By: Topher Wiles
Do you remember Robert Fulghum’s ideas from his book “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? These great tips inspire, remind, and redirect us to some of the most important concepts in life. Some of those worthwhile truth tidbits include: “Share everything,” “Play fair,” “Say you’re sorry,” “FLUSH!” and “Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.” Since I’m nearing 40 years old and can’t remember the deep truths of my kindergarten years, I have to work with what is nearer in my addled memory; the Championship tournament game in Vision basketball league. In my 25 seasons of coaching, I’ve never personally witnessed a climatic movie-style moment like this.
If the Vision League is new for you, here’s a little info. Imagine a normal basketball game where the parents aren’t allowed to yell obscene comments to the referees. Picture hoops where opposing teams go out to eat ice cream together afterwards. Consider a game where each player gets the same amount of periods of play every time. Meditate on basketball where each game and practice includes a spiritual devotional from coaches and parents. Imagine a league where the most desirable award isn’t an MVP, but the “Christ Like” award. Now you have the backdrop for the Church of Christ sponsored Vision Basketball League and our monumental moment.
Our team with bright orange jerseys had a lot of heart but got off to a slow start. While other teams focused in on specific plays in the first practices, because of our lack of raw talent, we needed desperately to work on the fundamentals. Passing and dribbling, dribbling and passing, over and over again became the thrust of our practices. Even though we lost a tight first game, it paid off because we could proudly proclaim that all of our players were credited with an assist. It was a proud moment for a coach. Yet an even prouder moment would come.
It was the last game of the regular season, and after going through the stats, our coaching staff realized only one player, we’ll call him “Paul”, hadn’t scored throughout the entire season. He had a few opportunities, but it seemed the foul shots always fell short, the defenders were always too quick to block, or the rim was just too unforgiving for Paul to get his first ever bucket in the Vision League. We were blessed with a sizable half-time lead, and the team agreed on one primary strategy: “Get Paul the ball!” Try as he might through two periods and an overtime, Paul just could not get that orange ball to fall through the hoop.
Tournament time came around. Again and again our point guards passed to Paul. Over and over our forwards set screens for Paul. Time and again Paul’s shots just wouldn’t fall. We were pulling out the wins, but there was a growing sense on the team that time was running out. We were working so hard to give Paul his shot, but the clock was working against us. The final championship game saw our fundamentally-sound but underdog team compete against a physically bigger and talent-superior team, and Paul still didn’t have a bucket. Halftime saw the score tied at 13-13 due to the physical stamina and heart of our little underdogs. Our boys fought hard deep into the game, but we saw the opponents build an insurmountable lead going into the final period. It was our point-guard, a kid with lightning-fast handles from Sparta, who said, “Coach, do you want me to get ‘Paul’ the ball?”
That last period was rough. Paul tried shooting repeatedly only to have bricks rebound to the other team, shots blocked by players a head taller than him, and his screens knocked over or avoided. With 1.1 seconds left on the clock, losing in the final period, and our team being awarded an inbounds pass near our basket, the hopes of our team rested on one final chance. Yet our players, most importantly Paul, never gave up hope.
The referees, opposing coach, and parents in the stands had caught on to what we were trying to do. All eyes were focused on Paul on the final play of the game. It was as if all the collective hearts in the gymnasium were bonded together, willing him to success. Tension was building. Moms were wringing their hands. Parents were shouting words of encouragement during the timeout. Coaches gave knowing glances. Referees nodded in approval. The play aptly named “The Wall” was called. A triple screen of our tallest players was set at the edge of the paint. Paul found his position 15 feet from the basket near the baseline. Our point-guard put a perfect bounce-pass into Paul’s hands right at his chest. Legs flexed. Wrist snapped. The ball arced high. Nothing but net as the buzzer sounded.
Paul was humble as the entire gymnasium erupted with cheers. The better team won the championship last week in the Vision Basketball League, a recognition they rightly deserved. Yet the kids with the bright orange jerseys won admiration from their peers, coaches, parents, and referees for their unselfish play. Every team member scored, assisted, rebounded, and stole a turnover this season, which draws a big smile on my face as I look back. More importantly, I learned some deep truths about life and church this basketball season.
- Playing games is best when you’re playing with friends. That’s why God gave us the Church.
- There is no “I” in TEAM. That’s why God’s Church gives everyone a role.
- Sharing is still the best way to build relationships. That’s why the early church “had all things in common.”
- Until the clock runs out, keep shooting toward your hopes, your dreams, and your goals. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9
Life is bigger than basketball, but I’m grateful God uses games to teach us so much.
The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength. Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at CentralChurch of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself. If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, email@example.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.