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From the outside looking in, the start of our season was a success. The win column certainly could attest to that. 3-0. What more could we want? What the win column couldn’t speak to was the internal wrestling going on in my heart as coach. Sooner or later I knew I had to confront the darkness in my own heart, I just didn’t think it would be in the fourth game of the season.
We played maybe our worst half of basketball all season in that game, and I was making sure my players knew it—criticizing their sloppy play and amplifying their mistakes. At halftime, I turned to Coach Seay and told him he needed to talk to the guys, knowing my own words would be drenched in negativity. We ended up winning the game, but my drive home was miserable. I was ashamed of the anger and resentment I carried toward my players during the course of that game. It seemed like the more competitive we were becoming as a program, the uglier I got as a coach. I didn’t know who I was as a coach, and my lack of identity left me lost and floundering.
I knew I couldn’t continue coaching if things stayed the same, so I turned to the Lord, laying all my struggles and sins before Christ, asking Him to give me a Christ-centered coaching identity and to birth a Christ-centered vision in my heart for this basketball program. It sounds simple, but that is exactly what was missing: Christ Himself was absent from our program. In fact, he had been absent from my athletic experience throughout my entire life.
Athletics has always been compartmentalized, outside and irrelevant to my apprenticeship to Jesus. Looking back, it became clear how God had been using a variety of relationships, events, teachings, and conversations in my life to plant the seeds for this new vision God was about to birth in me. I began to realize that if Jesus truly is King of the universe that means he is King over the game of basketball, which also meant that there was a way to play this game that truly honored the King, a way that embodied the heart and character of Christ on the court, and a way that bore witness to the reality of His Lordship in my life. This way to play the game became known as "The Narrow Path."
Narrow Path Basketball meant coming under the authority of Christ and making him the center of our basketball program. When we did that, everything changed. Suddenly, the team truly took on an identity that was in Christ as we looked to the life and teachings of Jesus to guide and direct our approach to the game. We honored the King by following the path He has already carved out—a path marked by humility, discipline, resolve, faithfulness, composure, love for each other, and love for our enemies.
This is the game of basketball surrendered back to God, and He has borne much fruit because of it. The success we’ve had as a team in the 2020-21 season has been because our guys have taken this Narrow Path; they have surrendered their allegiance to King Jesus out on the basketball court, and it has made all the difference.