Thursday, February 28, 2013

From one season to the next

Late Tuesday night the doors to the school were closed signaling the end of the basketball party, which was signaling something far greater...the basketball season officially came to an end. Technically the season drew to a close when our team was eliminated from Tournament on Friday. Yet, the end-of-the-season tournament is what officially brings everything to a close. As is the case with most things here, as soon as one thing ends, the next begins. The basketball season ended on Tuesday, and less than a week later (this coming Monday) the soccer season will officially begin (but let's be honest, I have been working on things for soccer all year long).

In all honesty, part of me is worried about how rapidly one season ends before the next begins. It generally takes me a little while to process things - so with soccer right around the corner I fear I am simply going to shove emotions from the basketball season away, in order to prepare and be ready for soccer. With such a fast-paced life here in Germany, I fear I will not take the time to process things, rather choosing to stuff them down. But they won't be able to stay there forever and at some point they will return. With the hope of avoiding that, I want to share a few thoughts I am carrying with me from the basketball season.

I absolutely loved the season. When I found out I would be head coach of JV I was actually pretty upset. I sent a text message to some friends and voiced my anger and frustration. Looking back, I am thrilled to have been the JV coach and would want it no other way. These girls were absolutely amazing. They came to practice everyday and worked hard and had positive attitudes. They had a desire to get better, and to have fun while doing it. They had an energy that energized me. They played with a smile and joy, that made it fun to coach them. Additionally, throughout the season they continually got better. It was amazing to witness the progress they made day in and day out. Things we talked about in practice, translated over to the games...and they accomplished what we worked on!

One of the things we would do in our post-game talk is have players name off a few of their "favorite moments." It was always a joy to hear what they enjoyed about the game, and the memories they walked away with. So, in that thread, I want to finish with a few of my favorite moments from the season...

1. The team openly embraced nicknames and acronyms I attached to try and help them remember what to do. To help them remember to box out I once said, "You need to get your Butt In her Gut. Gotta be B.I.G." Whenever we mentioned boxing out they would say "Butt in gut! B I G" Also the terms "little people" and "big people" were how we distinguished guards from posts.

2. We went to overtime three different teams (and won twice). Those games were thrilling, tense, stressful, crazy, but so much fun. After one of our overtime victories the team gathered in the locker room and without any warning the girls shouted, "1, 2, 3!" and they all charged at me, taking me by complete surprise and gave me a massive, sweaty, group mobbing of a hug. It was terrifying, yet awesome all at the same time.

3. The flying V.
Made famous by the Mighty Ducks movie, perfected by BFA girls basketball. Well, not quite. But, for our final home game the girls ran the Flying V, and it was absolutely hilarious. It didn't really work, but we did it.

4. We were down in a close game and I called a timeout and created a special play so we could take a 3-pointer. We executed the play perfectly, but the shot was an air-ball. The next time the player was on the bench she looked at me and said, 'That was so embarrassing! Why did I have to shoot? Everyone saw me miss so badly." I looked at her and said, "I wouldn't set you up to fail, and I wouldn't put you in a position that I didn't think you could find success. I believe you can make the shot." She looked back and said, "Really?" Confident, I said, "Yes, you can make the shot." Her response, "Ok. Can we run it again so I can make it this time?" ... we called a timeout and drew up the play one more time. She took the shot again. She missed again. But she had confidence and she believed in herself. To me, that is worth more than 3 points.

5. Before each game I came up with 5 keys to the game. They were goals I wanted to focus on that I believed would help us be successful. Number 5 is always "have fun" because, if the girls aren't out there having fun, we're doing something wrong. As we huddled up after our overtime loss, a crushing defeat, one girl spoke up and said, "Coach! That was so much fun!" I looked around the huddle and there were 10 faces smiling, grinning, and agreeing. We lost a close game, but they had fun. Goal complete.

The season is over, and it is sad. I truly enjoyed working with this group of student-athletes. I have felt a bit loss this week no longer having practice every day after school. But, that feeling of being lost will soon be gone. Soccer starts on Monday...

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Two weeks ago we sent off 15 passports to an embassy in Berlin hoping and praying they would be returned quickly containing visas for our team's upcoming trip to Bangladesh. I was pleasantly surprised when this past Tuesday my friend Sam, dropped off a package on my desk containing all 15 passports...all with visas in them! Receiving the visas is a huge answer to prayer. There were a few students who had cause to worry that they would not be given a visa, and other students who needed their passports to return quickly so they could partake in upcoming school trips. The entire process went off without any major problems, which is a really big blessing.
Our team continues to meet on a regular basis as the trip is drawing near. Though the exact details of the trip are still unknown, there is a growing sense of excitement and energy surrounding the trip. One of the things I have really enjoyed about the experience so far is listening to the students voice their feelings about the trip. As I see the students around campus, or as we have been traveling for a basketball game I have pestered them with questions such as; "Why did you want to go on this specific trip? What are you most excited about when you think of the trip? What is one of the first words that comes to mind when you think about what we will be doing?" I have asked a handful of the students these questions and their answers have been pretty varied. They have spoken of different reasons and different desired outcomes. Some may view that as a hurdle to get over, and a factor that may create disunity and disrupt our team's harmony. However, I am choosing to see it as a really cool aspect. Despite the different reasons and desires - I have this deep and growing sense that we are going to come back from the trip different than when we left. Our eyes will be opened anew and our hearts will be changed. My hope and my prayer is that we won't be the same when we return. My prayer is that we will return as a more loving, compassionate and grace-filled group of people who are willing and able to spread the joy we have in our hearts without shame to those around us. A pretty big dream. A pretty lofty goal. But here's the great thing...we serve a pretty big God. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Spurring each other on.

This is one of the views from my office window. This is what the weather was like at the start of 7th period this past Tuesday. Windy. Rainy. Cold. 

Here is another view from my window taken today. In the picture a group of students are building an igloo in their Industrial Arts class with the snowfall we received last night. Snow. Lots of it.

This is one of my students, "BK." 

We haven't had the best weather here in Germany the past week. Rain, sleet, snow have all made their way through our town. The weather isn't terrible if you are inside where it is dry and warm. But for the past few days I have been outside running in this weather. Let me just say the weather is not ideal, in fact, I have been complaining about it quite a bit. I'm tired of running in the cold. I'm tired of stepping on a pile of snow only to find out it is a puddle of ice water, leaving my foot soaking and cold. But, for the opportunities given to me as a result of running... I really cannot complain. 
You see, BK is a tremendous student. He is fluent in three languages, a talented enough violinist that he is auditioning for Berklee and Juliard, and he is one of the best high school middle-distance track runners in all of Europe. Basically, he is a stud. For the past few weeks we have been training together three times a week. We lift one day and the other two we go for runs. So every Tuesday and Thursday he comes to my office during his 7th period study hall and we head off for a run. Training together is truly a great fit for both of us. His distances are shorter than mine, but faster. So I stretch him by making him run 4+ miles. But he stretches me by making me maintain 6:15 clips. We are running the same trail yet each being trained and pushed differently. Above all, we are furthering a friendship that is already deep and purposeful. 
This past Tuesday BK made me eat my own words, and at the time I wasn't too pleased, but since then, I have come to greatly appreciate it. When he came into my office ready to run, I was tired and looking out the window (note the first picture) coming up with reasons why I didn't want to run. We had lifted the night before and my legs were heavy. (I detest doing lunges and squats.) BK grabbed a copy of my book I had sitting nearby and said, "What can we find here that is applicable?" He opened to the chapter on dedication and began reading aloud. As soon as he began reading I knew what was coming. I knew I had written words, and was now being asked to back them up. These are the words he read me, "While the training regimen requires much dedication, there are a few things that can be instituted to assist you along the way, perhaps none more important than finding a training partner. Admittedly, there are days when running is the last thing you will want to do. You are busy. Your legs are heavy. The weather is less than ideal. Yet if you can find someone to train with, that accountability will make things easier on days when the list of reasons not to run is longer than the run itself." 

As he was reading about being busy, tired legs, the terrible weather, and long lists of reasons not to run I found myself responding with, "Yes. YES. YES!!" But he simply looked back and responded, "But I'm your training partner and we're going for a run." I knew he was right. I knew it was what we needed to do. So off we went. Through the wind, rain sleet and by the time we finished...snow. I'll admit, I was very glad to have gotten my run in for the day. Especially, because had it been up to just me, I probably wouldn't have mustered up the energy to hit the trails. But I was even more pleased to know that the time we are spending together is helping each of us be better. We are sharpening each other. We are encouraging each other. Most obviously physically, but I believe we are spurring each other on in more ways than that. 
With that in mind, when BK came to my office today during 7th period and I looked out the window... I didn't question whether or not I would go out. 

On a very different note: I am speaking in our school's chapel tomorrow and would greatly appreciate prayer.