Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tweak the Talk

What happens when you’re the coach and the first half is over, you’re in the locker room and your team is not only losing, you’re getting destroyed?

What happens when you have to deliver the speech that will hopefully reset the course for the second half, but you know deep down in your gut that your team doesn’t have a chance, what do you do then? Have you ever been in a similar place?

Well, I know I have and I remember an illustration of what makes a good speech an effective one…Truthfulness!

We were playing a team that was ranked #3 in the country according to USA Today. All five of their starters had already committed to division one programs after graduation. Their center was 7 foot 3, their forwards were both 6 foot 8, their shooting guard was 6 foot 6 and their 6 foot 4 point guard was already one of the best in the country and was heading off to UCLA. 

These guys were good, they knew it, we knew it and so did everyone else.

The game started off with a backwards two handed dunk off an alley-oop and the crowd went wild! I knew we were in for a long night, but as any coach would do I tried to be positive and look for insights that we could use to get an edge and hopefully learn something to make us better.

The first half seemed to drag by as we watched dunk after dunk, three pointer after three pointer and block after block. Finally the buzzer rang and as I looked up at the score board I saw that we were down by 29 points!

Now what do you say to a team that is getting demolished by a seriously over-matched team? How do you try to salvage something positive from that kind of experience? I must be honest, as I walked into the locker room I didn’t have a clue what I was going to say. 

I mean David and Goliath or Joshua and the battle of Jericho or Jesus walking on the water would have been good stories I guess, as each of them couldn’t have happened without God’s miraculous power and that’s exactly what we needed at that moment.

I’m not saying that God couldn’t do it, because He certainly has the power to make them stumble and our team fly, but as I walked in to face my team I just didn’t sense that they needed some pie in the sky pep talk, they needed truth!

These guys were good, so good that they all were going to go on to play big time ball in college and later in the NBA. They were the next level, so a reality check was in order for this half time speech, and as I entered the locker room my assistant coach grabbed my arm and said “hey coach did you know these guys beat the defending state champs last night…by 29 points?” 

I stopped in my tracks and said “really? 29 points huh?...thanks.” I had my challenge.

As I faced my players I tried to be open and honest and reality filled, I didn’t pull any punches, and I didn’t candy coat anything, we were getting beat and beat badly!

There were things we could do to improve, and possibly cut the score and make it close. Then I shared the little nugget that was shared with me on the way in. I said, “by the way guys, they played the state champs last night and beat them by 29 points…what do you say we go out there and play our hearts out, leaving it all on the floor and try to not lose by 29? If we do that we’ll have bragging rights, how’s that sound?”

The locker room erupted; we had our 2nd half marching orders.

The rest of the game went pretty much like the first half did, and with about 10 seconds to go we were down by 31 points, and as the ball was inbounded to our point guard he dribbled up to the 3 point line and let one fly at the buzzer…as the ball floated through the air I thought, “how cool this would be if it went in”…well, sure enough as the buzzer rang the 3 pointer went in and wouldn’t you know it we lost by 28 points.

The place erupted, and you would’ve thought we won the national championship or something. The other team looked at us like we were crazy, but little did they know that because we had a uniquely crafted goal after half time, even though we lost by the score board, we actually won in our minds.

You know, when it comes to challenging and inspiring others to live for God when times are tough, or stand for their faith when their beliefs are challenged. There is no need to “tweak” the talk or develop some “win within the loss” kind of mentality. I love the fact that in Christ we are more than conquerors, and that He has already won the battle.

I don’t need to concoct anything when it comes to living for God; He is all powerful, and alive and well!

I’ll continue to seek to inspire others with half time speeches, sermons or whatever venue God gives, but I’m so glad that when it comes to God, His power and plan speak for themselves, no clever adjustments needed!

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