I am reluctantly coaching basketball.
Previous unwillingness does not come from a lack of love for the sport, or love for the eight year old girls who don’t hesitate to compliment my nail polish in between dribbling drills.
It is because it reminds me of a time when the drive to become the most overshadowed my life’s calling to be the least.
Instincts to win are as ingrained in my fiber as instincts to avoid laundry. It is reflexive, it is trained, it is a physical impulse. As a high school basketball player, I spent my days after school practicing with the team, and then nights, climbing through an unlocked window of the gymnasium to practice some more. I was a solitary figure shooting in a darkened gym for hours, unconcerned about safety or the potential of a night in the pokey because of unauthorized entrance. Eventually, I was given the keys by my coach because he recognized how unflattering an orange jumpsuit would be to my complexion.
I went on to play college basketball, climbing ambitiously up an athletic ladder all the while missing Jesus as He climbed down right past me. Basketball was first, school was second and third place belonged to no one. Expectations only intensified, and the competition for recognition increased.
Glory days of athletic past only serve as a reminder of a time when honor was more for me than for Him. I have experienced the misguided feeling of the spotlight, where attention and accolades were in abundance, leaving an unquenchable desire for more. The more you have, the more you want, and the more you want, the more your identity depends on it.
The drive to be the best can become a dependence, whether through sport or endeavor.
If I am the best player, I will be found worthy.
If I am the best coach, I will be admired.
If I am the best volunteer, I will be appreciated.
If I am the most successful, I will be esteemed.
If I am the best mom, my advice will be sought.
I battle the lifetime of training I’ve had to win at all costs. It is a learned skill I have intentionally not passed on to my children, understanding fully the price paid for seeking to be the best for the sake of self and attention of others. As a player, I missed the lessons in losing, the love for opponents, and chased after exaltation never intended for me.
I want my girls to love the game, but to love God way more. I want them to do their best, but only because He calls them to, not because I do. I want them to be worthy competitors in all that they do without losing compassion for those that they compete against. But mostly, I want their esteem, worth and joy to be found in the confidence of Christ, not in the confidence of a game.
So reluctantly, I coach basketball. I just don’t want my players to be like me.