Monday, November 19, 2012

Basketball & Its Lasting Impressions

Writing is therapeutic, so perhaps that's one of the reasons I chose to start this blog, and I need some therapy for my stupid dreams. Just kidding, but seriously... I just got up from a nap and for the countless time I had another dream about my basketball experience at Doane College. Perhaps that's because these last few days I have been going through my overflowing closet and dresser and deciding what clothes to keep and what to give away. As I was going through long sleeved t-shirts I ran across my basketball shirt from my freshman year of high school. This shirt is over 10 years old, but it's still in really good shape (shows how much I wear it). I held it up trying to decide whether or not to keep it and a flood of basketball memories came back to me. Some good. Some bad. But they all made lasting impressions.

I'll be completely honest with you, I'm so thankful for the experience I did have, however, I wouldn't call it a positive one. Lately, I've been dreaming about it more and more and it's quite honestly starting to drive me crazy. I'd love to put it behind me! But every single time I dream about it, I'm reminded of these basketball experiences and I roll it through my head over and over again. So hopefully by writing about it, I'll stop dreaming about it, and eventually FORGET ABOUT IT.

I walked on to the college basketball team with ZERO confidence in my basketball playing abilities and was hoping to simply walk on the team with a group of girls and a coach who would help me get it back. I had just graduated from a couple of experiences that didn't exactly encourage me to pursue sports. One was medical the other was... I can't even think of a word for it. Hear my story and perhaps you can come up with one yourself. My junior year of high school was by far my best year in sports. I had my top PR's in track and field, running a 12.99 100 meter sprint, 26.9 200, and a 59 split on the 4x400 team, I didn't realize how fast I was until I went back and looked at my high school scrapbook where I kept every PR sheet our coach gave us at the end of the year. The times were not competitive at my level on an individual basis, but we had 3 other girls running approximately the same times, allowing us to have killer relay teams. We walked away with a 5th place and a 3rd place medal at state in the 4x200 and 4x400 teams. I kept the Denver Post article which named the top athletes in different arena's of basketball. I was named one of the top athletes in Colorado for my 3 point shot. I'm not writing this to brag, I'm writing it so you understand that I was going into my senior year cocky, which looking back I know was part of my downfall. God has a lot to say about pride!

Today, I truly believe my senior year was meant to be a humbling experience....

I was expected, and I expected, to have an amazing senior year, but two things kept that from happening: a coach and a broken foot (I should say three because God is sovereign!). My basketball coach knew that my one goal was to play college sports. I didn't care if it was for some podunk basketball program, perhaps he didn't know that, but I absolutely loved the sport. My junior year I had started for the team and for the first time in our high school's history we made it to the first round of state. My senior year rolled around and my coach benched me, stating he was "building for the future." I asked him to fill out an application describing me as a basketball player for prospective college coaches and in the section where it said to describe me he wrote, "short and stocky." Perhaps he looked at my 5'4" frame and thought, "HA!" Whatever his reasoning he crushed my spirits. I remember bawling (thinking I was fat) and my sweet, sweet brother erased it and wrote something else. I became a brat about the whole situation, however, and if I was the coach dealing with my bratty self, I would've wanted to put me in my place. I was ANGRY and bitter, and those are two, very deadly combinations. I began writing down every single mistake this guy made, wrote a letter and submitted it to the administration, hoping for revenge. I had the "don't mess with me attitude." Uh, can someone please slap me now?! I feel so stupid sharing that with you, I was a selfish moron.

I'm ashamed to write that I hated him, that feeling does not exist anymore. Yes, I'm still frustrated at how it all turned out, but God had a plan different than my own. My attitude stunk. I was hateful. I wanted revenge. I was angry, especially towards another player, younger than me who always yelled at me when I made a mistake or bragged about starting over me. Sometimes I wondered if the coach's listened to her. I became so afraid to mess up! If I screwed up, I was back on the bench, and this is when I swore I would never, ever do that as a coach. Making a mistake is one thing, learning from it is another, repeating it over and over again would require a bench talk. I understood that even as an 18 year old, but the more afraid I become of screwing up, the more I screwed up! The more I screwed up, the more I sat on the bench. The more I sat on the bench, the confidence level decreased to an all time low. The less confidence I had, the more I screwed up, the more I got yelled at, etc. It was a vicious cycle.

Looking back I truly think this was God trying to humble me. I came off a year where "I" did this and "I" did that. I was so interested in "MY" status as a player. "I" got a Rocky Mountain player to watch status. "I" was ranked as a top 3 point shooter in the state. "I" earned a 3rd place medal in the 4x400. I, me, my. I'm sick of myself when I think back to my selfish attitude. Yes, I loved my teammates but I was very stuck on what medals and awards "I" could bring home.

Thankfully I'm not who I once was. If you haven't been around me in the last year you need to understand exactly how much I've changed, read my blog on how I'm Not the Same as I Once Was, Thank God!

The second aspect of a failing senior year was my foot. I had this weird bump on the inside of my foot and occasional shooting pains that started from that area and ran up my ankle. Plus it was achy after I worked out, go figure. I had a broken navicular bone and had ruined some ligaments in the process. I can't pin point the time it started hurting, but I can pin point to the specific time when I knew something wasn't right. We were running in our 4x200 team and our hand off went awry, with the person who I was supposed to hand to taking off to early. I leaned to hand her the buton, dragging my foot, and something popped. I walked off the track going, "wow that really hurt!" Well, duh! In the process of tearing ligaments I popped off the end of my navicular bone. I ran through the season, complaining the entire time (which I don't put up with as track coach, and I have to wonder why my coach put up with me?). I had the, "poor me," and "I can't do that because it hurts" attitude. I still can't tell you why my track coach put up with my whiny behavior. Honestly, if I was her I would've told me to, "Shut up! There's nothing I can do about it. So either suck it up or go to a doctor who can do something about it."

I don't know how, but I continued to work hard (and whine about it). I loved my track coach. She was consistent. Hard working. And fair. So my work ethic did improve, especially because my teammates pushed me. I ended up making it to state in 4 events, but not doing as well as I'd hoped.

Six months later I found myself at a chiropractor, thinking this was something he could easily fix, staring at my x-ray's opened mouth at this obvious break. So he sent me to a foot specialist and I was in a boot for a long time.

I walked into my freshmen year of college in a boot. I went to every single practice, lifted what weights I could, attended study hall, meetings, etc. and never once felt like the team. At the time I understood why. It's hard to accept someone when they don't practice with you, travel with you, hang out in the locker room, etc. So I decided to lose the boot, suck it up and play, thinking that would help. Mistake (duh, me and my stupid teenage self). I screwed it up more. My doctor now said the only way to repair the damage was surgery and because of the amount of time I had taken to repair the damage, the recovery time was going to be a long one. Goodie. Well the summer after my freshmen year I spent on crutches and was on crutches going into school.

The basketball pre-season workouts started either late August or early September and by that time I was a few weeks from losing the crutches, but I would still be in a boot, and out for the year. My stupid self didn't continue physical therapy once I went back to college, ugh, not helping myself out at all. Instead of gaining strength, I was losing it. Obviously, this was doing nothing to regain my lost confidence, but I still showed up to every practice, weight lifting, meeting, etc. I was also involved in the pep and concert bands. Practice for those events was right before basketball practice, so I would leave one practice to attend another. On many occasions I was late for basketball practice. I began noticing that I was the brunt of ridicule from a few of my teammates. At this time, welcome was not something I felt from them, so I honestly wasn't surprised, but it stung just the same.

I had to sit out my sophomore year, and began my junior year fat and out of shape. My junior year was also the start (and continuation) of a lot of personal drama in my life involving family and the deaths of numerous friends, and instead of reverting to something that would actually help me, I drank. A lot. I was depressed about not being able to play, the death of my friends, and my parent's nasty divorce, so instead of working on improving my basketball skills, I used my free time to drink, and more importantly I rejected God. Sooooooo, things only got worse.

When I look back to that part of my life I was self medicating. The only way I wanted to deal with it was by drinking, forgetting about it, doing something stupid, waking up feeling awful about that, then turning around and drinking again, thinking it would help me forget, doing something stupid again, waking up feeling awful again, drinking, waking and feeling awful, drinking, oh my goodness it was a nasty cycle.

So what does this have to do with basketball? Well, during all of this I continued to go to practice. Drinking obviously did not help me in practice. I was really sucking it up. Plus (partly because I skipped therapy and because I was lazy in the off season) I was weak. My feet didn't move quickly, I was slow, uncoordinated, and really far behind. This did not help me earn a place on the team.

I was also more interested in being part of my sorority, where I felt like I belonged, than being around the basketball team. EVER. I knew they hated me. So, I had no desire to work hard. I had no desire to try in practice. I went because I had never, not once in my life been a quitter. But quit I did. The reasons I quit?
  1. I didn't feel like I belonged on the team.
  2. After being in a boot for more time than I can count, I lost a lot of quick foot speed, which for reasons I didn't understand at the time I wasn't getting back. (Ahem, too much alcohol and I didn't continue physical therapy when I returned to school. Stupid teenager!)
  3. I really, really needed a job. Basketball and pep/concert band practice took a lot of time and I was struggling financially. So I worked in the alumni office at Doane and as a bartender at the Eagles club.
  4. I wanted to spend more time with my sorority girls, where I actually felt loved.
  5. I was turning soft and lazy.
  6. I was really, really behind the rest of the team after all my time "off".
Now that I look back, I regret that decision. Why didn't I just suck it up and play the sport I loved? Why didn't I go to the gym on my own time and try to regain what I had lost? Why didn't I use the off season to make myself better? WHY? WHY? WHY? I don't know why, but now I'm constantly dreaming about it! It's driving me nuts. I keep dreaming that I'm either going back to try and play, or that I didn't quit and randomly show up at practice and I keep failing and messing things up, or that I didn't tell my coach that I'm pregnant, or, or, or (I've had quite a few dreams). Perhaps my conscious self is trying to tell me something. I don't know what that is, but I hate these dreams, because it brings that "I'm a quitter" feeling back again. I was lazy and dealing with more crap in my personal life than I cared to share with my basketball team, because never once did they make me feel like I was welcome. Hindsight, I forgave them a long time ago. I don't hold grudges (what would be the point?). Plus I learned so much (from a coaches perspective) about the value of team camaraderie, and as a basketball coach it is an area I try to foster with the teams I coach. Plus, while I was down I watched a NAIA coach of the year who knew that defense wins games. She knew it and knew it well. I learned a lot just by watching. I took what I had learned and applied it to my own coaching. I'm truly thankful for that as well. So I'm not writing this to make them feel bad, or to tell my side of the story even, I JUST WANT MY STUPID DREAMS TO STOP and I'm hoping that this "writing therapy session" will help with that! :)

I walked away with a bad taste in my mouth. BUT now that I look back I don't think negatively about these experiences. They helped me grow into the person I am today. Yes, basketball made a lasting impression on my life. Basketball helped me to understand the value of perseverance and hard work. It helped me to understand the value of words. It helped me understand that God is sovereign. He loves me and even during these low points in my life I see His hand in it all. Loving me even though I rejected Him. Basketball helped me in more ways than I can count. I'm not a skilled basketball player by any stretch of the imagination, but I still love the sport and I love that God used it to teach me about life.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Perfect Parent

Yesterday I was reading on a friends blog about the patience required of her while her daughter adjusts to life with a new baby sister and I began thinking about good parenting and how much I have to learn. Then Deb came over so that we could continue our Bible study through Titus, and of course we got side tracked on this particular topic. Plus my sister had asked me a LONG time ago (while she was dealing with the joys of her son's terrible two's) that we needed to study the Bible and what it specifically states about parenting. So this blog was a long time coming because this study was never far from my daily thought process (knowing it was something I NEEDED as well). So, what is a perfect parent? Most definitely not like me! Is there a perfect example out there? Yes! Thankfully we have a parent that has flawless parental qualities:

  • Merciful
  • Patient
  • Slow to Anger
  • Abounding in Steadfast Love
  • Faithful
  • Unchanging
  • Gracious
  • ETC. ETC.
I was thinking over my short two months of being a parent. How many times have I been frustrated or angry in this short time period? How many times have I lost patience? Am I faithful? Gracious? Selfless? My goodness! I've failed already! Despite my imperfections I have a perfect parent who loves me and is patient with me. When I screw up (which is often) the consequence actually fits the crime. He was merciful to me - giving me life when I deserve hell. He is faithful - he has promised to take care of me. And here I am, a mother of an 8 week old, full of imperfections, learning from a perfect God. If I want to strive toward "the perfect parent" (which quite honestly will never happen, but that doesn't mean I won't try) then I need to follow the perfect example of a perfect parent...
"You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." Psalm 86:15
In Proverbs there are specific instructions for parents and children on how to discipline and live a Godly life. Solomon wrote Proverbs for his son, so that he might know and understand wisdom and then pass it on to the next generation. It's so full of good advice for being a "perfect" parent that I had to share a few of my favorites that I plan on teaching my children:
  • Fear the Lord.
    "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 1:7
  • Trust God.
    "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6
    "Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the Lord..." 22:17-19
    "Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." 30:5
  • Listen to mom and dad.
    "My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life." 6:20-23
    "My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:1-5
    "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." 22:6
  • Be Humble.
    "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." 11:2
    "Be not wise in your own eyes..." 3:7
    "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers." 6:16-19
    "Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished." 16:5
    "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." 16:18
    "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips." 27:1-2
    "One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor." 29:23
    "If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth. For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife." 30:32-33
  • Give to the Lord.
    "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce..." 3:9
  • Accept discipline.
    "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." 3:11-12
    "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." 12:1
    "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." 13:24*
    "Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence." 15:32
    "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him." 22:15*
    "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol." 23:13-14*
    "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother." 29:15*
  • Choose your words wisely.
    "Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you." 4:24
    "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." 15:1
  • Tell the Truth.
    "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers." 6:16-19
  • Keep your mouth shut! (Oh boy, am I ever guilty of this one!)
    "When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent." 10:19
    "Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin." 13:3
    "Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." 17:27-28
    "If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth. For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife." 30:32-33
  • Keep secrets.
    "Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered." 11:12-13
    "Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler." 20:19
  • Work Hard.
    "Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense." 12:11
    "In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty." 14:23
    "Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys." 18:9
    "Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished." 28:19-20
  • Speak kindly about others.
    "Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered." 11:12-13
  • Choose your friends wisely.
    "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." 13:20
    "Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge." 14:7
    "Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler." 20:19
    "Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways." 22:24-25
  • Choose happiness.
    "A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed." 15:13
  • Actions speak loudly.
    "Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright." 20:11
  • Turn the other cheek.
    "Do not say, "I will repay evil"; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you." 20:22
    "Do not say, "I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done." 24:29
  • Mind your own business.
    "Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears." 26:17
    "If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth. For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife." 30:32-33
  • Admit and Apologize!
"Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity." 28:14
* Obviously this pertains to spanking. Now, I don't know if they actually used a "rod" (I'm going to assume that they did), but I don't recommend this in today's day and age - your hand is more than effective. When I was growing up I remember the most torturous part of our discipline was going out to find a specific stick (it had to be so long and so wide), it "gave" us the "opportunity" to think about what we did and why it was wrong. Although it was highly effective, I'll never do that. :) I live my life by the Bible and will not hesitate in this regard if it is needed, however, there is a loving way to do this. The book, titled 'Sheparding a Childs Heart' by Tedd Tripp, which I wrote about many months ago gives sound advice on how to do this so that your child understands "the why" and that you do it because you love them. Still, I truly believes it depends on the child. There are certain children (like my sister Mandy) who was never spanked because the moment you looked at her sternly she burst into tears, and then there are other devious children (like myself) who needed to be spanked (haha, and often!).