Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Family Forte: Coaching Success at Every Level

by: Topher Wiles
     It doesn’t matter what level or type of team you coach; success takes persevering hope, daily discipline, and a plan for growth.
     Saturday was a blast for our middle school Vision church league basketball team as they took the championship in their season ending tournament.  For us fans with vested interest, championships are heart-pounding, blood pressure raising, and joyful in victory!  Many of you experienced the same rush as you watched the Warriorettes take the 6AAA District Championship after beating Warren County, Stone Memorial, and Rhea County in the district tournament.  Maybe you felt it when the Warriors beat Cookeville in their 85-75 win in the district tournament last Friday night. (As of this writing, the high school boys basketball team has yet to play the championship game.)  For our boys on Vision team B17 with the orange jerseys, the final buzzer was one of the best moments of their young lives.
Pictured from left to right:
Front Row: Ethan Wiles (Sparta), Seth Smith (Manager, Cookeville), Michael Brown (Sparta), Canaan Smith (Cookeville), Peyton Paul (Cookeville)
Back Row: Topher Wiles (Coach, Sparta), William Fields (Cookeville), Will Stockton (Sparta), Caden Morrison (Cookeville), Gabriel Wiles (Sparta), Andy Paul (Assistant Coach, Cookeville)

     The season didn’t start so well though.  The orange shirts began our season playing the toughest and biggest team in the league.  The team with the green jerseys came out popping 3 pointers against our 2-1-2 zone and quickly squashed us in the season opener.  One of our primary guards even broke his arm requiring surgery during this first game, further disheartening our boys.  This opposing green team did the same to every other team in the league and beat us two more times during the regular season going undefeated, although we kept narrowing the score difference each time.  Our boys were beyond excited to have the higher score at the end of the championship game!  Was it a superior talent that took us to the number one spot?  No.  Was it lucky long range shooting?  Not even close.  Did we pray harder?  Maybe, but I doubt God was that interested in the outcome; besides, their coach is a church minister too.  What took our team of boys to the top was a persevering hope, daily discipline, and a plan for growth. 
     Years ago, an old coach taught me that you don’t practice to win, you practice to get better.  If you’re getting better, you’ll beat the lower ranked teams.  If you’re getting better faster than everyone else, you’ll beat the highest level teams.  With that mindset, we decided that each and every practice we entered into from the beginning of the season to the end would contain a message of hope from scripture, an expectation of high discipline for the practice, and a full practice plan for growth. (Special thanks to the Jr NBA website for their amazing practice plans!  https://jr.nba.com/)  While it took a lot of time for us as a coaching staff to develop messages, discipline, and plans, the joyful hugs and high fives at the buzzer were worth it all!

(Enjoy a few seconds of the on court battle here as recorded by Ashley Wiles)
     I’ve been part of the coaching staff of twenty-six teams. (http://www.topherwiles.com/p/coaching.htmlIt didn’t matter if I was coaching high school bowling or little league baseball; public school tennis, or church league basketball.   It didn’t matter if I was an assistant coach, the head coach, or a player coach.  It didn’t matter what level at which I was coach or playing;  success took persevering hope, daily discipline, and a plan for growth from players and coaches.  I bet Coach Dodgen of the district champion White County Warriorettes and Coach Mitchell of the winning Warriors would agree.  (P.S. – Good luck in the championship game fellas!)
     The same coaching principal of persevering hope, daily discipline, and planning for growth is what has built up the Wiles Family Forte over the years.  While your particulars may be different than ours, I believe these coaching principles will bless your family too!   
     Our family begins every day with a message of hope.  We begin our day with a scripture reading plan that reminds us of the enduring victory of Jesus throughout the ages.  It is that positive motivating message of God’s Holy Word that starts us on a daily high note that helps us overcome the obstacles, setbacks, and temporary losses that God throws our way.  Hope is what helps us topple the giants that stand in our way of enjoying the promises set before us.  Just like a coach includes a message of hope in every practice, so you too can reach toward family success by including God’s hope for abundant life in each day.
     Daily discipline has been a struggle throughout the years, but yet we cling our structure and order to help us achieve betterment every day.  Whether it is in our Dave Ramsey guided money principals, healthier eating influenced by nutrition gurus, regular intake of scripture at every meal, church services multiple times a week, or routine exercise at the White County YMCA, our family daily discipline mirrors what coaches expect out of their players through the season for success.  We aren’t by any means perfect, but we see regular results that routinely make us smile.  Expect daily discipline in your family just like a caring coach expects of their team and watch the success flow. 
     Finally, purposefully family planning of our time together has been one of our most joyful pieces of the success puzzle.  Between planning date nights for Ashley and I, scheduling service projects together, saying “no” to extra sports seasons so that we can have quality home time, and throwing the TV out the door (we got rid of it over a decade ago), we have been blessed in our plan for growth to treat our family time like a team practice, making the most of our moments together. 
     In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you are coaching a team or leading a family; success takes persevering hope, daily discipline, and a plan for growth.  Friends, we look forward to seeing God grow your Family Forte and all the success that follows.
“He must manage his own family well … and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.” – from 1 Timothy 3:4
For more info on the Church of Christ sponsored Vision basketball league based out of Cookeville, go here: https://www.visionbasketball.com/

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 Central Church 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, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Family Forte: Respect is Deserved

by: Topher Wiles

Our families need respect practiced and modeled.  I’ve lived long enough to watch a decline in the cycle of respect in religious, political, educational, entertainment, and familial cultures in America.  I believe that much of the same people who complained about the lack of respect given to Barack Obama are many of those who are unwilling to give respect to Donald Trump, and vice versa.  Our world follows a mantra that believes respect is earned, and I have witnessed that the requirements to earn it are near impossible. 

Photo Credit: https://etiquettejulie.com/respect-incivility/
I found these eye-opening statistics in a Today Show article from 2009 titled, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Where has it gone? “Nearly eight in ten Americans (79 percent) say a lack of respect and courtesy is a serious national problem, and most people say it’s getting worse (60 percent). Seventy-three percent say we used to treat one another with greater respect.”  From an educators poll on CNBC.com in 2019 of 556 teachers in America, 50% of teachers have considered leaving their profession, and a full 10% of those cite “lack of respect” as the primary reason.  Yes, lack of respect is a major problem.
Yet, there is hope for our families and our culture, and hope begins at home. 

"R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out what it means to me."  Aretha Franklin attracted droves of followers with these lyrics in her passionate pop plea for honorable treatment.  As you look through Aretha's 1967 lyrics, you do indeed find out her meaning of respect.  Respect seems to be giving Mrs. Franklin her "propers" in her relationship with her spouse.  She defines respect as being maritally faithful and giving her spouse full honesty.  Her song is a movement discovering respect through her experience of family life.  Faithful honesty is a great starting definition of respect, but R-E-S-P-E-C-T is even more. 

The Biblical word “honor” is synonymous with our word, “respect”.  It means to give something weight, attention, priority, nobility, or richness.  Honor is something we typically give to people who have earned it such as our parents, spouses, and leaders, but Jesus came to show us a better way.  In the Bible we are told not only  to "You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man,"  (Lev 19:32a) and "Honor your father and mother,” (Ex 20:12) but we are also told in the New Testament to, "Honor everyone." (1 Pet 2:17a

When Peter penned those words, I’m sure he struggled with them.  Remember, it was Peter swung his sword to cut off someone’s ear at Jesus’ arrest. (Matt 27)  As he writes these words he is living in a world in which his faith, his friends, and his church is being persecuted.  In the same letter that he says, “Honor everyone” he also shares, “Beloved, don’t be surprised at the fiery trial that comes upon you…” (1 Pet 4:12).  Yes, even when being mistreated, the disciples of Jesus call followers to honor everyone.  Jesus came to show us that EVERYONE deserves our honor and respect.  People deserve to be given faithfulness, honesty, attention, priority, nobleness, and richness because they are made in God’s image. (James 3:6-10)

In our current culture, respect is a gift deserved by all but given by few.  Recently I was struck by one of those few as I witnessed the respect of an elderly gentlemen right smack dab in the middle of Sparta, TN.  After preaching a funeral, I drove my beater of a truck right behind the hearse on the way to the cemetery north of town.  Some people kept driving on the opposite side of the road as the funeral procession came north on Spring St.  Most cars pulled over out of respect.  Yet one gentleman went beyond, pulled his car over, stood outside of it, and held his hat over his heart while we passed.  What did our procession do to receive that respect?  Nothing.  He was simply living out the New Testament words, “Honor everyone.”   What a beautiful model of respect to all the families in the funeral procession!

I believe the cultural cycle of respect can reach an upward swing again and I believe it begins in the family.   Here are a few ideas we can start with. With toddlers you can teach respect for others by enforcing unselfish play, putting a few coins in charity boxes or in the collection plate at church, or saying a prayer together for others.  When you prompt them to say “Thank you” or open the door for others, you are building a culture of respect.  As your children develop conversationally, discourage disparaging remarks about others, even in private.  Build respect by working “thank you” notes into their regular routine or schedule acts of service in just as often as you schedule sporting events.  Remind your teens that their clothing choices are a way to show respect of unspoken (or written) standards, whether at school, parties, or church.  Yes, respect can be taught at home.

    Yet, I remind you that we, as parents, aunts, uncles, educators, and community leaders need to do the exact same things in our lives to model respect for children.   If we model respect and teach families to rise above this dog-eat-dog world to give respect to everyone, we will see a change in the world around us.  Respect begins at home.  May you be successful in joining others to build again a community and culture of respect.  

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, this is what it means to me. 

"Show proper respect to everyone." (1 Peter 2:17a NIV)

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 Central Church 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, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Family Forte: Encouragement over Exasperation

by: Ashley Wiles

Have you ever been the recipient of a random act of kindness?  Something that makes your jaw drop, heart smile, and eyes water?  We had such an experience this weekend when we went to Chattanooga to celebrate my birthday.  We spent the afternoon at the Creative Discovery Museum and delighted in time spent with our children.  We explored, made music, created art, played, and learned, and it was such fun! To top off our excellent afternoon together, we decided to have dinner before heading back to Sparta.  At the restaurant, our server seated us next to an older couple who were enjoying a quiet dinner. I couldn’t help but wonder if the couple cringed when they saw a family with four children being seated next to them!  We turned our attention to ordering and then spent time as a family chatting together. We talked about all the fun we’d had at the museum, brainstormed other ways to solve the engineering tasks we’d experienced, and even challenged each other with mental math problems (yes, we’re nerds).  Midway through our meal, the couple behind us rose to leave, but the woman stopped by our table. “Excuse me,” she said. “It’s so nice to see a family out enjoying themselves without electronics.” We were surprised and thanked her before continuing with our meal. Dining out with children can be an adventure, and hearing someone praise them was a blessing to our hearts.  As we finished our food and shared a piece of birthday pie, our server approached us with a surprise. Imagine our shock to learn that the couple I had been concerned about disturbing had paid for our meal! We had never seen them before and wouldn’t recognize them if we saw them again, but they showed kindness to our family with a generous gift, kind words, and a simple note they left, saying “Bless your family.”  We appreciated their generosity so much (dinner out for a family of six is not cheap), but what meant the most was that they took the time to speak kindly to us about the good that they saw. My already-great birthday was even better because someone chose encouragement rather than exasperation. 

Similarly, my friend Tara spoke recently of an older gentleman who approached her in Walmart as she was corralling her children. He told her that she was doing the most important job in the world, and then he blessed her and wished her to be filled with the fruits of the Spirit.  She later said that his words were worth more than a million dollars to her. Parents who have ever run the gauntlet of the grocery store with their children can recognize what a blessing he was to her. Instead of assuming that three little boys were a handful, he recognized that they were a gift and cared enough to speak words of light and love to a mother working hard to care for them. 

I’ve thought a lot about the power of encouragement since then.  Isn’t it true that an encouraging word at just the right time can make a huge difference?  When I have been working through a tough situation, a word of criticism can be so deflating. Conversely, a word of encouragement provides a boost to my spirits that helps me get through the challenge.

I will admit that my default setting is criticism.  If I’m not careful, my running dialogue with my children has a tendency to be: 

“Don’t do that.”
“That’s not nice.”
“We don’t act that way.”

Of course, correction is necessary, but it needs to be part of a balanced diet that’s sprinkled liberally with words of encouragement.  When I receive encouraging words about my parenting, it lightens my heart, puts a spring in my step, and makes me want to do an even better job. I must take care not to forget that my children will have the same reaction if I call out the good I see in them.  Our day together goes much more smoothly if our dialogue sounds more like this:

“I like how you shared your toy.”
“I am proud of you for standing up for your friend.”
“I saw how you controlled your anger.”
“Thank you for putting away your dishes without being asked.”
“Thank you for the hug.”

I challenge you to find a way to encourage someone today - your spouse, your children, or even a stranger in Walmart.  It is wonderful if you are in the position to give a financial blessing, but even more important are the words you offer, and they don’t cost a dime. Let’s give the people around us the gift of kind and gracious words.  Let’s choose encouragement over exasperation.

Proverbs 16:24: “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

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 Central Church 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, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.