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The Wooden Cross

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a hypocrite.

As a parent of three growing, athletic boys, I watch a lot of youth sports up close and personal. Whether it’s on the baseball diamond, basketball gym, or football field, there is always a big following of parents, grandparents and friends.

Most of the times, the parents are great – supportive, friendly, and cheering for everyone. As a camp director who focuses on gratitude, attitude and courage, this is as it should be. It's a game - and a fun one at that!

However, there are more than enough times where we get that behavior we don’t like – the overbearing, screaming, ref threatening, name calling tyrant in the stands. Every now and then, I hear that person, look around, and find only myself.

Losing perspective is a part of life. As a former collegiate athlete and coach, I know student-athletes (and their parents) want nothing but the best out of the experience. They want the win. They want the playing time. They want the calls to go their way and for the game winning points to come from their finger tips.

As a Christian, though, I know that is not our true purpose and shouldn’t drive us to anxious, overbearing outbursts. Rather, we are to love our God with all our heart and soul and might and love our neighbor as our self. So why does a few moments between the lines matter so much?

The answer is ‘it doesn’t.’ I let the world around me cloud my vision of true north. Sometimes, I place undue weight on a game that is to be fun and build a sense of accomplishment through personal and communal effort. Sometimes, it feels like life and death.

Coach John Wooden never seemed to battle this confusion. My minister reminded me of this yesterday and, as usual, the timing couldn’t have been better.

Coach Wooden, he of twelve NCAA basketball championships, kept a cross in his pocket. When the game situations became anxious, he would reach into his pocket, feel the cross, and remind himself of his greater purpose: to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to share His love to others.

You can still demand excellence on the court, classroom, or business arena. In fact, to give any less than you best is to tarnish the gift from God. But, regardless of the outcome, we must remember our greater purpose and judge ourselves on that scorecard, rather than the points on the board.

Thank you, Coach Wooden, for your shining example of how to be a great, Christian man. (And, thank you to Chuck for always serving up the inspiration I seem to need!)

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