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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Monday, September 2, 2013

Persevere

There’s no doubt that this summer has been one of the toughest summers I have experienced. Between work, ministry, and trying to a good husband & father, it sometimes feels like there is more to be done than I can do – an overwhelming sense of not enough time. More than likely, you have been there too. The days are long, the nights are short, the deadlines are daily, and the list of things to do just gets longer. You feel like a caged hamster running 100 miles an hour – but going nowhere. Chances are, you probably feel like you are in the middle of a great storm and you just don’t know how much longer it’s going to last. This same scenario is what drives us to the latest self-help book, seminar, or time-management class. Yet, we still feel like we are in the middle of the storm – and it’s getting worse! This past weekend, as I was thinking about this in my own life, I asked myself this question – how does one get through the storm? Here are two things the Lord showed me.

Keep your eyes on Him.

It’s very easy to get so caught up in working and put your eyes on what is around you, rather than keeping your eyes on the One leading you. However, if you keep your eyes on Him, and follow His commands, then you won’t notice the great swells around you – you’ll only know that you are still on top of the water, not under it. (Mark 6:45-51)

Jesus cares.

It’s easy to think our hard work is for naught when we don’t get what we believe we deserve, or achieve the goals we had hoped to achieve. That’s not how God operates though. Too many times we try to tell God how and when to reward our effort, rather than accepting the fact that His timing may be different than our timing, and His reward might be different. This is not a sign that Jesus doesn’t care about us – on the contrary! God rewards us in His time, and according to His will, which is always perfect (Jer. 29:11)

Athletes, who are trying to excel, are always working on their craft. They play in summer leagues, receive individual instruction, and become students of the game. Many times it’s easy for an athlete to feel like he/she is going thru a storm. Something is always getting in the way – circumstances, coaches, or even other players. It’s also easy for them to think that they aren’t getting what they think they deserve, or what they believe they should have already achieved. It’s at these moments that an athlete’s character really comes thru – How do they respond to the tough times? The athlete who overcomes these difficulties is the one who keeps their eyes on Jesus, and knows that He really does care. When the athlete does these two things, then no matter how many times they get knocked down – they get right back up. No matter how many times they are told it isn’t worth it and to quit, they persevere because they know that God’s plan is much more rewarding than their own.

The reward for keeping your eyes on Him and understanding that He cares is God’s continued strengthening and blessing on your life. Sometimes it will be allowing you to achieve what you want to achieve. However, it will always be His perfect will, which will be more than you can ask or think.

Persevere.

Press On.

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

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Objection - Rejection - Dejection

I can clearly remember the first year I started playing organized basketball.  I was ecstatic that I could play “for real” what I did so much in my back yard.  I wasn't familiar with the program, or the process, I just showed up ready to play.  I worked my tail off during those try-outs and listened intently to the coaches.  However, my name was never called when the teams were announced.  There were 5 teams that year, and I didn't make 1 of them.  The feeling of rejection was enormous – I wasn't good enough to play on 1 of the 5 teams who would play games that year.  To make it worse, I got to play on the intramural team – basically a year-long development camp.  We practiced the same time as everyone else, but we had to practice outside on unmarked cement, rusted out backboards, and no rims.  The feeling of rejection was one that lasted the entire season. 

My entire basketball career was filled with objections and rejections.  During my junior season my coach informed me that I was “on the bubble” and that I would probably end up on our varsity B team.  My younger brother made the A team and I was allowed to suit up & warm up with the team, but I would rarely see the floor.  It wasn't a rejection because I still got to participate, but it was a very strong objection because I could not participate to the same extent as everyone else on the team.  Needless to say, I wasn't a very happy player.  Although I never said anything, I made sure that my attitude said everything.  To be honest, my coach was gracious enough to let me stay on the team because my attitude alone warranted me being kicked off.  The feeling of dejection from being objected to lasted the entire season.

These are just a couple of examples from my own playing career.  Chances are that you have experienced them as well.  I’m grateful though that I had a dad who would never let me quit, and a coach who made it a point to continually try to help me.  It’s because of these experiences, and the lessons God taught me, that I was able to overcome many different work issues, death, and life changes throughout my very short career and marriage.

As a person or a player, objection, rejection, and dejection are 3 things that you will experience in life.  As a player you have more than likely experienced the feeling of getting cut or losing a starting spot.  As an adult, you have no doubt experienced a lay-off, cut in pay, divorce, or loss of a loved one.  It’s in these moments of objections and rejections that dejection begins to take root in our hearts.  These moments are like high winds and rolling waves on an open sea – you don’t think you are going to make it, and begin to sink into hopelessness.

The Apostle Peter was this way.  In Matthew 14 we find the story of Jesus walking on the water.   As Jesus is walking near the disciple’s boat they start to cry out in fear not knowing that it was their Master.  Finally, Jesus speaks in an effort to calm them.  Peter has doubts though.  He asks Jesus if he can come join Him by walking on the water from the boat.  The winds were raging and the waves were rolling, but Peter gets out of boat anyways.  As Peter begins to walk towards the Lord on the water he takes his eyes of Jesus and starts to look at his circumstances.  As the fear of the wind and waves mount up against Peter, he begins to sink. 

This is the typical life experience of every human being.  The wind and waves of objection and rejection, and the subsequent feeling of dejection cause us to lose hope – we take our eyes off the Lord.  We begin to sink in the storm of our circumstances.  We forget that the power of Jesus is so great that even the wind and sea obey him (Matt. 8:27).  We forget that during these circumstances Jesus tells us to “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27).

We can’t get away from the storms of objection, rejection, and dejection in our lives. However, let me encourage you with this – instead of being fearful of the wind and waves of our circumstances – keep your eyes on Jesus. In John 16:33, Jesus says "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Don't let the storms of life overcome you. Instead, overcome the storms. Have faith. Walk on the water.

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

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