The Things I Have Learned… And Am Learning

I must apologize if I ramble but there have been things that have been on my heart lately and writing them out helps me to learn and to grow. If you have read my blogs you know that I am a wife, mother AND a basketball coach. Right now it is basketball season, so a lot of my thoughts and “down” time have a decidedly basketball theme (and so will this blog).

I have always loved basketball. From as early as I can remember all I wanted to do was play basketball. I played hoops with boys on the playground, with my uncles in the back yard and with the boys at church. I never thought much of the fact that I was the only girl and I didn’t let the fact that I was a girl stand in my way. I knew I could get better and I worked to get better (even though I never owned a regulation height basketball hoop in my backyard).

As I look back over the years I am still realizing all the things that I have learned a lot from game of basketball. It also amazes me that I am still learning from the game even after 21 of organized basketball. I have learned about attitude, leadership, determination, perseverance and so much more. And some of the biggest things I am still learning as a coach don’t directly deal with the sport itself, but with my relationships with other people (including my husband, children and players).

The first lessons came from my father. He was my hero. I remember looking at pictures of him playing basketball in high school and I wanted to be like him. He taught me how to shoot, dribble, pass and so much more. I still talk about basketball with my dad today. I know too that he loved to watch me play and I knew that there would be lessons to learn from him as we drove home from practices and games. He always challenged me to get better, to shoot more, and get in better shape. He didn’t force me too, but he saw my passion and love for the game and knew my desire to play at a higher level and encouraged it. He was my first coach!

My first days of playing organized basketball were in 5th grade, where I participated on a boys team (since there were no girls teams for my age in the area). It was a challenge, but I don’t remember too much of that time. I just remember practicing and loving every minute of it. I remember the games and my first basket. I remember being chosen for a traveling tournament team and being the only girl there. It was fun and it made me love basketball even more.

The next year was the year that I really started to learn a lot about the game of basketball. I had some great coaches (Coach B and Coach H) who challenged me each and every practice. They didn’t let me stay where I was at, but challenged me and pushed me how to get better. They were encouraging too. They were honest and I don’t ever remember them raising their voice more than once and it wasn’t in a demeaning way. Even when I missed the free throws to win a game all I remember was them challenging me to get better so that would never happen again.

After my dad they are my first inspirations as a coach. They made basketball fun and they really knew how to bring a team together. As a coach I have really drawn a lot from their attitude and actions in those young impressionable days of playing a sport. I don’t see them often any more, but am thankful for the time that I had to learn from them and for the ways that they challenged me to get better.

From that point on I didn’t have a lot of positive influences from my coaches. I played for some that didn’t have a lot of expertise in basketball, which as you can imagine was frustrating. I also played for coaches who liked to yell. Then there was the coach who liked to make empty promises to try and motivate. Lets just say that I may not have learned a lot of positive things from these coaches or years, but I did learn a lot about how I didn’t want to treat others.

I also learned a lot about life in general. I learned about facing trials and discouragement. I learned a lot about friendship, loyalty and how God uses small things (like a song) to bring you back to Him and show His hand even in a bad situation. I learned a lot about people, some things that I would never want to face again and the cut-throat nature of some. At times there was a lot of pain, a lot of questioning, a lot of wondering if I wanted to keep going. But I refused to give up.

I also learned that my parents always had my back, where always there for me even when I felt alone. I leaned that I had a support system in them and they directed me towards the greatest source support and all the support I would ever need in facing any situation in life, Jesus Christ. They showed me that in the midst of adverse situations that He was always there and would always be.

I faced about every situation that a player could be in. I have been the star, the role player and the bench player. I have had season ending injuries. I have been lied to by coaches, chewed out and had pressure heaped on my shoulders to perform by others. I have also been pushed, challenged and encouraged as I played. In each of those situations I have learned a little more about myself, about life and about others.

So why am I writing this? Well to be frank it is because leadership and especially leadership by coaches in athletics (actually the lack there of) has really been weighing on my heart. If you have read my last few posts you have seen that God has really been challenging me in the area or leadership and especially in how He defines leadership.

If we look around at the world it is alarming to see the lack of leadership in the world around us. You can say that there are leaders everywhere, but I would challenge that remark. Yes, there are people in positions of leadership. Yes there are people that others view as leaders. But are all those people leaders? Do those people take seriously the position that they are in or are the abusers of power?

It is especially heavy on my heart to see how “leaders” treat those under their authority. I have been coaching basketball for four years and I am still learning. But every day I am seeing more and more how I don’t want to coach. I was disturbed to hear of a coach (who coaches 3rd graders) yelling at their players for not winning or wanting to win more. I see the same pattern being followed all the way up by coaches of sports in the school systems and it is disturbing.

What are you teaching a 3rd grader about basketball (and especially about life) when you yell at them constantly for making mistakes. And that same question can be posed to lots of high school coaches. Just because you are in a position of authority does that give you the right to throw water bottles when you get mad? Does it give you the right to chew out your players in public, private and every situation? Does it give you the right to be demeaning and never encouraging? Does it give you the right to show them that it is easier to brush issues aside instead of dealing with them?

Why do you think there is a lack of leadership? In my opinion it is because there are lots growing up who have never had strong leadership in their life. They have never had it modeled for them how to deal with tough situation. They are shown that if you are made or in a bad situation it is ok to react with anger blame everyone around you for being the problem. It is accepted to only thing of yourself and never about anyone else; to get and do what’s best for you and you only. It is truly sad. Remind you of our culture? Of those our kids look up to and want to be like?

What has basketball taught me about leadership? More like what am I still learning? I never will be where I want to be as a coach. I push myself and in turn it pushes me in others areas of my life (as a wife, a mother, and more). I have learned what I don’t want to be like. I don’t want to be someone who conveys empty promises, who says one thing and then do another. I don’t want to be someone who belittles a person, their ability or lack of it, or their effort. I don’t want to be someone who “gets off” by demeaning another. I don’t want to be someone who acts like I know it all. What do I want to be like?

I want to be like my dad, who saw my passion and ENCOURAGED me to get better. I want to be like Coach B and Coach H, who pushed me into areas where it seemed uncomfortable to make me better, yet never chewed me out when I failed. Most of all I want to be like Jesus Christ, who lived to serve and is the ultimate example of leadership. He was the Son of God but never held it over others. He never used his position to gain an advantage or belittle others. He led by example. He led by serving. He led by giving.

I am pained by the state of leadership in our country, in our schools, on athletic teams. What can I do about it? I can pray. I can strive to be an example of Jesus Christ to others and challenge them to pick up the torch. I can use the position that God had given me to raise up leaders for Jesus Christ, those who lead by serving and encouraging and building up. What can you do?

Thanks for reading my ramblings. I want to write and feel like I could write forever on this topic. I don’t know how God can use me but I know that I am willing and I want to be used by Him to encourage coaches. I long to see a change! I want to see strong leaders being raised up in this country, who lead by following the example of Jesus Christ and serving. This is my prayer, this is my new passion.

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