Discipling Men to Lead

  

Literally every ministry in the history of the Church has had struggles raising up good leadership. Jesus Himself founded His church on twelve highly-flawed men (Ephesians 3:20-21). And with all of our weaknesses and shortcomings we have a great commission to carry out (Matthew 28:18-20).

So with the tough question of, “How do we raise up people, specifically men, to accomplish this task?” You might first ask, “Where do we start?” Many of the men in our church are currently going through a course together called Yokefellows. In this course we can begin our attempt to answer the question in essentially three words: finding, training, and sending.

Finding



Change the culture. The first step to raising up men in the church is finding them. In a culture that has commercialized church and stupefied manhood, many men have simply never been told (let alone had it explained) that they were created to lead. Many come to churches as consumers and to their relationships as passive participants.

Raising up men in the church means reclaiming the Bible’s radically barbaric, countercultural view of manhood. We first have to model, teach, preach, and celebrate a picture of the God-man who sacrificially, patiently, passionately led and laid His life down for His bride.

This will involve the intimidating task of gently but strongly stating and explaining the biblical view of manhood that our culture and many of our churches simply don’t want to hear.

Change your expectations. Church leaders too often are guilty of having unrealistic expectations. God uses different means to nurture His Church, and one of the most surprising means is His use of fallen people (after all, Numbers 22:22-41). If you’re raising up leaders it often means the men you’re looking for aren’t yet in leadership.

If the story of David’s anointing teaches us anything it shows us that our external judgments of leadership are often flawed. Look for men who are teachable instead of impressive (Proverbs 12:1), spiritual and unpretentious rather than notable (John 1:47). Don’t ignore people’s gifting, but don’t overlook people because their gifting isn’t readily apparent. We’re all broken vessels that God uses for His great purposes.

Training



Make the time. The bane of any church leader’s existence is the clock. Between our multiplicity of responsibilities it feels impossible to fit in the time to raise up leadership. Here we are tempted to make a fatal error. Training up men isn’t outside of the work of ministry; it is the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12-16).

Christ, while ministering at times to thousands, gave surprising priority to training twelve men. In the midst of enormous pressure, He still withdrew to explain His ministry to a few. In addition to being crushed by the clock, we are often duped by our own pride.

Let’s face it. We’re given to a perfectionistic savior complex. We feel that if we don’t do it, it won’t get done right. I certainly struggle with that, to the point of absurdity at times. Part of raising up leaders means being willing to let inexperienced, as yet untested, men take certain leadership roles, and doing so means loosening up a bit on the reins. It also means giving them a little leeway to fail at times or not always do certain tasks exactly how you think they should be done.

Seize the time. The training of leaders will take a plethora of innovative and varying forms. To change the culture you’ll need teaching time. Places to start are incorporating biblical thinking on male leadership into your preaching. Start a men’s Bible study. Meet with a few men weekly for coffee. Join a city Rec league and play some ball together. Whatever works.

In order to understand their role they’ll need to see it in Scripture. But scheduled meetings, while essential, are not enough. This is where creativity is critical. Bring men along. Involve potential leaders in visitation, sermon prep, evangelism, and meetings. Ministry doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it can’t… and so ministry training shouldn’t either.

Sending



Give them a high call. As leaders start to distinguish themselves by their spirituality and teachability, it’s time to start giving them real responsibility. On this point we’re often tempted to be timid, but the Bible is not so. The Bible calls real men to real challenges. Give potential leaders tasks that are large, that they can use their skills to rise to.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint

Give them the grace to make mistakes, but give them goals that will stretch them and cause them to grow. Provide them with gentle, but honest feedback. Don’t sugar coat the task of ministry. We don’t want to create men who put their hand to the plow and then look back (Luke 9:62). The way is hard, but the reward is amazing.

Pray, Pray, Pray. This should occur before and during the process, but we end with it to keep it fresh on our minds. No process or program will bring spiritual change in the hearts of the men in our ministries; only God can do that. Start and finish your task with prayer. Pray that God would bring you men, give you the wisdom to see it, and then give you the grace to raise them up. The Church is His bride; let’s go to Him in prayer, asking for the Spirit to raise its leaders.

A Few Facts About Great Leaders

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The key to building a great team in any setting is to be great leaders. Great leaders are in the making, moving from a good leader to a great leader.

Good leaders know they must prepare themselves, better themselves, make changes, and keep growing. The leader’s desire for positive change will determine the level of leadership achieved.

Greatness largely due to bravery and courage in escaping from restrictive old ideas, hindering old standards, and a mere respectable way of doing things. Here are five facts about great leaders.

1. Great leaders are always growing and reaching to improve their leadership. Take responsibility for your own failures as well as successes. If you keep learning, you will improve, and your leadership will get better. It’s ok to not be okay, but it’s not ok to stay there. Because the greatest fault is to be conscious of none.

2. Great leaders are pushing the boundary lines to move beyond what is normal or usual. Leaders are pioneers. They venture into unexplored territory and help guide others to new and often unfamiliar destinations.

The person who is afraid to risk failure seldom has to face success. We should expected team members to make mistakes, but only as long as they are mistakes of commission. A mistake of commission happens when you are doing what should be done but don’t get the results you want.

3. Great leaders are risk-takers. They reject the maintenance mentality and take risks from strength, preparing thoroughly, understanding what is at stake, and marching forward with confidence. It is never too late to be what you might have become as long as there is air in your lungs!

He who has never failed cannot be great. Failure is the true test of greatness. Great leadership is great stewardship – the cultivation of resources that God has entrusted us for His glory. The idea of Sabbath in particular gives us both theological and practical help in managing one of our primary resources: time.

It is better to make a thousand failures than to be too cowardly to ever undertake anything. For we can be certain that God will give us the strength and resources we need to live through any situation in life that he ordains. The will of God will never take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.

4. Great leaders are resource finders and releasers. They have built a leadership structure that finds potential leaders, helps to train them, and then releases them to greater levels of work. Great leaders help others to also become leaders; they serve and assist others to help them improve, grow, and actualize their ambitions.

5. Great leaders are future-focused and dedicated to do whatever it takes to get there. They give the present work at hand their full attention and energy while maintaining a healthy perspective of something greater to work towards. Their faith capacity has increased to believe that God will provide all that is necessary as their need arises. God will always provide; but what He provides will be what is needed, not necessarily what is wanted.

A great leader’s “people capacity” is also increased so that getting along with and caring for people is at the leader’s heart. Having a heart for people and faith in God’s ability gives the great leader strong confidence to focus on the vision and devote his resources to seeing that vision through to its completion.

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, but it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. We should all take the challenge to move from being a good leader to a great one and expand our leadership capacity.

7 Requirements to Being a Leader Today

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To be a leader requires more than just knowledge… especially these days. Knowledge alone is not enough to get desired results. You must also have the more elusive ability to teach and to motivate. A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering cold iron. This defines a leader; if you can’t teach and you can’t motivate, you can’t lead.

“Leadership is the ability to get individuals to work together for the common good and the best possible results while at the same time letting them know they did it themselves.” – John Wooden

Here are 7 requirements to being a great leader today:

1. You have to be adaptable.

Things change fast these days. Real fast. Just considering technology, it is advancing at compounding rates that leave even manufacturers struggling to keep up. You must lead a team that responds well to change.

“If we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward… If I am through learning, I am through… Failure is not fatal, but failure to change can be.” – John Wooden

2. You have to be moldable.

You must personally grow and change fast too… or you might be left behind. (This of course doesn’t mean you have to completely change your values, beliefs, or convictions on a regular basis. In fact, that may work against you in some ways.) We’re all imperfect and we all have needs. The prideful weak usually do not ask for help, so they stay weak. If we humbly recognize that we are imperfect, we will ask for help and we will pray for the guidance necessary to bring positive results to whatever we are doing.

3. You have to embrace a team approach.

There are no single heroes today. Not a single individual wins the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the World Series, the Stanley Cup, the World Cup, etc… it is a team that earns such a prize. Even in individual sports competition there are coaches, trainers, and other players competing involved. No successful business is the result of only a single person… besides, consumers and customers are needed even if it is a “one man operation.”

To be honest, there never really was such a thing as an isolated hero. Consider the big super hero movies owning the Hollywood box office this past decade: Batman and Superman never truly work alone, and then there are of course the Avengers and the X-men that are literally teams of super heroes.

“We can become great in the eyes of others, but we’ll never become successful when we compromise our character and show disloyalty toward friends or teammates. The reverse is also true: No individual or team will become great without loyalty… Much more can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets credit.” – John Wooden

4. You have to consider social responsibility.

People want their individual work to make a difference. They also want the place where they spend their time, whether paid or volunteer, to make a difference. Nobody in their right mind wants to sneak through life without making any impact at all.

5. You have to think bigger than today.

Tomorrow is coming quicker than ever before and people are looking for leaders who can provide competent direction and consistent encouragement. (Time really is constantly speeding up throughout your life. We experience and perceive time from the perspective in which we live… and when you are 50+ years old, a day appears as a much smaller fraction than it did when you were only 7 years old.)

6. You have to be willing to serve others.

People will no longer follow a simply autocratic leader. Much of our society today seems to be less loyal than in generations passed. If you want to remain a leader today, you must prove you care for people personally. Trust and authenticity is more important than appearing to have all the answers.

“A leader’s most powerful ally is his or her own example.” – John Wooden

7. You have to allow others to receive credit and assume authority.

It’s what attracts leaders to your team these days. They want to feel they are playing a part in the team’s success. I’ve never met or heard of a guy who honestly wanted to be a part of a championship caliber team, but then have zero contribution to that team.

“Goals achieved with little effort are seldom worthwhile or lasting.” – John Wooden

These are some of the key elements required in leadership today. I realize this brings some unique challenges for spiritual leaders. We have a message of good news and faith that is unwavering… and that needs to stay that way. I certainly don’t intend to continually “change my message” or attempt to alter the Gospel. As a Christian leader, though, we must understand the context of culture in which we find ourselves. The way we lead, motivate, and recruit people to join in stewarding God’s resources has changed (and will continue to change). If we don’t recognize that, we will be less successful in accomplishing our God-given assignments.

Thankfully, in the end, when and where we are weak… God is strong (Romans 5:6-11; 1st Corinthians 1:17-31, 4:10; 2nd Corinthians 11:30, 12:9-10, 13:4, 9).

5 Traits of Great Basketball Leaders

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Basketball leaders are made, not simply born, with qualities developed through their experiences both on and off the court. Great leaders, coaches like Larry Brown and Phil Jackson, and players like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, learn from their failures and use them to improve their ability to motivate, inspire, and ultimately to win. Like anything else, if you want to improve your leadership skills, you must devote effort and attention. However, you also need to understand the special qualities of basketball leadership. Review the five traits discussed below, and use them to help mold yourself into a more respected player on your team and in your league.

1. Character

Character is what defines you as a person. It is the sum of your values, beliefs, and behavior. One quality that is particularly valuable for basketball leadership is integrity. Coaches and players with integrity have positive values, principles, and actions. They are consistent in their beliefs, and they strive to be a positive inspiration for their team and others.

“Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece – by thought, choice, courage, and determination.” – John Luther

“A winner is someone who recognizes their God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.” – Larry Bird

Example: Before you try to motivate your fellow teammates to play hard, evaluate your own effort and communication. Are you modeling the values that you yourself want to promote?

How to Improve: Personally commit yourself to developing more consistency. If you want your team to work harder, make sure you are consistently playing to the best of your ability. If you want your team to focus, first improve your own focus.

2. Commitment

As a leader, you must be committed to achieving daily, weekly, and ultimate goals. If you want to be a better player, completely commit yourself to the team. Don’t give up when it gets difficult. Stay focused on what you want to achieve.

Example: If you realize that you’re not giving 100 percent effort all the time, commit to doing so.

How to Improve: Recognize the steps you need to take to improve. If you want to play at the next level, you’ll have to commit time between games (and even between organized practices) to develop your skills, practice techniques, routines, and plays.

3. Communication

How good are you at communicating with your coach and fellow players? Basketball leaders improve their teams by refocusing teammates on what matters and voicing ideas in ways that motivate, not offend, others and do not disrupt the chemistry of the team.

Example: Your fellow teammate made a costly turnover. What can you say to keep your team’s confidence high?

How to Improve: Speak clearly and project your voice, watching for reactions from team members. Make sure you are motivating and inspiring others for better performance. Be sensitive to how and when you should communicate your message.

4. Self-Discipline

Players with self-discipline take the right action regardless of their emotional state. At some point, you will be tired, angry, agitated, stressed, or annoyed; however, your attitude and ability to persevere should not change.

Example: You’ve had a terrible day, and you’re tired and agitated. You are participating in an important practice for your team’s upcoming big game. How will you react if things begin to break down in practice? Will you stay motivated and cheerfully give 100 percent?

How to Improve: All emotional states are temporary. Refocus on the upcoming task instead of what you are feeling at the moment. Give your all, regardless of the situation.

5. Learning from Mistakes

No one is perfect. When you make mistakes, take the time to analyze and learn from them. Doing this will continually improve your leadership skills. You have to realize when you said the wrong thing at the wrong time. Great leaders realize when they are wrong and admit it.

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

Example: A teammate yells at another teammate, and you missed the opportunity to help settle a heated situation.

How to Improve: Realize that you made a mistake by missing the opportunity. If the chance presents itself again, take action. If you don’t have an occasion to correct your mistake, think about how you will handle a similar situation in the future.

As a player or coach, you can improve your basketball leadership traits by evaluating your character, commitment, communication style, self-discipline, and ability to learn from mistakes. It will take time, effort, and commitment to improve. However, the results should encourage and inspire you to help your team in the long run.

7 Keys to Effective Player Development

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Have you guys ever heard any version of this quote, “Individuals may get better in the off-season, but teams get better during the season.”

I think that while we can appreciate the mindset behind this, that team development must be the #1 priority during the season, this statement seems to imply that individual player development isn’t as important from October to March.

If that is the case, we should highly disagree. Individuals need to get better during the season as well. In fact, the most effective way for us to improve our team is to improve ourselves!

Individual player development (which includes both athleticism and movement training, as well as basketball skills and fundamentals; and even better understanding of and insight into the game on a bigger scale) should be addressed and given priority at every practice. To what extent we should focus on these elements depends on the age, skill level, previous experience of the players, the length of practice, and the time during season (early pre-season vs. playoff time).

I know we can’t win if nobody rebounds the basketball. I’d be willing to bet that some of you realize that for the overwhelming majority, “defense wins championships.” However, the name of the game is to put the ball in the basket. So working on offensive moves and getting up quality reps of game shots from game spots at game speed is paramount to our team’s success.

Before he coached his first practice as the head coach of Butler, a colleague recommended that Brad Stevens have a manager chart how many shots his best player took during a 2+ hour practice. Coach Stevens ran what he thought was an excellent practice (in-depth teaching, sound team concepts, etc). After practice he found out his best player took less than 25 shots the entire practice, which Coach Stevens immediately recognized was unacceptable. From that day forward he began to implement quality shooting drills in every single practice.

Former NFL coach Jon Gruden laughs when he hears other coaches say, “We need to get back to working on the fundamentals” after a tough loss. Get back to them? Why did you ever abandon or neglect them in the first place? That may even be why you lost!

“I discovered early on that the player who learned the fundamentals of basketball is going to have a much better chance of succeeding and rising through the levels of competition than the player who was content to do things his own way. A player should be interested in learning why things are done a certain way. The reasons behind the teaching often go a long way to helping develop the skill.” – John Wooden

While the amount of time we spend on everything will vary (and we have a limited practice schedule of only 2 hours – twice a week), I firmly believe every single one of our practices should have at least some aspect and component of individual player development.

Here are 7 keys to effective player development:

1. Build our game brick by brick. Every rep of every set of every practice is important. How you do anything is how you do everything. You learned to walk one step at a time. You build a house one brick at time. You build your game one drill at a time.

2. We have to leave our comfort zones. All of us have to buy into this together. Once a player has the movement, skill or footwork down, they need to push harder than game speed. The harder you practice, the easier things become during games.

3. Know the ‘why.’ Every drill must have some perceived relevance. That means the players can clearly understand how this particular skill or drill will improve their game performance. Will being able to dribble 3 basketballs reduce turnovers when the lights come on and the crowds start cheering on game nights? Doubtful. Therefore it has minimal perceived relevance, but any drill that incorporates something that can be used in a game is highly important and worth the time.

4. Use visualization. Great players like Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant don’t just do a drill; they compete in that drill with the same focus and effort as if they were in the waning seconds of Game 7 of the NBA Finals. They imagine they are being guarded by an elite defender; not just lazily ‘going around a cone.’

5. Avoid fatigue and boredom. These are two of the biggest killers of player development. We must get in better shape, increase our endurance and stamina. We can combat this issue by being in better basketball shape and by trying to use some more innovative, purposeful drills. But in the end, we must all work as a team to be able to run harder, run longer, and run together. When your body gets tired, your mind quickly follows. Nobody improves their ability to learn when their exhausted and worn out; we are less likely to get better at a skill when our minds and bodies are exhausted… so we must work on conditioning, always.

6. Do everything with precision. Details matter! Perfect form and footwork are imperative. If you want to build a beautiful brick house, you have to lay every single brick with care and precision. Every stone must be in the right place, or it will throw the others off. Once you start sloppily laying bricks… the house suffers (both in appearance and structural integrity).

7. We must learn from our past mistakes. Remember that nobody is perfect. When you make mistakes, be sure to take the time to analyze and learn from them. Don’t dwell on it with regret and lose sight of what you can learn from the mistake, but rather focus on what you can learn from it in order to prevent it from happening again. Great players realize when they did something wrong, admit it, and learn from it.

Also we all need to understand and remember that skill improvement takes time, and is often a process of 2’s:

​• It takes 2 minutes to learn a new move or new skill.

​• It takes 2 weeks to work on it daily until you develop confidence in it.

​• It takes 2 months of constant work to be competent enough to use it in a game.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start in order to be great.” – John C. Maxwell

99 Wisdoms from Wooden

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Much can be learned from this great man often known quite simply as ‘Coach.’ He was so much more than simply a basketball coach, however. He was a great leader, teacher, husband, father… an example for us all.

What follows are 99 quotes by Coach Wooden (one for each year of his time on earth):

“Good things take time, as they should. We shouldn’t expect good things to happen overnight. Actually, getting something too easily or too soon can cheapen the outcome.” – John Wooden

“If you do not have time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over?” – John Wooden

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” – John Wooden

“Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.” – John Wooden

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden

“The coach is first of all a teacher.” – John Wooden

“If you keep too busy learning the tricks of the trade, you may never learn the trade.” – John Wooden

“We don’t have to be superstars or win championships… All we have to do is learn to rise to every occasion, give our best effort, and make those around us better as we do it.” – John Wooden

“I never yelled at my players much. That would have been artificial stimulation, which doesn’t last very long. I think it’s like love and passion. Passion won’t last as long as love. When you are dependent on passion, you need more and more of it to make it work. It’s the same with yelling.” – John Wooden

“I’ve never stopped trying to do what’s right. I’m not doing it to earn favor with God. I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.” – John Wooden

“The best competition I have is against myself to become better.” – John Wooden

“Time lost is time lost. It’s gone forever. Some people tell themselves that they will work twice as hard tomorrow to make up for what they did not do today. People should always do their best. If they work twice as hard tomorrow, then they should have also worked twice as hard today. That would have been their best.” – John Wooden

“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

“Do not permit what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden

“Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden

“Earlier in life, I put family in front of faith. I’ve fixed that. But I always tried to keep work fourth on the list. I was proud when [my wife] Nellie told an interviewer, ‘I never could tell whether John had a good practice or a bad practice, because he never brought it home.'” – John Wooden

“I discovered early on that the player who learned the fundamentals of basketball is going to have a much better chance of succeeding and rising through the levels of competition than the player who was content to do things his own way. A player should be interested in learning why things are done a certain way. The reasons behind the teaching often go a long way to helping develop the skill.” – John Wooden

“Let’s face it, we’re all imperfect and we’re going to fall short on occasion. But we must learn from failure and that will enable us to avoid repeating our mistakes. Through adversity, we learn, grow stronger, and become better people.” – John Wooden

“Happiness begins where selfishness ends.” – John Wooden

“Some of my greatest pleasures have come from finding ways to overcome obstacles.” – John Wooden

“Earn the right to be proud and confident.” – John Wooden

“We’re all imperfect and we all have needs. The weak usually do not ask for help, so they stay weak. If we recognize that we are imperfect, we will ask for help and we will pray for the guidance necessary to bring positive results to whatever we are doing.” – John Wooden

“We can plan a roadtrip or a workday down to the last detail but the unexpected will always arise. If we are not malleable, we will get left behind.” – John Wooden

“If I am through learning, I am through.” – John Wooden

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change can be.” – John Wooden

“The man who is afraid to risk failure seldom has to face success.” – John Wooden

“Remember, results aren’t the criteria for success – it’s the effort made for achievement that is most important.” – John Wooden

“Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.” – John Wooden

“Each of us has a huge capacity to learn and to achieve. Being ever alert makes the task of becoming all we are capable of becoming so much easier.” – John Wooden

“It is what you learn after you know it all that counts.” – John Wooden

“You may be better than the rest, but you are not a success until you have made the effort to become the best you can be.” – John Wooden

“Goals achieved with little effort are seldom worthwhile or lasting.” – John Wooden

“Players with fight never lose a game; they just run out of time.” – John Wooden

“Be most interested in finding the best way, not in having your own way.” – John Wooden

“If we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward.” – John Wooden

“As long as you try your best, you are never a failure. That is, unless you blame others.” – John Wooden

“I grew up on a farm. We learned that there was a season to plant, a season to water, and season to harvest. The planting and watering could be laborious, but without those stages, there would never be a harvest.” – John Wooden

“Tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember a story.” – John Wooden

“As I grow older, I appreciate things that I didn’t appreciate much when I was younger. I am thankful more than I used to be. I’ve been reasonably healthy, and I feel blessed. And each morning I can think, this is going to be a good day!” – John Wooden

“If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.” – John Wooden

“Much can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets credit.” – John Wooden

“A leader’s most powerful ally is his or her own example.” – John Wooden

“Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.” – John Wooden

“Approval is a greater motivator than disapproval, but we have to disapprove on occasion when we correct. It’s necessary. I make corrections only after I have proved to the individual that I highly value him. If they know we care for them, our correction won’t be seen as judgmental. I also try to never make it personal.” – John Wooden

“Never be disagreeable just because you disagree.” – John Wooden

“Be slow to correct and quick to commend.” – John Wooden

“Be more concerned with what you can do for others than what others can do for you. You’ll be surprised at the results.” – John Wooden

“Being true to ourselves doesn’t make us people of integrity. Charles Manson was true to himself, and as a result, he rightly is spending the rest of his life in prison. Ultimately, being true to our Creator gives us the purest form of integrity.” – John Wooden

“Don’t permit fear of failure to prevent effort. We are all imperfect and will fail on occasions, but fear of failure is the greatest failure of all.” – John Wooden

“I believe we are most likely to succeed when ambition is focused on noble and worthy purposes and outcomes rather than on goals set out of selfishness.” – John Wooden

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.” – John Wooden

“You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for another without thought of something in return.” – John Wooden

“I wanted my players to always be searching, especially for truth. I wanted them to know what they believed and be able to defend it. Truth will always stand the test of scrutiny.” – John Wooden

“If I did only what I wanted to do, I would not be obedient to the Creator. Sometimes He wants us to do certain things that we may not feel like doing. When it comes to what God asks of us, we need more than good intentions – we need to follow through fully.” – John Wooden

“There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning.” – John Wooden

“We almost have to force or drive ourselves to work hard if we are to reach our potential. If we don’t enjoy what we do, we won’t be able to push as hard as we need to push for as long as we need to push to achieve our best. However, if we enjoy what we do and if we’re enthusiastic about it, we’ll do it better and come closer to becoming the best we can be.” – John Wooden

“Make no mistake, I always want to win, but I never fight with an opponent. My fight is within me – it is the struggle to be the best I can be at whatever I do.” – John Wooden

“Kindness makes for much better teamwork.” – John Wooden

“We can become great in the eyes of others, but we’ll never become successful when we compromise our character and show disloyalty toward friends or teammates. The reverse is also true: No individual or team will become great without loyalty.” – John Wooden

“Concentrate on what you do have, not on what you don’t.” – John Wooden

“Regarding balance – it’s the most important component in basketball and it is a very important part of life. We must always keep things in perspective so that we can maintain emotional control.” – John Wooden

“Time spent getting even would be better spent getting ahead.” – John Wooden

“We are all equal in that we can all strive to become the best we are capable of becoming. We can always improve but we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. We get in trouble when we start trying to measure up to someone else.” – John Wooden

“Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.” – John Wooden

“I felt that if [the players] were prepared, we would do just fine. If we won, great – frosting on the cake. But at no time did I consider winning to be the cake. Winning has always been the frosting that made the cake a little tastier.” – John Wooden

“There is nothing stronger than gentleness.” – John Wooden

“Sincerity may not help us make friends, but it will help us keep them.” – John Wooden

“We can give without loving, but we can’t love without giving. In fact, love is nothing unless we give it to someone.” – John Wooden

“In life, worthwhile accomplishments and acquisitions take time. Usually the better the reward, the more time it takes to acquire it.” – John Wooden

“We should never let ambition cause us to sacrifice our integrity or diminish our efforts in other areas. However, we need to remember that we never reach a serious goal unless we have the intention of doing so.” – John Wooden

“The person who is afraid to risk failure seldom has to face success. I expected my players to make mistakes, as long as they were mistakes of commission. A mistake of commission happens when you are doing what should be done but don’t get the results you want.” – John Wooden

“When we aren’t alert, we miss opportunities to improve ourselves. We should always watch for circumstances or situations that can help or harm us and be eager to learn from these encounters.” – John Wooden

“I believe it’s impossible to claim you have taught, when there are students who have not learned. With that commitment, from my first year as an English teacher until my last as UCLA basketball teacher/coach, I was determined to make the effort to become the best teacher I could possibly be, not for my sake, but for all those who were placed under my supervision.” – John Wooden

“Each of us must make the effort to contribute to the best of our ability according to our individual talents. And then we put all the individual talents together for the highest good of the group… Understanding that the good of the group comes first is fundamental to being a highly productive member of a team.” – John Wooden

“I believe correcting is the positive approach. I believe in the positive approach. Always have.” – John Wooden

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur…. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.” – John Wooden

“The close games are usually lost, rather than won. What I mean by that is games are mostly won because of the opponent making mistakes during crucial moments.” – John Wooden

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” – John Wooden

“There are little details in everything you do, and if you get away from any one of the little details, you’re not teaching the thing as a whole. For it is little things which, together, make the whole. This, I think, is extremely important.” – John Wooden

“Be quick but don’t hurry.” – John Wooden

“Make each day a masterpiece.” – John Wooden

“You are no better than anyone else and no one is better than you.” – John Wooden

“Have character; don’t be one.” – John Wooden

“Do not mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden

“You can do more good by being good than any other way.” – John Wooden

“Acquire peace of mind by making the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” – John Wooden

“You discipline those under your supervision to correct, to help, to improve – not to punish.” – John Wooden

“The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control, the less we will do with the things we can control.” – John Wooden

“Perfection is what you are striving for, but perfection is an impossibility. However, striving for perfection is not an impossibility. Do the best you can under the conditions that exist. That is what counts.” – John Wooden

“You can always look back and see where you might have done something differently, changed this or that. If you can learn something, fine, but never second-guess yourself. It’s wasted effort…. Does worrying about it, complaining about it, change it? Nope, it just wastes your time. And if you complain about it to other people, you’re also wasting their time. Nothing is gained by wasting all of that time.” – John Wooden

“Many athletes have tremendous God-given gifts, but they don’t focus on the development of those gifts. Who are these individuals? You’ve never heard of them – and you never will. It’s true in sports and it’s true everywhere in life. Hard work is the difference. Very hard work.” – John Wooden

“Don’t measure yourself by what you’ve accomplished, but rather by what you should have accomplished with your abilities.” – John Wooden

“We get stronger when we test ourselves. Adversity can make us better. We must be challenged to improve, and adversity is the challenger.” – John Wooden

“Leadership is the ability to get individuals to work together for the common good and the best possible results while at the same time letting them know they did it themselves.” – John Wooden

“Knowledge alone is not enough to get desired results. You must have the more elusive ability to teach and to motivate. This defines a leader; if you can’t teach and you can’t motivate, you can’t lead.” – John Wooden

“Practice self-discipline and keep emotions under control. Good judgment and common sense are essential.” – John Wooden

“Cultivate the ability to make decisions and think alone. Do not be afraid of failure, but learn from it.” – John Wooden

“Be at your best when your best is needed.” – John Wooden

“Profound responsibilities come with teaching and coaching. You can do so much good–or harm. It’s why I believe that next to parenting, teaching and coaching are the two most important professions in the world.” – John Wooden

Little Things in Life & Basketball

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When I was younger, I remember reading an article about how legendary basketball coach John Wooden used to explain to his players how to put their shoes on correctly, and wear at least two pairs of socks so that they wouldn’t get blisters on their feet. (To this day I actually always wear double socks, with the first pair inside out, no matter what the activity because I became so used to it while playing ball.) The reason he did this was to emphasize just how important the little things are in the game of basketball. Although this might be a little bit much, it just shows you the importance of details. Details and little things can be the difference maker in basketball, in your faith, and in life. Paul Tripp put this well when he said, “Life is really lived in the little moments.”

As a player, a constant volunteer for camps, an avid fan of the game, and someone currently pursuing an opportunity to coach full-time, I have been able to catch a decent glimpse of both sides of the player-coach dynamic. As a player I have been apart of some good teams, as well as some pretty bad teams. The difference between the losing-teams and winning-teams for the most part wasn’t a major talent gap or a significant game-plan strategy issue, it was the little details. It had a lot more to do with all the little things than a single big shot or turnover on a crucial possession.

My life has had some big moments: particular birthdays (like the Space Jam themed party in Independence, KS… or the couple birthdays where Texas Rangers baseball was still being played into October and we gathered around a TV with some good friends, good food, and good drinks, to cheer for a Rangers’ win), certain holidays (like our annual Easter, 4th of July, Neewollah, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve celebrations), trips and vacations (like Disney World, Red Lodge, Montana, and many trips back to Kansas), my proposal to Kat down by the lake after a nice picnic dinner, our wedding day (that whole day is a blur, with some beautiful highlights and moments I’ll never forget), our honeymoon in Montana (that was a blast), anniversaries, great meals at nice restaurants (like the first time we went to a Brazilian steakhouse… oh my goodness), big games and concerts we’ve been blessed to attend (like the Eagles, The Who, Anberlin, Phil Wickham, U2 & Muse, and Jimmy Eat World & Foo Fighters concerts… or the 2007 NBA Finals, or the final KU vs. Mizzou game at Allen Fieldhouse… that was an amazing and unforgettable game), and on and on I could go with big moments in my life that I’ve been truly blessed to experience… but that is the vast minority when compared to the little moments of life. All the daily breakfasts, lunches, dinners, all the time cooking and waiting for something to heat up, grocery shopping, stopping by the gas station to fill up, all those moments right after walking in the door from being somewhere and getting settled in, all that time spent at work (perhaps sitting in a cubicle starring at a computer screen, just mundanely working one account after another), time spent in the gym, time spent loading and unloading the car, those moments spent watching movies or television, time spent doing laundry, time spent playing video games, board games, card games, etc., all those text messages sent each day, time spent cleaning and organizing, time getting ready to go places, time spent reading or studying, time spent in school taking classes, driving to and from work, time spent putting something together, countless hours messing around on Facebook or other social media, time spent getting ready for bed, time spent day dreaming, the moments of laying in bed trying to fall asleep, the third of your life spent sleeping, and heck, even all that time spent in the bathroom…

Similar to life, the little things make up the vast majority of the game of basketball. That’s why there are highlights for games that last only 10 seconds, for a minimum 48-minute game in the pros (still 40-minutes in college). There is a lot more to basketball than just shooting a ball through a hoop. And even more involved in the preparation for playing the sport than simply practicing one’s shot. Being a minute late to practice, shorting a line in sprints, not going over the mechanics of shooting over and over, ball-handling drills ad nauseam, or missing a class assignment may seem minor, but these things are such a big deal if not dealt with the right way. If a player is willing to short a line in a sprint, then who is to say that he won’t be one step out of position on defense at the end of a game, and instead of a charge he gets called for a block. There are just so many little things in basketball that can add up if you don’t focus on them everyday.

For example: closing out with high hands, talking on defense, putting a body on someone during a rebound opportunity, squaring up for a jumpshot, setting a good screen, making an intentionally crisp pass, setting your man up before coming off a screen, etc. are little things or minor details and the list could go on and on. Each thing individually might not be that big of a deal, but put all, or even just some of them together and it can be the difference between a great season with some hardware to take home… or end with some players losing significant time on the floor being cut/traded, or even the Athletic Director looking for a new head basketball coach for the next season.

From the very first day of practice, and every single day after that you must emphasize the little things. Just like someone in the Christian faith never moves on from the basic and fundamental message of the Gospel, a basketball player never moves on from the need to have the basic and fundamental aspects of the game down. A good ball player is constantly going over and refining their basic, fundamental skills of the game. No player, not even guys like Pete Maravich, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, or Lebron James could ever practice too much, improve their ball-handling enough, tweak their footwork, work on their shot too much, go over too much film, or be in the gym too long, to have reached a level that moved on past the need to continue to work on those basic skills.

Every coach needs to sit down and explain to his players what is acceptable and what he is expecting of them. It may take a little while at first but once the players realize what is expected of them, and they buy into the system with the hopes of achieving an end goal, they will earnestly do what is expected of them. Since most players would have never been held accountable like this before, a little grace should always be shown at the beginning. They need to understand the value of doing the little things and and be committed to doing them. Whether a coach has to run his team or repeat a certain drill for days until they get it right, it is the coach’s job to ingrain in his players the details of this great game until it becomes second nature. Coaches also aren’t to show favoritism, whether it is their best player or the 12th man, they strive to make sure that everyone is doing their job correctly and putting forth their best effort.

Just as relationships with spouses, friends, family, parents, children, small groups, etc. serve to expose and uncover deep heart issues in our lives, certain situations in basketball will reveal areas of your game that are lacking. For the sake of maturation and development, coaches should put their team in circumstances that will test them, help them to come up against obstacles in the game that will reveal those who can’t or won’t do the little things. Conditioning is one of the greatest ways to do this. When players get tired or have to do something that is hard you begin to see their true nature. Just as someone who is going through a very hard time, and is extremely stressed out by their current circumstances at home, school, and/or work; how they react to the storms of life will be a greater testament of their character than how well they handle having money in the bank, good health, and they’re at a party having fun.

The players who don’t buckle under a little pressure, the guys who touch the line every time, don’t go down to their knees after every sprint, and who encourage their teammates throughout drills are the players you can trust. These are ones who are going to be able to execute a play the right way at the end of a close game. It is the coach’s job to encourage all his players to do this, to put their heart into it, to give it their all, and to really buy into the team.

During a game or even in practice a coach is not always going to be able to stop play every time a player closes out without high hands, isn’t in the right defensive position, didn’t put a body on someone as a shot went up, didn’t crash the boards, didn’t shoot with proper form, threw a lazy pass, etc. However it is still very important to focus on the details and a great way to do that is film. It is a lot easier for players to correct something if they can see themselves doing it the wrong way. I once heard a commentator say during a review in a big game, “the film doesn’t lie…” And that is exactly true. If a player is continually forgetting to close out with high hands in a game, going right every single time they get the ball, or is always out of position on defense, a coach can use film to sit them down and show them what they are doing wrong.

Similar to how a brother in Christ goes to a friend to help him see something in his life that is harming him in hopes of seeing him repent from that, and then strive together for further sanctification to get more of Christ, to know Him more deeply; a coach pursues the maturation of his players. A coach is to strive to make sure that his players understand their correction and discipline is out of a motivation of love and hope for improvement in their ability to play. A good coach earnestly works hard and puts forth a diligent effort to make sure his players understand this.

It is not easy to do all of the little things in life or in basketball. It takes a lot of effort from the coaching staff to communicate, mentor, and guide the players well in hopes to make sure that every day the players are doing things the right way. It also takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and buying into the team’s plan and strategy from the players. It always takes community and team effort.

Basketball really is like a microcosm to so much of life. The game of basketball can teach us so much about ourselves, as well as us being able to take our strengths in life and apply them towards the game. Something that will help make playing basketball easier is for a coach to sit down with his players and explain to them why the little things are so important. If they understand and really believe in what they are doing then they will work harder to accomplish it. It will always be very difficult at first for everyone, so we must try to remember that and not get frustrated quickly. Because over the years when the team has players return and can have some stability, the returning players will be able to help the new players, and it will be easier on the coach, and the team overall. Similar to life, the little details in basketball are what it takes to be great; it is worth the time and effort.