Waiting in Basketball: Why Is It So Hard?

In an age of basketball dominated by quick scoring, “7 Seconds or Less Offense” and shot clocks, patience is a forgotten concept.  The game is played at a fast pace, so most of us coaches practice fast and train our players to push the pace.  And part of that is a reflection of not only our fast-paced society, but also a generation of players that has grown up experiencing their entire life in an instant gratification world.  Patience is often foreign, to all of us, but as our celebration of Christmas closes, is a vital element in our Christian faith. Continue reading

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Focus on the Basics – Alone!

Image-1As 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

downloadBeyond 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:

Basketball From the Inside Out

and we’ve looked at the need for better free throw shooting in:

Don’t Worry About Free Throws – Just Change the Rules!

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

482884625_d1I 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:

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