Sunday, December 16, 2012

The End Of The First Quarter

If you've been reading this blog, you know that I am the Boys Varsity coach for the Knoxville Ambassadors. It is an all volunteer organization that provides sports for students who are home schooled. We play at the 1A level but if one were to look at the organization, I think we'd honestly say that we are more of a small school. This statement comes mostly from the view that we have no gym, our budget is minuscule compared to other school programs, we have no professional staff, and no training facilities. Given all of that, we are extremely competitive while still having a heart of ministry.

Watching 30 For 30's "The Guru Of Go" got me to thinking that I should journal about what my impressions are of our ongoing basketball season. I've always been fascinated with Paul Westhead and his run and gun offense. Also, I knew a guy who knew Corey Gaines who played point guard during Westhead's time at Loyola Marymount. Westhead kept a journal of his thoughts given the unorthodox way in which he coached basketball. Considering I'm running the very unorthodox "Read And React" offense and at times a hybrid match up zone, I figured writing my thoughts down would come in handy for future reference.
We are now at the approximate first quarter of our season. We are a tough 4-9 with three games against 2A schools coming up. We just lost a double overtime game by 3 points. We got blown out by a couple of elite schools. We had a couple of heartbreaking losses. Just writing that sounds pretty depressing but in reality, I'm very encouraged.

First and foremost I ask myself is do I have my priorities straight? In that I mean am I here to glorify the Father; the One who has given me this opportunity? I see these young men and they are of the highest in character. This is obviously a reflection of the God honoring families that they come from. What I see is that I have this amazing opportunity to encourage the next generation of Christian men to be the stand up, high character men that this world so desperately needs. My hope is that they can be the ones who mentor, lead and impact this world. In the wake of the recent shooting in Connecticut, is it more obvious that we need engaged, high character mentors and leaders? So I look at my role and see that I need to teach them the need to persevere. I teach that it takes hard work, fundamentals and teamwork to achieve the important goals in life. I see that in victory or defeat, it's the heart of the individual that God measures. I know that I have lots to learn in these areas myself. After a tough loss it took a lot within myself not to act out in anger - not at the team, but just frustration on how the outcome wasn't what I wanted or what I wanted for the team. Perhaps I am growing in my own self awareness - progress!

As for the actual games and the team, I reflect and think just how much fun I can have with all of the stress and intense level of thought that it requires of me. It really is a crazy love it and hate it at the same time feeling. Perhaps hate isn't the right word, but more of a loathing. I love sports and I think that my whole life I tended to be more analytical about the games as opposed to being so physically involved in them. I'm sure being mostly a bench warmer makes a huge difference as well. I think that my desire to teach, mentor and be competitive adds up to the fire I need to coach the game. I love being involved in the game. I love it when the team succeeds. I love it when they fight hard no matter what.

On offense, using the Read And React system has been a revelation. I have been able to actually speak to its creator, Rick Torbett. I have seen this crazy philosophy come to fruition in an offense that resembles the Rick Barry led Golden State Warriors. The team is executing it at a higher and higher level. With that is the beauty of basketball. There's ball movement, player movement leading to exciting offense. The interesting thing is that a coach must learn to let go and trust the decision making of the players. Although I have a white board on the sideline, I rarely have to pull it out. My timeouts have become mostly a time to remind the team to stay in the offense. It's strange, but I feel a sense of mentoring and empowering to give these young men the chance to run the offense. It's not an extension of me, but an expression of their God given talent. Beyond that, it teaches them to trust each other, trust the coaches and in a much deeper sense, learn to trust themselves. I've had many compliment the team's exciting and disciplined execution of "my" offense. The strange reality is that it's all them. I'm only there to help them find what God has put into them.
My good friend John asked me if I'm enjoying myself. I think that would be an understatement. I feel that God has put me here for a reason. I say this and feel deeply humbled. I clearly have made enough mistakes in life and even leading this team that would easily cause many to think that I am unworthy of such an opportunity. It has become the ministry that I'm involved in at this point in my life. It causes me to lose sleep. I'm sure that in many ways I could let it become my obsession. For now, I'll call it my passion. Perhaps it will lead to something bigger for me (Coaching at a higher level? Heck, I can always dream), but right now my prayer is that it will be something big for the young men on the team. I hope that they can look back on their high school basketball days and think that they were good times; that they grew spiritually through it and that God was there in their midst. If so, 4-9 looks really sweet.


  1. Brother - I really enjoyed reading your blog. I love your passion for God, those boys, and basketball. Looking forward to a long friendship. Blessings..

  2. Coach Hall, I know that you are a blessing to the men at Johnson University. May you continue in your ministry of the great game of basketball.