A Christmas Gift from Coach

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Our son, Brett, played basketball for our city’s high school, the Ankeny Hawks. And, like other hoop athletes in his class, he had journeyed through the freshman teams, jumped into JV opportunities, and endured the bench as an underclassman, waiting patiently for his senior year. Why? Playing time, baby (credit to Dickie V.)! Maybe even the starting line up! Well, that didn’t happen like he/we had hoped. And though he was one of the captains, the playing time/starting lineup decision was disappointing at best. He had a remarkably mature response and attitude, though, and after a December game back in 2008, he received an awesome Christmas gift from his coach. Stay with me and you’ll see what I mean.

I won’t explain the whole game situation in depth, but suffice it to say that, after they lost by 1 in overtime, one of his team members ferociously hit one of the lockers and let out a loud, vulgar curse word as the team came in for the post-game meeting. Obviously, this player was mad, not only at himself, but at others. The coaches, when they heard it, inquired who said it, and began dealing with that individual. In fact, it became kind of a team meeting/encounter. Essentially, the coach’s point was that getting angry at the team and “losing it” doesn’t change what happened on the court. If you’re upset, play differently out there; don’t point fingers in here.

Then he made an interesting observation that is humbling but honoring. He said (not an exact quote but the essential nuggets), “If anyone has a right to be upset, it’s Brett. He’s one of our captains, but he isn’t getting any playing time right now. He had nothing to do with this loss, yet he isn’t mad and cursing at himself, us, or others. Besides, Brett wouldn’t talk that way anyway.”

What a compliment about his character! I was really proud of our son, for he had garnered the coach’s confidence and respect with something that doesn’t bounce or go in a hoop. Sure, he’d love to have been playing more. But his attitude while he wasn’t playing was undoubtedly a greater testimony than his attitude when he was playing. He was honored, not because of his talent for the name of the school on the jersey, but because of his commitment to the names in his heart—God’s name and his own name. After all, those two names stay with you long after you hang up the jerseys and take off the shoes. Those names—that which represents your character—matter most. I’m glad he knew who he really was even when the Ankeny basketball world didn’t. That’s the kind of identity security that lasts a lifetime, not just during game time. As Proverbs says, “A good name is better than great riches.”

Though that memory is years behind me, I find myself often remembering that game at this time of year, for Coach Pete, probably unknowingly, blessed my son with a far greater gift at Christmas than time on the court: respect for who he was, not just what he could do. Proof positive that no matter how he did or didn’t play that year, he was a champion already!


Excerpted from Home Run: Family, Baseball, and Psalm 128 by Todd Stiles (2014). Kindle and print versions available at Amazon.

4 Comments on “A Christmas Gift from Coach”

  1. I can’t resist leaving a comment on this post. Congratulations Brett! What an awesome Christmas gift which you have obviously earned…I pray that someday I too will have the honor of a son like you (well, hopefully three like you!!) Congrats again Brett, Todd and Julie!

  2. What a testament to God, Brett, and his parents! Brett, way to not conform to the world. You are setting a great example for the other guys on the team and for the younger people looking up to you. Like Marti said, I pray that one day my children, too, will have that type of strong, Godly character.

  3. Thanks for sharing this about Brett. I pray that Brett will be blessed with playing time (a desire of his heart) as a result of his faithfulness to being who God has called him to be.

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