I’ve always viewed book reviews as sort of a cop-out from a blogging standpoint. There’s no original content in a book review. It’s just one writer rehashing and summarizing something that a more accomplished, more popular writer has already said. But King Solomon was right when he said, “there is no new thing under the sun.” The goal here is not to necessarily to review The Leftovers: Basketball, Betrayal, Baylor and Beyond, but to convince you why the kids in your Christian school athletic department should read it.
If you’re not familiar with Matt Sayman you can read more about him here. Coach Sayman played basketball at Baylor University from 2000-2004 when the men’s basketball team went through a very turbulent time. If you don’t know about the story, you can read more about it here. In The Leftovers, Coach Sayman chronicles what life was like for him during what would be the most difficult period of any athlete’s life.
Here’s five reasons why you and the kids in your athletic department should read The Leftovers: Basketball, Betrayal, Baylor and Beyond
First off, it is much longer than expected. However, it reads almost like a fictional story. The way that the story is set up constantly engages readers and should hold the attention span of most junior high to high schoolers despite its length.
Also, if you’re a basketball junkie it’s fun to read and be reminded of the teams that were competing against Sayman in the Big XII during that time period. It nostalgically appealed to memories of my high school days watching college basketball on ESPN.
Coach Sayman does a great job of illustrating his mindset as a junior high and high school basketball player. All the aspects and character traits that you would want from any student athlete are evident in Coach Sayman’s life.
Throughout the book, Sayman talks about how his preparation and work ethic prepared him for challenges in which he was the physical underdog. The author constantly makes the connection that his success at high levels came from deliberate practice, a team first mentality, and respect for authority.
One of the key aspects of being coachable is being self-aware. Coach Sayman shows how a proper view of oneself can go a long way in determining their success. Despite his obvious success (almost dominance) in his high school career, he constantly mentioned the flaws in his game and the need for improvement to achieve his goals.
Many Christian school athletes have an inflated view of their abilities. Coach Sayman shows the need for constant evaluation and improvement no matter the level of success.
Connects How God Works through Tragedies
As you read the events of what went down in Waco during Sayman’s playing days, you see how God uses hardship and tragedy to bring us to dependence on Him.
Despite a seemingly strong Christian walk before his world was turned upside down, Coach Sayman candidly and transparently shares his spiritual struggles for quite some time after the tragedy.
Through his story, Sayman shows the events that God used to bring him to where he needed to be spiritually. The book also clearly depicts how the author’s shallow faith that he possessed before his trials was broken, challenged, and made into something deeper. Sayman chronicles his doubt of whether or not he would have matured spiritually without his experience.
We preach Romans 8:28 to our kids, but it’s great to hear a story that illustrates the truth of God’s Word.
Doesn’t Glorify Sin
Too often biographies of those who competed in big time athletics share the tawdry details of a life in sin. Unfortunately, this can be said of books by Christian athletes as well. It’s almost as if they feel they have to explicitly describe the depravity that God saved them from.
However, if we’re all honest, God has saved every believer from a vile lifestyle.
Whether it is a life lived in open rebellion of God’s principles or a life filled with secret sins, we are all guilty of offense in the eyes of God. Sin is sin.
Coach Sayman never bragged about the sin in his life. He mentions the drinks and the parties, but he quickly shows the emptiness that they brought and the ramifications that came with it.
He is careful to objectively trace each problem that he had in his life back to the true issue: his heart.
In a culture that bombards young people with the allures of an ungodly lifestyle, I appreciate the way in which Coach Sayman describes the emptiness that he found in this time of his life. It’s a message with which our athletes constantly need to be reminded.
It’s a Great Reminder for Coaches
Reading through this book as a coach, you can see the different effects that coaching has on even the most coachable players.
Sayman tells about his first coach at Baylor, Dave Bliss. Bliss had recruited Sayman out of high school. The story shows how Bliss’s extreme outburst caused periods of stress for the team. Bliss’s coaching style certainly brought results, but they were short lived.
More importantly, though, the book along with the facts presented from other sources show how overlooking character issues coupled with cutting corners to gain a competitive advantage will ultimately lead to downfall.
Coach Bliss made some poor decisions and failed to act in a number of instances and ultimately his mistakes caught up with him. It’s a tragic but cautionary tale to all coaches in any sport.
In contrast, Sayman describes the first season under Scott Drew while Baylor men’s basketball was under severe NCAA sanctions.
I wasn’t a Scott Drew fan until I read this book. Sayman describes a coach that was tactically smart and ethically sound. Coach Drew focused on doing things the right way. He was tasked with salvaging an all-but-sunken ship. Not only did he salvage it, but he and his staff were able to sail it further and faster than anyone expected.
Sayman describes Drew’s upbeat coaching style, his relentless energy, and his disciplined work ethic. I was ready to lace up my Nike Shox and hit the court for Coach Drew by the end of the book!
Reading The Leftovers: Basketball, Betrayal, Baylor and Beyond reminded me that passionate coaches inspire players to rise up and be part of something bigger than themselves. It challenged me not to motivate through fear but through love.
So, there you have it: five reasons why you and your Christian school athletes should read The Leftovers: Basketball, Betrayal, Baylor and Beyond.
Matt Sayman is also a great follow on twitter. If you don’t read the book, at least glean from his wisdom inthat way.
Coach Sayman also does speaking engagements. Consider him for your next sports banquet or team retreat.