Today is the first practice for the Lee County Home School Lady Ambassadors varsity and jr. varsity basketball teams. It will be my 15th season of coaching them. I have written elsewhere about how I got involved as a volunteer coach for girls’ basketball. It’s a rather comical story that includes yelling so loudly from the stands that the real coaches finally asked me to come sit on the bench, primarily to lower the decibels in the gym, I think.
Through the years it has been loads of fun and a great family adventure for me to coach. Donna
and I have has homeschooled all of our six children with the last one embarking on her junior year of high school. My one son played on the boys’ team and all five of my daughters have played on the girls’ team. With the exception of a two-year hiatus, every winter and spring for the last 17 years has seen me coaching girls’ basketball.
Over the years I have developed and refined a philosophy that governs my approach to coaching. Below is what I gave out to all the players and parents who showed up for the first day of tryouts yesterday.
I am Christian, husband, father, pastor of Grace Baptist Church and executive director of Founders Ministries—in that order. I got involved in coaching girls’ basketball through my family’s involvement with LCHS more than 16 years ago. This is my 15th season of coaching.
1. All of life is to be lived for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is our team verse. Basketball is included in the words “whatever you do” and “all.” If we are going to play basketball we better learn to do it to the glory of God. I believe that is possible to do this. I also believe that to do this requires right thinking, right priorities and genuine commitment. From the very first practice to the very last game my goal will be help players apply this verse to basketball with the hope that by doing so, they will also learn to apply it to the rest of life.
2. Basketball is a great game, but it is only a game
I want the girls to learn the game of basketball. I want to see them learn the rules, techniques, skills, strategies and the importance of individual effort and teamwork. Basketball, like life, provides many opportunities to handle blessings and face trials. A large part of the value of the game is learning how to face and overcome adverse circumstances in honorable ways. By doing so, we can learn a lot about ourselves, human nature, and God. I want to help the girls not to miss those lessons. I also want them to learn how to win without being arrogant and lose without being devastated. I want them to improve their skills and knowledge but also to discover that many of their limitations are self-imposed and can be expanded by commitment and hard work. So we will play hard and play to win. But will also try to remember that it is only a game. If it begins to interfere with more important priorities then it becomes a detriment and not an asset to the player. I want to work with parents on this to help the players keep the game in proper perspective.
3. Practices are more important than games
Games are important but practices are more so. Our practices will be well-planned, purposeful and intense. As the games draw nearer and the season progresses our practices will become even more intense. I want the girls to face more pressure and more adversity in practice than they are likely ever to face in a game. Practices are also for learning. Players who practice well (by being present and on time, paying attention and giving genuine effort) will rewarded with playing time in games as each game situation allows. I understand that one of my greatest responsibilities as a coach is to teach. Questions are encouraged during and after practices and after games.
4. The team is more important than the individual
On more than one occasion I have let the most talented player on the team go rather than sacrifice our team principles. I want to help players develop their individual skills while also teaching them the importance of working as part of a team to achieve goals. Each player has a role to fulfill. How each individual fulfills her role affects how the team performs. Basketball is a great sport to help us learn to think beyond ourselves to consider how our actions on and off the courts affects others.
5. Attitude and effort are more important than skill
A player with great skill and a poor attitude can be disastrous to a team. A player with a great attitude and limited skill can be a genuine asset to a team. A player with a great attitude and great skill can make everyone on the team better. I will be emphasizing attitude, celebrating good attitudes and helping to correct poor ones.
6. It is wise to play within your limitations
Many if not most limitations are self-imposed and I want to help the girls learn that they are capable of much more than they think. Every year without exception I have seen girls accomplish goals that they previously believed were unattainable. I will encourage the athletes to stretch themselves mentally and physically. While trying to expand and overcome limitations, it is important to recognize and play within them. Some girls are not yet strong enough to make a 3 point shot. Until they are, they should not be attempting such shots in games. Some do not yet dribble well. Until they do, they should not try to dribble through a press, etc. As a volunteer with limited time, knowledge and energy, I try to apply this to my role as a coach, too. Consequently, I rely heavily on my assistant coaches.
7. Self-discipline is a key to success
If there is no self-discipline then imposed discipline will be of little or no value. Because of the nature of a homeschool team where each player has different schedules, we are limited on the number of practices that we can schedule. Our practices cannot be given over to getting the girls in shape. In recognition of this, and to encourage self-discipline, I ask each girl on the Varsity team to commit to running at least 3 miles at least 3 times each week. It builds stamina but more importantly, it builds character because it will only be accomplished through self-discipline. Each year we have girls who have never run this far and do not believe that they can. Our assistant coaches will work with any player to help them get on a program that will enable them to accomplish this.