Each week we only get to hold organized team practice for a combined four hours. There is only so much that can be said, only so much that can be covered in this allotted time. So, in addition to the physical training that takes place during the scheduled practice time, I try to pass out a couple handouts to my players. These handouts consist of a short article I found or wrote for the team, along with another page I refer to as “the player of the week.” The player of the week handout portion contains a page with a brief biographical summary of one of the legendary basketball greats like Pete Maravich, John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Ervin “Magic” Johnson, David Robinson, etc. I want the kids to know more about the game and be more familiar with some of the incredible players who have impacted history by stepping on a basketball court. However, my hopes aren’t simply for the guys to have more knowledge of the game’s rich history.
My hope is that we all walk away from this season with more of Jesus. It would be a monumental failure on my part as a coach if my players walk away at the end of a season with just an increased ability to put an orange ball through a hoop ten feet in the air. It is a great loss for us all if we end the season with more W’s than any other team, but Christ is not reflected in our lives. I care far more about our relationship with our Heavenly Father than our efficiency to outscore opponents in a basketball game.
Now do I want us to win in our games? Yes, absolutely… always. But I do not want us to be so short-sided that we are willing to trade depth in life, depth in our relationship with God, for a couple extra W’s and a few more points on our stat sheet. We need to remember that basketball is just a game; but at the same time it is so much more than a game. It can be a microcosm of life. Through playing basketball we can learn more about ourselves, we can develop discipline, drive, courage, determination, and leadership. We can learn how to better deal with both success and disappointment, with rapid change and unmet expectations, and how to better interact with others like us and those who are different in many ways.
So this game really can be an incredible part of our life. Basketball is so much more than tossing a ball through a basket. The benefits of the game go well beyond physical exercise and conditioning. It is a great sport (in my opinion the greatest organized sport of all), but it should never be ultimate in our lives.
“Basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior. Until that is done, we are on an aimless course that runs in circles and goes nowhere.” – John Wooden