Saturday, January 10, 2009

Progression and Readiness

I coach Will's basketball team, which has been both a challenge and joy. The tough part isn't surprising ... Teaching fundamentals to third and fourth graders requires patience, especially when some kids sometimes have been more interested in being misfits, especially when practice started in November. I've had a moment or two of deep breathing with that. Getting young ones to understand and buy in to the team concept is another important hurdle.

Today, our team took a step forward. Our guys took charge. They hustled. They played great defense. They listened to their coaches. While I directed floor traffic, our assistant coach "coached up" the guys on the bench. Boys who didn't grab loose balls in December hit the floor. Boys who were shooting the ball with little touch put up the ball softly.

Here's the best part. We have a normal group motivation exercise, where I call in the boys and ask them to give us a 1-2-3 and yell "Team" loudly in unison. During a time out, one of the boys called in his teammates, and started and completed this process. He's one of the boys who has been more interested in the past in calling attention to himself. Rather than have my hand in the middle, I backed away and admired the camaraderie and leadership. "TEAM!" never sounded so good.

Even when we were down 13-10 with less than four minutes to go, I was confident they were going to win. I was 100 percent sure they were going to finish the game with passion and heart. We won 14-13, playing great team defense and with several boys stepping up as leaders.

I love the movie Hoosiers with Gene Hackman. Today was a mini-version of that. We beat a school that is so deep with athletic boys that it fields four teams. Yes, it's third and fourth grade, but I would have been equally proud if we had lost. Why? Because I saw heart, passion and progress from the boys I've been coaching since November.

Kathryn also played well today in her game. She has gone from watching the action to trying to get involved to taking charge when she has the opportunity. She grabbed many loose balls and rebounds, ran the fast break, and put up some nice-looking shoots. Call Dori and me proud parents.

Let me switch gears. Listening to political talk radio isn't on my daily checklist, at least the kind that's in your face. I do check in occasionally to one local show because the host, Ralph Bristol, isn't a screamer and doesn't belittle people who disagree with him.

Earlier this week, I'm listening to Ralph, who starts talking about a family member who recently went through a difficult time. Ralph drops the comment that he feels his his family member's spiritual bags aren't packed. "Packing your spiritual bags properly" really resonated with me. Ten years ago, my luggage wasn't close to packed. I won't get into all that, but it's fair to say I cared much more about "the now" than "the later."

I thought about how much life has changed for me the last 10 years. My wife supported me through some tough times early in our marriage and our relationship continues to grow after her cancer bout. I'm blessed with two wonderful children. I'm very close to my mother and sister Anne. Look up "loyal and supporting" in the dictionary, and there they are. I love my job. I love running. I have many dear friends.

While running a five miler in intermittent rain this morning, I thought about Ralph Bristol's comments and how they apply to my life. Like so many, my inclination has been to take the easy road at times in life, with predictable results. Fortunately, I had a mother who taught me about respect and love and a father who instilled some good values.

As I've aged, I've realized, like many, life is fleeting and no one is invincible. Dori's leukemia battle certainly reinforced that. Most of us know, unless we have blinders, we're a blink of the eye from the end of our temporal existence. So packing my spiritual bags has become important to me.

It's not as simple as that, however. We're gonna have to get on our own airplane, too. Our plane requires maintenance to fly. And that's what my life is about. Having my spiritual bags packed and ready with a plane that's worthy to carry my soul. Each day is about keeping those bags and plane ready. And I hope I see you where we're going.

No comments: