It was a tough start to the week for our team at basketball camp a few weeks ago. We had made the thirteen hour drive to Cleveland, TN to attend Coach T’s Championship Basketball Camp at Lee University. When most people at the camp found out we were from Texas they gave me the “you must be crazy” look when they realized how far we came. I was in a bad place mentally and spiritually after the first few games.
To start the trip, the starter on our fourteen passenger mini-bus went out in Marshall, TX which added about five hours to the trip as the good men at the Pony Express Truck Stop and Service Center repaired it. This wasn’t too bad, though. We rolled with the punches.
The rest of the trip went fine, and the guys were spending quality team time together. We arrived at Lee University and played our first two games pretty close. We went to bed that night pretty pleased with our performance and looking forward to the improvement that Tuesday would bring.
Then the wheels fell off.
We played the next two games against teams obviously younger than us and we got dismantled.
Now, I’m not an idiot (at least I don’t think so). I know that our team is very inexperienced, unfundamental, and flat out not great at basketball. I was prepared to lose quite a few games, some of them by a large margin. The losing didn’t get to me.
It was how we were losing that got me so upset. Careless, unforced turnovers, lack of focus, you name it; we made the same mistakes over and over again for two and a half games. After we were thoroughly embarrassed in the third game, I shook hands with the other team and walked straight out of the gym to the bus. I didn’t say a word to my guys for the next hour and a half or so.
I was pouting and acting like a baby, but in my mind these guys were helpless. They refused to even learn from their mistakes. What hope did we ever have of building a basketball program? What am I doing coaching them? I made a mistake taking this job.
I’ll never be satisfied if this is the athlete I’m dealing with. (this was the internal monologue going on in my head)
As PGC instructor and Lee men’s basketball coach, Tommy Brown, had said earlier that day, I was “feeding the negative dog” inside me.
So like many men do when they are righteously indignant and justifiably angry, I called my wife.
I pulled up Facetime and gave her a call. She asked how it was going. I said, “Not good!” and proceeded to unload. After a minute or two of venting I heard my two-year-old son in the background of the conversation ask this:
Is Daddy whining?”
Not understanding what he asked, my wife asked him what he said. He said it again.
“Is Daddy whining?”
She still couldn’t quite make it out. “What’s that, buddy?” She asked.
“Is Daddy whi-”
“He’s asking if Daddy is whining,” I quickly answered not wanting to be convicted by a toddler a third time.
I don’t know if it showed to my wife or not, but that shook me. I continued the rest of the conversation and said good-bye. I had to make it to the evening service.
The question my son asked was still ringing in my head. I couldn’t shake it while I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t whining. I was right; my situation was hopeless. I was spinning my wheels coaching these guys. I just needed to try to salvage the rest of the week.
At the service, Coach T (as he is famous for doing) made one statement that exposed my sinful attitude for what it was. He said the following:
Everybody is trying to be successful, but I’d rather be significant.”
He continued to expound on the Biblical principle of the key success in God’s eyes is serving others. As he continued, the Lord shed a different light on the two and a half games that will live in infamy.
One team that killed us pressed us the whole game. Instead of using the game as an opportunity to review our press break with some of our newer players, I just scolded them for poor decisions and turnovers.
I had wasted opportunities to coach my team, and what’s worse I was a poor example of how to deal with adversity.”
I was too focused on my own success and not focused on being significant.
God led me to my job. He led me to this team. He led these guys and their families to our program. My job is to serve them.
The funny thing is we played our next two games down to the wire, losing by a free throw in both games. Then we won our first camp game later on that evening. The rest of the week went well too. Our guys went to some great classroom sessions and competed well in the end of the week tournament.
I’m convinced the positive end had to do nothing with me as a coach but everything to do with the message that Coach T brought that evening. Serve others.
I shudder to think what would have happened if I wasn’t given a harsh reality check by my two-year old.
Check out what we thought about Coach T’s book, To the Hilt: Coaching Character for Life.