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A Coach With a Vision: Paying It Forward


Coach with a Vision

A Coach With a Vision

I ran into an old friend last weekend, one whose path seems to cross with mine every six or eight years. He was a Coach Dave-type coach, a coach with a vision, even in church league basketball. He reminded me that I was the only referee he was successfully able to talk out of a technical foul. When I caught the tail end of one of his player’s reactions and T’d him up, the coach argued that his player was expressing frustration at himself and not at me or my partner. This was a man I trusted, even within that sometimes weird coach-official dynamic. I wiped off the technical foul, the only time I ever did so.

My friend told me a story about his high school coach, who had taught his team a life lesson that my friend passed along to his church basketball team. To me, the story was more compelling from his perspective as a church league coach, so I’ll tell it from that view.

Don’t Throw Up on My Floor

Coach’s team didn’t show up to practice prepared to focus on what he had prepared for them on that night. He knew one way to shift their focus, so he lined them up on the baseline. He placed a garbage can in the middle of the floor and said–like his high school coach had years earlier–“You don’t throw up on my floor.”

His team ran…and ran…and ran. Then, they had one of the most focused practices they had ever had. When parents began to show up to pick up their sons, Coach advised them that practice would run about thirty minutes later than scheduled because the players had chosen not to focus during the first thirty minutes of practice. He continued to push his players right up until the end of practice, when they finished with their usual three or four line drills.

A Life Lesson Remembered…and Passed Forward

At the end of practice, Coach remembered what his high school coach had taught his team years earlier when they practiced on the day of a state tournament game. Seizing the opportunity to teach his players the same lesson, he asked his players (loudly enough for their parents to hear), “Are you tired?”

“Yes,” they responded.

“One day, you’re going to have a house note and a car note, and your wife is going to be sick, and you’re going to feel tired, but you’re still going to have to get up and go to work.” Dads within earshot of the team huddle began to nod.

Many of those young men are now about the age when Coach’s words will sink in as reality. I hope they remember the life lesson that a church league basketball coach with a vision learned from a high school basketball coach with a vision and cared enough to pass along to them…and that they will pay it forward to future generations.

About Al Ainsworth

Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel, Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and the Coach Dave series. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.

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