide the opportunity for self-discovery. Taking the time to listen to what you tell yourself and taking the time to discover how you learn and work on your own is necessity in this world of social media, technology, and entitlements. I encourage you, take the time.
FAITH – You and God
I read a devotional the other day called Power Down to Power Up from Kyle Idelman, the developer of an incredibly convicting film and study series for followers of Jesus called Not A Fan, in which he discussed the commitment level displayed by Christians in Haiti who frequently walk miles to worship services – services that last most of the day without air-conditioning, without coffee and doughnuts, and without formalized seating and power point screens. Preachers in our churches typically feel that if a service lasts longer than an hour and isn’t jammed packed with music, multimedia, and catchy and contemporary-themed sermons, they’ll lose their audience! When Idelman asked a Haitian preacher how those people can worship for so long he was told, “we have nothing else to do.” They don’t have smartphones, televisions, and theaters or anything else to compete with God. It’s just them and God. And, that’s exactly how each of us can stay committed in a world that does everything it can to distract us:
“it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:26)
When I sit down and focus on what God says to me, He tells me “be still.” He tells me to “get away and find rest in Him.” He tells me “cast your worries on me.” When I was a kid, I did that with a ball and a hoop. I spent time by myself, but as I see now, I also spent time with God. He comforted me through troubling times with my family. He built my confidence when I struggled with friends. And He gave me joy through the fun of making free throws and imitating my NBA favorites.
It’s good to find time alone with the Lord. So even though there’s a lot of terrific basketball to watch this week, I think I’m going to get outside and shoot some free throws.
To really stir your inner core, find some time to consider your commitment to Christ by watching Kyle Idelman’s “Not a Fan:
“If you keep on doing what you’ve been doing, you’re gonna’ keep on getting what you’ve been getting,” the great Zig Ziglar once said at a coaching clinic I attended back in the 80’s. It’s stuck with me ever since and is a constant reminder of a weakness I have in my own life. As I watch the NBA playoffs looking for wisdom lessons, it took a conversation with one of our players to help point me to a seed of truth I’ve been needing to hear. Continue reading