Sunday, December 14, 2014

Face Your Giant. Meet Your Giant. Defeat Your Giant.


When trying to reach the next level, in anything, one will encounter tougher experiences on the way. In a video game, you must defeat multiple levels of difficulty in order to beat the game. Life works the same way, and everybody is on a different level of the “game”. In order to level up, one must defeat their current level with enough “life” to help them beat the next level.

This is no different in sports. There are various levels, and while players are on a single team, the level of difficulty varies from player to player. In order to win the game, each player must conquer the level they are on and still come out of each game with life. This is what makes coaching so hard. It’s not just making sure to understand X’s & O’s, but to know how to help your team get through the difficult levels of the game with life. For this to work, each member of the team must be willing to face their giant. In 1 Samuel 17 we find the story of David & Goliath – a story every athlete has heard. However, most athletes understand the story to mean that the underdog can defeat the favorite. This is true, but most do not understand why David could defeat Goliath. Let’s look at some very important points to understand.

 1 – David had to submit to authority.
              1 Samuel 17:17-20 we find that David was commanded by his father to deliver food to his brothers. David would have never had the opportunity to defeat his giant if he did not submit to his father’s authority.

2 – David had to be passionate about the God he served, and why he served Him.
                Verses 23-26 tell us how David heard Goliath boastfully defy his God, and it stoked the passionate fire inside David’s heart to not let the enemy speak so defiantly against his God.

3 – David had to recognize the problem, and come up with a solution.
                It was one thing for David to tell his brothers how someone should stand up and fight Goliath, but it was completely different to have to tell the king that, essentially, everyone in the army was a wimp – including the king! David recognized that fear had paralyzed the Israelite army, and that for 40 days Goliath was winning the battle of the mind. This battle of the mind was the pre-cursor to the physical battle. The Philistines were trying to scare the Israelites into submission, and if they would not submit, then they would paralyze them with fear, thus making the physical battle an easier victory for them. David not only saw that, but he had to come up with the solution for overcoming the problem. (17:26-32) Overcoming the problem would only happen because….

4 – …David was prepared to overcome the problem.
                Saul asked David why he thought he could defeat the giant. I’m sure he wasn’t ready for the answer! 1 Samuel 17:33-37 tells us how the Lord had prepared David. God brought multiple difficulties into David’s life before Goliath. David, on his own as a shepherd, faced those difficulties and conquered them. Conquering those difficulties allowed David to “level up” in his faith towards God, and his courage.

5 – David took what he had, and he RAN towards his giant with confidence and God’s power.
                David declined the best armor in the army because he didn’t believe it was going to help him. Instead, he took his trusted slingshot and foot speed to battle. 1 Samuel 17:43-49 tells us how David went into battle knowing that God would not only give him strength to fight, but victory over the enemy. However, for David to be victorious, he had to RUN TOWARDS his giant (vs.48).

Parents, Players, and Coaches must do the same to face and defeat their giants. In order to defeat our giants, we must:

Submit to the authority of the coach/program,

Be passionate about the program,

Recognize problems and develop solutions,

Prepare ourselves mentally to overcome obstacles in our way,

Take what we have and RUN TOWARDS the giant – knowing that if we are in the Will of God, then nothing can stop us!

This week, let’s encourage our athletes to face their giants, develop a solution to overcome the giant, and then run with confidence to meet & defeat their giant. That’s how David slays Goliath!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Healthy Communication (it's more than words!)

The longer I watch and coach, the more I realize how important communication is. Communication is food. For a team to be healthy, then it must fed healthy food on a regular basis. This is done through healthy communication. However, communication is more than words, its also body language. Each player on the team is responsible for feeding each other healthy food – through words and body language

How many times have you seen a player make a mistake and then hang their head, or walk back on defense, or simply just get lazy? Unfortunately, these players don’t realize (or are too proud to admit) that they are feeding their teammates unhealthy food. I compare it to good milk and sour milk. If we continually feed our teammates good milk, then we will grow. If we continually feed our teammates sour milk then, eventually, players will get sick. The longer a team stays sick, the harder it will become to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

On a side note - when it pertains to body language, perception really does matter. You can be the nicest person in the world, and desire to never hurt anyone. That does not mean you are not feeding your teammates/athletes unhealthy food. You cannot add chocolate to sour milk and expect it to go down easy, or keep someone from getting sick. Perception is the palate with which people eat the food you have prepared for them. Is it clean or dirty? Perception is also how you’re coach views you. As the saying goes “Your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear the words you’re saying.” The thought of “what’s in your heart is all that matters” is true. However, it includes your actions. The Bible says “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” In this case, your body language is non-verbal speaking to those around you. So take note, perception really does matter – regardless of what you think is in your heart.

However, it’s not teammates alone that feed each other, but its parents and coaches. Every time we react to something with a sour attitude, then we are feeding the players sour milk. Many times we don’t think that our words and actions have a great effect on the players, but it does.

Here’s my question to coaches, parents & athletes: What are you feeding your teammates/team? Is it healthy food, or is it something that will make your team sick?

Here’s my challenge: Consider, not only your words, but your body language. If you have been feeding sour milk, then change it. If you see someone feeding sour milk, then encourage them to make it good milk. When we start drinking good milk, then we will start growing. When we start growing, then we get closer to achieving the goals we have set out for ourselves!

Striving For Excellence
Coach CJ
1 Peter 2:1-2

Executive Director – C.H.S.M.
www.chsmhouston.com

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

The End of the Line

Growing up in homeschool basketball I had the opportunity to watch a few really homeschool players.  Players like the Sanders boys, Fosters, Wells, Kevin Johnson, Flatt’s and a few others were always fun to watch (although you never wanted to play against them!)  So, when I returned to the homeschool coaching scene 4 years ago, I didn’t know what to expect or the landscape had changed.  Then I started hearing names like “Chicken”, Jefferson, Spani, and one Justin Jackson.  I remember the first thing I thought when I saw Justin play for the first time – “That kid is supposed to be a major college recruit?”  That thought didn’t last very long!  After watching him play, and seeing how the culture of our youth has changed in the last 10 years, I began to wonder – “Is this kid a good example of homeschool basketball?  Is he a good example of HCYA basketball?”  Those wonders were also quickly answered.

I have spent a lot of the last 3 years getting to know Justin Jackson.  Not on a very personal level, but I follow his activities as much as possible.  What I have come to know about Justin is this – He is humble young man, and his only desire is to truly honor the Lord and put his absolute best on the floor for his teammates and coaches.  Sadly, this is not something that you see in many of the best players today.  Justin has truly shown himself to be the model athlete for not only HCYA, but homeschool basketball as a whole.  As he begins his last state tournament, I would like to take a moment and highlight some of what Justin has done for homeschool basketball.

                Brought exposure to the game.  Homeschool basketball has been blessed with some awesome players in the past, but no one has come close to a talent like Justin possesses.  Many players, on both HCYA and their opponents, have received exposure to schools that they never would have without Justin.  This is excellent for the homeschool athlete!  There are great homeschool players out there, but sadly they don’t get much exposure.  Recruiters are now learning that homeschool players have potential and they are starting to pay more attention.  Good for players now, and in the future.

                Demonstrated winning character traits.  Justin has been committed to excellence for a long time now.  He understands that it takes discipline in his school, at home, and on the court to exceed.  He spends his time wisely, listens to his parents, respects his coaches, and loves his teammates.  Not only is he the ultimate player, but he is the ultimate teammate.

                Exhibited Christ-likeness through the game.  It’s guaranteed that if you give praise to Justin, then he will give it right back to the Lord.  He understands that The Lord has truly blessed him, and that his continued success is because of God’s grace and blessing.  He never praises himself, but gives God the glory for all the success he has enjoyed.  Justin has shown that you can play at an elite level and still keep the Lord #1 in your life.

The 2014 Texas State Homeschool Tournament represents the beginning of the end for the best homeschool boy’s player the game has ever seen.  As a coach, I’m excited that we won’t have to go up against him again.  As a fan though, I have bitter-sweet emotions.  Justin has been terrific for the game, and helped take it to another level.  I am going to miss seeing him play at these tournaments, but I will enjoy seeing him on ESPN in the coming years!  As I go through this weekend, I will enjoy every game he plays.  But, I will also take the time to shake his hand and tell him “Thank you”.

I hope you will do the same as well.

In Christ,


Coach CJ

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Stay By the Stuff - The Importance of Players on the Bench

Stay by the stuff!  This is a thought the Lord has put on my heart, and I just can’t shake it.  So many times, in our quest for being all that we desire, we get disappointed and downtrodden when we don’t get the opportunity we want.  Players constantly strive to be at the forefront in their teams battles that they sometimes forget the importance of the support group of their team.  No, I am not referring to the parents or friends of the athletes, but the athletes themselves.

In I Samuel 30 we find the story of David and his mighty men at their home in Ziklag.  All of their possessions were taken – including their wives & children!  David seeks the Lord and receives His permission to go after them.  They arrive at the brook Besor and find that the enemy has left some of their possessions there, but not all of them.  David continues his pursuit with 400 men, but he leaves 200 men to “stay by the stuff”.  David recovers all of the stolen possessions and families, and upon returning, discovers that some of the men who went into battle do not want to give back the possessions of those who stayed by the stuff!  David swiftly corrects them and declares that “as his part (reward) is that goeth to battle, so shall his part (reward) be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.”

I am drawn to this story because, as a former player who didn’t get a whole lot of playing time in my junior/senior year of high school, I have a soft spot for athletes who sit on the bench for long periods of time or even whole games.  I feel for the players who I know have committed themselves to the team, but just don’t get to play in the game when they really want to.  I have been that player who was told what my role was, and what my role would not be – which was not what I wanted to hear!  There are a couple of lessons that we can take from this scripture in I Samuel for those who “stay by the stuff”:

1 – Not all are called to fight in the battles.  In coach speak, not all are called on to play in the game.  It’s a tough pill to swallow, but sometimes God calls you specifically to “stay by the stuff”.  That does not mean He didn’t call you to the team – it simply means He didn’t call you to get into the game.  Now some would argue that it’s the coach who dictates whether a player gets into the game, but I ask you to consider this – if you are a child of God, centered in His will, and if God wanted you to get into the game, then do you really think He would allow a coach stand in the way of His will being accomplished?  If God’s will was for you to get in the game, then I guarantee He would make a way for it to happen.  Sometimes that is not the case – sometimes He wants you to “stay by the stuff”.

2 – Not all are able to fight in the battles.  In coach speak, not all have the skills or mental toughness required to play in a game.  This does not mean the player does not want to play, or that they don’t have the heart to play.  It simply means they are not yet ready to play.  In terms of skill set and mental preparation, not all players are equal.  Some are better trained and/or mentally tougher than others on the team.  This is not a criticism of players.  It is simply the fact that all players on the team train at different levels, and are therefore prepared to play at different levels than their other teammates.  There is no doubt in my mind that players with less skill or a weaker mentality have just as much willingness and heart to play late in the game.  They are all willing, but they are not all able.

3 – Staying by the stuff is vitally important to the success of the mission.  In coach speak, every member of the team plays an equally important role in a team’s win or loss.  Too many times players and parents question the importance of their athlete to the team based on playing time.  Many times they take it personally when a coach does not get their son or daughter into a game, and many times they judge or condemn a coach because of it.  However, what many of these players & parents do not understand is the importance of each and every team member.  Players who sit on the bench the most are those who are charged with “staying by the stuff”.  While it may not be a glamour role, those who “stay by the stuff” help a team succeed in 5 ways:

A.     They prepare the team for battle.  Have you ever thought about how a team would perform if it only had the minimum amount of players?  Those players would prepare for the game, but they wouldn’t be as prepared as other teams because they would not get the opportunity to practice in a game situation.  Much to the chagrin of parents, an athlete does not prepare to play in a game by playing in a game!  They need practice, and they need to practice in as close to a real game at situation as possible – at practice!

B.     They provide energy off the bench through encouragement.  In heavily contested games, many times only 6-8 players will get on the floor.  While you condition to handle 4th quarters (and beyond if need be), there are many times where players will get tired late – right when you need them most.  It’s tempting for a coach to dip into his bench to rest a player, but that’s not always possible or the right move.  So how does a player, who can’t get a breather late, be able to continue playing when they’ve given all they got?  By encouragement from teammates on the bench!  It’s amazing what a team chant can do for the spirit of team.  Consistent & passionate encouragement from the bench tells players on the floor that they can overcome.  It provides the necessary fuel required to finish the mission!

C.    They are able to play when called upon.  In coach speak; players on the bench understand the plays and their roles if the coach needs to put them in.  One of the important notes of David’s story is that he didn’t leave just anyone to stay with the stuff – he left soldiers!  I’m sure there are some parents who leave a game with the mindset of – “the coach should just have us sit on the bench if he only wants support!”  Or “Why am I showing up if my kid is never going to play?”  A coach does not need parents or friends on his bench during a game, and he doesn’t need an empty bench – he needs his team!  He needs those he can call upon to enter a game late, if warranted, in order to pick up the slack or plug a hole.  These players must be ready at a minutes notice.  There is no time for them to fall asleep during the game – they must stay engaged and be ready to play at all times if their coach calls their number.

D.     They can provide direction to teammates through the lens of a player.  In coach speak, they help a teammate realize when they ran the play wrong, missed an assignment, or fell asleep on the floor.  Teams that listen, correct, encourage, and hold each other accountable are teams that possess a championship mentality.  They are teams who can overcome great obstacles, and defeat the biggest giants.

E.      They give a coach peace of mind.  In coach speak, when a coach doesn’t have to worry about the attitude of his bench, then he can focus on doing his job and doing it right.  So many times a coach will end up hurting his team because he is trying to prevent a player from getting disgruntled.  It’s a tough battle for all coaches to fight, but those players who accept their roles and put aside selfish attitudes are the ones who help the team reach its greatest potential!

While 6-8 players may get in the game, it requires everyone on the team in order to succeed and reach its God-given destiny.  It’s not always easy to stay by the stuff, but it’s just as important as those who fight the battle.  This does not mean that you should not continue striving to be on the front line.  Players should always work on trying to be the best they can be so they can be used on the front line.  It’s critical to understand that lack of playing time now does not need to mean you’ll never play.  Sometimes God allows you to go through these circumstances in order to prepare you for something greater.  Don’t quit – press on!  Thomas Edison said “Many of life's failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  God’s will for you is perfect.  Don’t short-change God’s GREAT plan for you over something as little as playing time.

Players:  Always strive to be on the front line for your team.  Parents:  Always encourage your players to strive to be on the front line.  However, understand that sometimes your role may be to “stay by the stuff”.  You may not be called on right now, you might not be able to right now, but staying by the stuff is equally as important, and the rewards the same.  

This story in 1 Samuel ends with all of the possessions being recovered, plus those of the enemy - a remarkable blessing!  Next time you are tasked with “staying by the stuff” - give God praise, and watch how He blesses you!


Striving for Excellence,
Coach CJ

Executive Director – C.H.S.M.
www.chsmhouston.com

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Keeping Your Team Strong (Part 3 of 3): Coaches


Coaches

When it comes to keeping a team strong through the course of a long season, a coach could be the make or break.  Coaches have a responsibility to manage parents, players, administrators, practices, & schedules in such a way that their team is ready to compete for titles at the end of each year.  Here are a few ways that coaches can help keep their team strong throughout the year.

Communicate

     With Players:  No doubt a player’s play time will vary over the season, or their responsibilities increase/diminish.  If a coach is going to keep his team strong, then he needs to make time to talk to players often about their roles, responsibilities, and concerns.  It would be great if each player would just do what they’re told and give their all while doing it, but the fact is – that doesn’t happen.  A coach needs to manage emotions, egos, and understand outside influences when it comes to players.  He/She then needs to listen to their players, help them work through mental/emotional issues, and while still maintaining the understanding that you are the coach and you have to do what’s best for the team and the player.

     With Parents:  Parents are creatures of emotion just as much as players.  No matter how many times they tell you differently, the fact is – they want to see their athlete succeed.  Understanding what the parents mean by this is critically important to maintaining a good relationship with them, and their athlete.  If you never talk to parents, or listen to their concerns, then you could be setting yourself up for a big problem at the end of the year.  Encourage them to talk to you, but take the time to talk to them.  Don’t just tell them how much you love their athlete – show them.  Your actions will speak louder than your words, but your words and actions must line up – that’s called integrity.  The coach who wins the parents heart will have a much better chance at winning the athletes heart, and when you win both, you have created a foundation upon which you can build great things – as long as you continue to communicate with them.

Properly Correct

     Just being honest – this is a difficult one for me.  I see things in one light as a coach, a parent sees it in a different light, and a player sees it in a different light altogether.  Correcting is a delicate issue.  A coach must know when to correct softly, forcefully, individually, and as a team.  They must also know when to show mercy & grace.  This requires hard work and humility, and only those willing to put in the effort will succeed in properly correcting his/her teams or players.

     A coach must also realize the importance of understanding each player and how that player needs to be corrected.  Some will be just fine with getting yelled at, but others need a more silent approach.  It’s important to take time getting to know your parents/players so you can understand how each one should be corrected.  If you are going to yell, then you must make sure to not make it personal, embarrass, or publicly humiliate.  It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment, but you have to learn to let go.  At the end of the day, no matter how highly you think of a player, they are still a kid/teenager with real emotions.  It’s important that you maintain a balance of vocal correction & physical correction (i.e., running/push-ups/etc…).  Otherwise, a player will start to despise you and you will start to see a wedge driven between your team when they need unity the most.  Never forget, a loss never killed anybody.  It’s more important to properly teach athletes then it is to win.  You can’t do that if you are always caught up in the moment.

     You must also encourage them as much as possible.  It is a lot easier for your correction to be seen than it is for your encouragement.  This just means you have to work twice as hard to show a player your love & appreciation so that they understand you really care for them as people – not just players.  The coach who wins his/her players heart will be more effective than the coach who ignores his/her players.

Go the Extra Mile

     A coach must continue to work on getting better as a coach if he/she is going to earn the respect of their team.  The team that sees a coach putting in the time to communicate, adjusts on the fly, practices patience, and continues learning will respond with the same – and more!  Serve your team by going the extra mile in your coaching, and your team will go the extra mile for you!


Keeping a team strong through a season is hard work, but it’s result usually leads to a unified team.  A truly unified team is when the parents, players, & coaches put each other first in striving for each other’s best.  They have a clear vision, understand their mission, and walk in step with each other – serving each other.  When this happens the team reaches another level – they find a higher gear.  They achieve more and reach greater heights because the desire for excellence is greater than their self-ambitions.  

This team is a happy team.

This team is a winning team.

This team is a championship team.

This team is an excellent team!


Striving for Excellence,
Coach CJ
Executive Director – C.H.S.M.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Keeping Your Team Strong (Part 2 of 3):

Click here to read part 1

Players:

The athletes play a critical role in keeping their team strong & ready for the season.  While a superstar player may help you win a game, a super team of strong character players will help you prepare to win a championship.  So what can players do to help keep their team strong?

Take care of business at home & school. 
Too many times athletes hurt their teams at critical moments because they don’t get their school done, keep their grades up, or obey the rules at home.  It’s really basic – maintain your grades and don’t get in trouble at home.

Work on your game outside of practice.
                I know it’s tough to get in much practice time outside of team practice/games – especially for homeschoolers.  However, nothing does more for a team then to a see a teammate help them win by using a skill that was a weakness coming into the season.  So, find that extra time each week to work on a weakness, or enhance a strength.

Be humble – Serve your team.
                Real champions are humble servants.  They serve their team by giving encouragement constantly, helping their teammates get better outside of the gym, pushing themselves to the max in every drill and at every game, accepting their role, and having a right attitude.  Sometimes the circumstances get rough and a player will be greatly tested.  An injury, reduction of playing time, loss of a coach or teammate, or issues at home can really hurt the psyche of an athlete.  Yet if that same athlete responds with a positive attitude and puts his thoughts and efforts on serving others, then not only will they learn some valuable life lessons, but they will become a rock of stability when the team needs it most late in the season.


Keeping our teams strong throughout the course of the season requires a lot of hard work by the parents, players, and coaching staffs.  The outcome of the season though will be largely determined by the player’s desire for excellence.  They can be overcome, or they can overcome.  It’s not our actions, but our reactions that defines the character within us.  A player’s right reaction to a long season will help his team be strong!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Keeping Your Team Strong (Part 1 of 3)



Finally! After spending all summer catching up on school, going to camps, and playing summer ball – the season has started. Everybody gets anxious this time of year. Players want to know how they perform against better competition, parents want to know if their investment in athletics is paying off, and coaches want to know if this is the year they will advance to a major championship game. Because parents, players, and coaches invest so much time, money, passion, & energy into athletics it’s easy for division within teams and programs happen. A team or program can be simply torn apart by a bad attitude, over-bearing parent, or a high-strung coach. It takes a team effort from your parents, players, and coaches to keep your team from falling apart during the battle of the games. So how do you keep your team strong and ready to compete in every game?

With help from your:

Parents

No doubt you are sacrificing a lot for your kids to play. A lot of times you expect a return on your money thru playing time. Much of the complaints that a coach receives is due to this one reason, and it can be a serious detriment to the team. If you really want to be a team player, then make it a rule – NO COMPLAINING ABOUT PLAYING TIME. A coach already has to deal with the inconsistencies of players during a game, player egos, and attitudes (all players have an attitude – it’s either helping the team, or hurting the team). The last thing a coach needs to be thinking about during the game is “will my parents be mad at me”. A coach cannot do his best if he always has to think about what parents think of him/her.

Now understand this, your son or daughter may deserve to play the most. They may be the best player on the team. Complaining to your coach about this though only causes a coach to take his mind off of the TEAM. You don’t know what a coach is already thinking about, or why he is making the decisions he is. However, you aren’t helping the team by telling the coach how to do his job better. If it’s something that really needs to be addressed, then consider these things:

(1) Encourage your kids to overcome. Life is not fair. Teach your kids how to overcome the hard times now. This only prepares them for what they will face later in life. Whatever you do, don’t quit simply because they aren’t playing as much as you want. This example will teach your athlete to be loyal to the decisions they make.

(2) Set up a private meeting with the coach and ASK - not demand - what your athlete needs to do to EARN more playing time. Don't forget - other athletes may have worked just as hard as yours.

(3) Review how much work your athlete really is putting in. Are they making EVERY practice? Do they do specific workouts outside of practice? (FYI – playing ball at church or with your friends does not count). Are they obeying the coach’s instruction during practice & the games? Does your athlete carry themselves with a good attitude regardless of the circumstances? Are they on top of their schoolwork? If they aren't excelling at one of these items, then that could be what’s holding them back on the court.

We will do more for our teams, programs and players by teaching them how to get through obstacles, rather than away from obstacles. Stick to it – OVERCOME!

Coach CJ
Executive Director – C.H.S.M.

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