Monday, September 26, 2011

Hoops Coach

I promise that one of these days I'll stop writing about obscure time from our long ago childhood, but until we finish sorting boxes from our basement, I probably won't be able to resist, especially when I come across such treasure troves as the one containing this photograph.  This is a picture of Beve's 8th grade basketball team.  If you can't guess, he's the very tallest one in the back row, the one with the very solemn expression on his face, as though someone told him that taking this picture was serious business. Number 44, a boy over, is D, one of Beve's closest buddies, also looks pretty serious.  You'd never know that there's a sharp wit under that earnest expression. A few of the boys look put out--number 10, down in front (the Superintendent's son) looks like he didn't get enough playing time, and what's that? DM, 24, has his eyes completely shut.  Yep, seriously stuff for some of them.  Not so serious for some of the other teammates, you'll notice.  At the far end of that back row, is RP.  RP, still our very dear friend--is doing what he does for his profession. Communicating.  I can just imagine he's leaning toward SA beside him and saying, "Did I tell you  about the time..." RP is now a professor of communications, but somehow, that little boy is how I think of him.  And the whole right front row seems not  to have gotten the memo about how to pose or behave.  Maybe they gave it their best shot, but couldn't hang on any longer.    SP, number 30 (who is married now to one of my close girl friends) looks like he's had just about enough, thank you very much. But I remember why I used to call him Charles Atlas when I look at his muscles next to the scrawniness of those boys around him.  And the smirk of number 14, the pout on number 12, the twist on number 4--shoot, maybe he thought he wasn't fitting in the frame.  Oh it makes me laugh.

The album this came from was jam-packed with Beve's high school basketball clippings.  His mother faithfully cut every mention of Beve from every paper in the area.  And I have to tell you, it made me wish I'd paid more attention.  Honestly, that boy could play basketball.  I mean, I know he could, I was there, after all,  I watched every game.  But I just wasn't watching him.  And according to these old clippings, I should have been.  And Beve doesn't talk about his playing days as though he was anything special, only that he loved the sport, that he felt creative when he played.

Our kids sometimes ask me if Beve is like this high school player they know or that one, and I try to answer as well as I can.  But these articles, these pictures of him, these ridiculous statistics--they tell the story I didn't know. Steve "Mr. Everything" Wiley, he was called after a stretch of three straight 27 point games, in which he had over 40 rebounds total.  Ridiculous.  His high school team was littered with height.  Positively littered with it.

A different kind of person would have become a different man as a result of such athletic prowess. These clippings were revelations to me, and yet reminded me again of who the essential Beve is.  He could name every opponent, and speak eloquently about each opponents' best player, but remembered very little of his own.

But what makes Beve the Beve is that he didn't know those things. What he remembered about those years is that he had fun, great friends, and loved to play.  Every now and then he talks about what might have happened if he'd had a different coach--someone who believed in him, who was a basketball coach rather than a football coach who also coached basketball (and who didn't like Beve because Beve decided not to play football).  There were never fewer than 3 players 6'5" from the time he moved to varsity his sophomore year--and these weren't just tall kids, but tall, talented kids.Added to them was at least one very, very gifted shooter.  As it was, they were very successful.  Maybe in spite of that coach. A better one--a coach like the one he's worked with here in Bellingham over the years--would have known what to do with them.

And I suppose that's where I was getting to, though, as is often the case, I didn't know it.  It takes a coach.  The right coach.  Even the most gifted among us can't get anywhere without the right one.  Without the one who will do right by us, tend to our talents, guide and lead us in the way we were meant to go.  Those little boys in that picture?  They never lost a game that year.  They were that talented.  They positively smashed their opponents some of the time. But by the time they graduated from high school, most of them were no longer playing.  They had lost interest, weren't cut out for it.  And those who were saw their last season end in the worst possible way--a double defeat. And the hope of a state championship died in our own gym before it got off the ground.  It was horrible. None of them have ever forgotten it.  Those defeats a better couch could have prevented.  Would have.

I'm not writing this about that couch. I'm trying to make a point about our lives.  Beve cares very little about those stats.  But he cares a whole lot about the right coach.  About seeing to it that we are led by the one who can guide us to make the right adjustments when they are needed, who can see what is coming and can see the floor of our life better than we can.  That's what we need.  We need to be coached by the best coach, not we pay to do the job because they have some kind of philosophy that sounds good to our ears.

THE coach.

I don't really like these kind of sports analogies, these "He's my head-coach" words that athletes throw out after they've won big games, because He's God.  He's Lord of Lords and King of Kings. But yes, He's also a whole lot better coach than any old human being.

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