The buzzer sounds and the players line up and shake hands after a hard-fought game, but the real “game” is just beginning for the Athletes in Action women’s basketball team as they begin to share their personal faith stories and engage in spiritual conversations with their opponents and other people in Mexico.
The 11-member team travelled to Puebla, Mexico where they used their passion and skills in basketball to not only compete, but to make a spiritual impact. They saw God transform the lives of many people there, but perhaps most remarkable was the work He did in the hearts of the players themselves.
With many deep emotional wounds and from very different backgrounds, the team was brought together for a higher purpose than only competition. At the training camp God began working through the team members to help each other cope with struggles and personal heartaches and to prepare them to reach out to others in Mexico.
One team member describes the importance of her teammates in helping her overcome a tragic event in her life, “I lost half of my heart three years ago; y’all have been putting the pieces back together.” She says, “The principles [AIA taught at the training camp] have been huge in my life in melting my pride because of finding my identity as an athlete.”
To many, basketball is just a game, but for this team it was a means to share and experience God’s love. As the team discipler Rachel S. put it, “The girls were unified in Spirit and purpose in a unique way, and it was evident in how they played on the court and in how they engaged in community off of the court.”
By Lacey Mehling, Athletes in Action summer intern
The men’s volleyball team set out to the Columbus airport without enough visas for everyone to board the plane to Brazil. They weren’t even sure they would be able to travel together as a team, but they went in faith believing that God wanted them to go and that He would work it out for them.
They were able to pick up their visas on the way to the airport, just in time for them to make their flight. “Everything just came together. From getting invited by the Brazilian Volleyball Federation to play, to getting everything set up and financed, to getting the visas, God seemed to line it up perfectly,” said Shari H., team staff member.
They stayed at the Junior National Training Center in Rio de Janeiro, a volleyball player’s paradise, where they played against the nation’s elite players. While there, they had the opportunity to talk about their personal faith and minister to these young players who were thirsty to understand what made the American players so different.
From there they travelled to the Brazilian Athlete Military Base outside of Rio, where they practiced with Olympic-caliber players. They also gave AIA resources to the Brazilian players and prayed with them.
In Sao Paulo the team was hosted by a church and invited to play in recreation centers around the city. When playing these teams they gave them Bibles and The Prize DVD which features two Christian Brazilian soccer players.
The way the AIA team played and interacted with one another also spoke volumes to their opponents. As Shari noted, “The Brazilian coaches even commented on how their players were adapting to the playing style of our team—encouraging and lifting up one another.”
The team faced struggles on the court, where they won very few games. “They faced some humbling losses, but they were able to glorify God through it all,” Shari says. “We had many successes in our interactions with players off the court, which made it all worth it.”
The team of sports medicine and strength and conditioning professionals got off the plane in Guatemala City to be welcomed by the eruption of the Pacaya volcano. Ashes layered the city, cancelled the Sports Medicine Congress and their ministry plans.
The devastation did not end there, however. Tropical storm Agatha brought torrential rains the next three days causing road closings, mudslides, and the closing of the airport and all government buildings. In the wake of this disaster, the team began to ask, “God what is it You want us to do here?”
“Plan B” began to take shape. The number one sports radio station in the country invited a local AIA staff member, Cristobal, along with Dr. Luck, a doctor on the trip, to talk about the team and the AIA purpose in Guatemala.
The team also went to work. They cleaned up volcanic ash and found new opportunities to use their expertise in the community. They conducted a clinic at the World Gym, teaching speed and workout routines to the personal trainers and then talked about their faith.
Another opportunity opened up for them to conduct assemblies for athletes at SiDeporte, a sports academy run by the Sports Confederation. There, the trainers again talked about their personal faith in God and met with some of the students.
Alda, one of the trainers, said, “I couldn’t help but be in awe as to how God lined everything up for us. I don’t think that anyone would look at a volcano eruption as being a blessing, but the truth is that if Pacaya had not erupted, then the events of today would not have happened.”
The following week, Cristobal returned to SiDeporte and showed The Prize DVD, which tells the faith stories of six World Cup soccer players. That day, several student athletes make decisions to begin personal relationships with Christ. Now, Christobal is holding a weekly Bible study at the training center.
Dr. Luck said of his experience on the trip: “It started as a four-day trip of sports medicine lectures and ended with an eight-day personal revival. We arrived amidst a volcanic eruption, followed by a tropical storm. The country shut down—nothing in or out. We volunteered to clean volcanic ash at an apartment. No word was spoken, but people noticed. God did open doors to speak on national sports radio, to a sports school, to athletes, to tell about why we’re here to share our expertise and the love of God. Airports finally opened and I left with a greater appreciation of God, His plan, my family and God’s love.”
By Lacey Mehling, Athletes in Action intern
In the “Year of the Pitcher,” Major League Baseball enthusiasts have had much to cheer about.
From two perfect games to five no-hitters to the astounding rookie debut of Washington Nationals pitching-phenom Stephen Strasberg, fans have witnessed many commendable feats this season, but all take a formative backseat to the humility and forgiveness displayed earlier this summer by veteran umpire Jim Joyce and Detroit Tiger’s hurler Armando Galarraga, respectively.
In the history of the league, over the course of more than a century’s worth of games—hundreds of thousands of innings of baseball played—there have only been 20 perfect games...EVER! No runs. No walks. No hits. No errors. Twenty-seven batters up, and twenty-seven batters down. To say that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is a proverbial understatement—it’s the pinnacle of any pitcher’s accomplishment—it’s more than a dream. Yet for Galarraga, it was in reach. He had already faced 26 batters, retiring them all. Now, needing only one more out, he was on the brink of history; he was on the cusp of becoming the 21st player all-time to record perfection…
All until the illustrious “safe” call was heard around the world—the erroneous decision made by the first base umpire Jim Joyce—irretrievably ripping Galarraga from baseball notoriety. Replay would reveal (and Joyce would later confess) that he blatantly missed a call—a very big call at that.
But what followed after the game—specifically between Galarraga and Joyce—transcended sport. Sports Illustrated calls it, “The epitome of the human element—not the mistake, but the grace and humility.” Joyce admitted his error, and Galarraga never said a sour word; he simply forgave him for making a mistake regardless of how high the stakes were.
The next day Galarraga met Joyce at home plate in a public display of forgiveness, demonstrating a turning of the page.
To no fault of his own, Galarraga lost out on the chance of being a part of history. But Galarraga was a part of history that June day; he showed the watching world that forgiveness does exist. He showed the sports world something that they may never see like that again—he showed sportsmanship.
You see, there are life events that happen—often without any fault of your own—jobs are lost, people die, and families are broken apart. Life happens. You can’t control what happens, but you can control how you will respond in those moments—regardless if you are the offended or the offender—you do have a choice. You can’t undo anything you or another has already done, but you can face up to it. You can seek or offer forgiveness. You can turn the page. You can move on, and let God do the rest.
Scott Linebrink of the Chicago White Sox
Scott Linebrink, right handed relief pitcher of the Chicago White Sox, was a small, skinny kid who loved baseball. He was a pretty slick infielder. Scott’s dad, Mike, was his early coach from T-ball, Little League, and American Legion, but there was not much pitching. Scott’s high school baseball career at McNeil High School in Round Rock, Texas, was nothing out of the ordinary except for his desire and love for the game. He went off to college in the fall of 1994 at Concordia University, Austin, TX, where he “walked on” the baseball team. His first year he mainly played infield with very little pitching. It was those two years at Concordia when Scott started to grow taller and stronger. In Scott’ second year, head coach James Keller began to work with Scott on his pitching. “Coach Keller,” as Scott shares, “was a wonderful person with a tremendous amount of courage as he was fighting ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).” Scott goes on saying, “Coach put extra time working with me and encouraged me to pursue my dream.” The summer after his sophomore year, Scott played in a summer league with D-1 players, and he held his own. Scott’s father added, “Even though Coach Keller could have used Scott at Concordia, Coach helped Scott transfer to Southwest Texas University (now Texas State at San Marcos) to play Division I baseball.”
At Southwest Texas, Scott got some outstanding instruction from head coach Howard Bushong, now coaching in the Detroit Tiger organization. They had an outstanding year (1996-1997) and went to the playoffs for the first time ever. They ended up one game away from the college world series. The San Francisco Giants saw Scott defeat Texas Tech and were so impressed by Scott that they drafted him in the second round and sent him off to his rookie league assignment.
Scott grew up in a Christian home, made up of his parents, Mike and Pixie, and younger sisters, Lindsey and Kelly. He went to Our Savior Lutheran Church (LCMS), Austin, TX, where he was baptized and confirmed. In addition he attended Lutheran School up to 6th grade. He attended public school for middle school and high school. One of his favorite Bible verses is his confirmation verse from Revelation 2:10 which says: “Do not fear…Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Scott’s faith has always been important to him, and his regular attendance at worship and Bible class only increased his desire to walk with the Lord. “When Scott left for Rookie ball in the Northwest,” shares Pixie, “it was a sentimental moment for all of us. We knew he had a strong faith and God will take care of Scott.”
Scott has always been close to home whether at Concordia or at Southwest Texas. It was when he left for his minor league assignments that he was truly on his own. “I always had the love and support from my family and extended family which helped me stay grounded.” But it was during these first three years that “I wanted to blend in with my teammates and be a good guy. I always went to church and attended chapel, but I was not as active as I should have been. I kind of got away from my walk. My life was not indicative of a believer.”
In the spring of 2000, Scott was brought up to the Giants Major League club, and he made his Major League debut April 15th. After appearing in three games with the Giants, they traded him to the Houston Astros. For two years he went up and down from the minor leagues to the majors, having recorded no wins or losses.
There were two events that really were significant in Scott’s spiritual life during this time. The first was when Scott arrived in Houston, and he went to a Bible study. The second was being around one of his sister Lindsey’s volleyball friends, Kelly Anderson. “I was traded to Houston,” says Scott, “and when I attended a Bible study, I remember Lance Berkman putting forth a challenge. He said ‘If you were accused of being a Christian in a court of law, would there be enough evidence to convict you?’” That really hit Scott. Scott was reminded of the Scripture “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) He goes on to say, “For the most part I was living the way I wanted. I would attend church, go to chapel and an occasional Bible study, but it was not a part of my daily walk. It was a time when I was being brought to the majors and then being sent down to the minors. I would be called up and do well then still was sent down. I was wondering what did I have to do? I was losing heart and did not know where to turn.”
It was at this point Scott confessed, “I am tired of trying to make this work and carrying the responsibility of my career on my shoulders, and feeling everything I do is life or death. I want my career to be a reflection of my Christian walk and everything I do is to give glory to God. I know there is a plan in place for me. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds me of that and I need to trust that plan.”
Scott decided, whether he is in triple A, or in the Major Leagues he was going to have faith in God’s plan. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This was a pivotal point in his life, feeling he had turned his life over to the Lord and allowed Him to have control.
Scott shared a story he heard. “When Solomon’s temple was being built, the rocks being used were massive rocks. They were being mined and shaped in the quarry because, the Temple being a Holy place, there could be no hammering or chiseling done on the Temple site. The rocks were shaped to fit perfectly. We correlate this to us being shaped and chiseled in the trials and suffering of life; and when we get to Heaven, we will fit perfectly. We are being shaped to be the kind of person God wants us to be.”
It was about his time that Kelly Anderson, daughter of Roger and Debbie Anderson of Walburg, Texas, and friend of Scott’s sister, Lindsey, became acquainted with the Linebrink family. But it wasn’t until 2001 that Scott became really interested in Kelly. Like Scott, Kelly came from a Christian home and she was baptized and confirmed at Zion Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Walburg where she attended their elementary school. After graduating from Georgetown (TX) High School, she went off to Texas A & M to go into teaching. Kelly graduated from Texas A & M in 2001, and that was when Scott and Kelly began to date. They both come from large families and large extended families which was one thing, besides Kelly’s faith, that attracted Scott to her.
Between Scott’s spiritual growth and his budding romance with Kelly, life was becoming brighter. Scott and Kelly were married in 2003 at Zion Lutheran. Kelly was the fourth generation in her family to be married at Zion. Together they rededicated their lives to the Lord. They have since been blessed with two girls, Ellie Jane (3 yrs) and Abigail (7 mo). “The girls are such a joy in our lives,” shares Kelly. “It is such a comfort and joy,” states Scott, “to be able to go home after a game and be with Kelly and the girls.”
It was in 2003 when Scott was claimed off waivers by the San Diego Padres. Between Houston and San Diego, Scott pitched in 52 games and won 3, including a win over the Chicago Cubs (7-5), as a starter. He had some really good years with the Padres (2003-2007); then he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers (2007) where he was reunited with Christian pitching buddy from the Astros organization, Brian Shouse. “Actually, Trish, Shousie’s wife, and Kelly gave birth to little girls, our Ellie Jane and their Daisy, about the same time when we were in Milwaukee.” Gabe Gross, another Christian brother, was in Milwaukee too. In 2008 Scott signed a four year contract with the Chicago White Sox.
In Chicago, Scott is highly regarded. Media Director Ray Garcia says, “Scott is just a nice person and is wonderful to work with. His life reflects what he believes in.” One who knows Scott the best is bullpen coach, Juan Nieves, who owns a no-hitter from his playing days with the Brewers. Nieves shares, “Scott is an exceptional person, great on his faith; he lives by it, a great example of it.” Nieves goes on, “We have embraced Scott as the supportive, calm zone on the team who guys will go to when things are not going well even though he has gone through battles himself. He stays strong and always abides by the Word of God.” White Sox chaplain, Mickey Weston, director of Unlimited Potential, Inc (UPI), shares, “Scott is one of the most quality Christian men in baseball. He is what we call a “Gatekeeper” who opens doors for opportunities to bring Christ to players.” Weston concludes,” God is using Scott in a mighty way to further the Kingdom of Christ and bring glory to the Father.”
It is typical of Scott, always willing to give of himself. His parents say that Scott could be a very good speaker, but Scott shies away from public speaking, preferring to stay in the background and give behind the scenes. “Scott is very supportive of his church, Zion Lutheran,” his father shares. “He helped in the Ablaze program for the LCMS mission project by being a speaker for their video presentation, and he lent support for an audio Bible mission program.” Scott also teams with Dave D.*, area Athletes in Action director, to bring chapel services and Bible studies to the Sox at spring training in Arizona.
Scott likes working with kids. “I enjoy the kids. I participate in clinics and camps for kids, especially with UPI, where I can share Christ through baseball.”
Another program that is important to Scott is Pro Athletes Outreach (PAO). “We are very active in PAO,” says Kelly. “We are on the Board of Directors for PAO which has the ‘vision to recruit and equip an army of coaches, professional athletes and their families to make a positive impact in the world for Jesus Christ.’ We have Christ-centered programs and conferences that reach out to athletes, coaches and their families.” Kelly concludes by saying, “The conferences help build and strengthens their personal relationships, marriages, parenting, finances, and faith.”
“The beauty of Scott is,” exclaims his father, “he was never a star in high school or college; but through hard work and using his God-given talent, he has made it to the highest level and all with humility.” His mother sums it up this way, “Scott’s spiritual gift is humility and he leads in a quiet way through his actions.”
Scott likes Paul’s Book to the Philippians, especially Chapter 4 verse 16: “Be anxious about nothing, instead pray about everything…” As Scott puts it, “We, Kelly and I, try to place our trust in the Lord and go about living our lives for Christ.”
*full name withheld at staff member's request
by Mark Darnall and Bruce Darnall, freelance writers
Maybe it’s the vuvuzelas—the South African horns that filled the air with continual excitement and an atmosphere of competition. Maybe it’s the 32 countries that unify and comprise the field. Maybe it’s the creation of an icon. Maybe it’s the hunt for heroics and last-second comebacks. Maybe it’s the pursuit of a dream. Maybe it’s the epitome of success and failure at the highest level and on the biggest stage. Maybe it’s taking part in something bigger than yourself. Maybe it’s the passion, prestige and pride of a nation.
Whatever it is that fuels the fire of the fan-following, and ignites the love of the spectacle known as the World Cup, it is noteworthy. Some argue that the World Cup is the largest event in all of sports—rivaling the Olympics. Though some may teeter on the fine line of being an enthusiast or an extremist of the beautiful game, but at the core of it all is a deep fervor that isn’t present in our daily living.
Too often we stroll through life drudgingly, and seemingly lifeless. At work we merely punch the clock. At the grocery store, we attempt to go unnoticed. On the bus we try to minimize our superficial conversations and keep to ourselves. At home we simply eat, sleep, and run through the rat race of life again—with little or no genuine concern for others as we pass through this world.
But athletics, most notably the World Cup, provide an example to emulate. Sports provide a medium in which emotion is evoked and life is lived. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart…” Therefore, may we transcend social norms and start to live. May we take the examples of the fans of the World Cup, bottle the emotion, and apply that same passion in our daily living. May we be intentional with our families. May we be vulnerable, open, and pliable to our friendships. May we be encouragers of strangers. May we refuse to be lifeless any longer. May we be considerate in our conversations and commitments. May we no longer allow trivial and petty issues to rob our strength and energy. May we be an example for others this day, this hour, this moment.
Athletes in Action volleyball is running a Volleyball Training Weekend July 29 to August 1 for all women volleyball players who will be incoming college freshman, college and post college players, who want to improve their game.
The weekend is designed to bring volleyball players from across the nation together to develop as leaders, learn to connect playing volleyball with personal faith and worship of God, and to meet other players who want to grow in their relationship with God.
Start time is Thursday, July 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Athletes in Action headquarters in Xenia, Ohio. The end time will be Sunday, August 1 at 11 a.m. Total cost of $145 includes lodging, food, materials and local transportation (it does not include air fare).
The Web site is: http://www.wix.com/samaritano/AIA-Volleyball-Training-Weekend.
Athletes in Action Headquarters 651 Taylor Drive, Xenia Ohio 45385 Phone: 937-352-1000
Front page photo by Guy Gerrard
By Joe Pavlish
07 . June . 2010
Athletes in Action will be in South Africa during the World Cup June 11-July 11 taking opportunity for outreaches like The Prize DVD distribution.
This summer, soccer will once again bring different groups of people together when South Africa hosts the FIFA World Cup from June 11-July 11.
FIFA, the international soccer federation, holds a worldwide soccer tournament every 4 years. This year, the top 32 teams in the world will compete for the 19th FIFA World Cup, the pinnacle of soccer achievement.
With the World Cup coming to town, Athletes in Action (AIA) in South Africa is gearing up by:
AIA South Africa Director Chris Dirks said that the goal is not just to reach the athletes.
“The vision that we’re setting before them is we want to see the 4th generation,” he said referring to Paul's letter to Timothy. “The goal is not to just start a Bible study, but to find reliable men in the study.”
Paul wrote, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2).
Outreach Tools You Can Use (Whether in South Africa or on Your Couch)
About the life of legendary UCLA Men’s Basketball Coach John Wooden: What’s to write, that hasn’t yet been written?
During his 99 years, he won far more than an unprecedented 10 national championships or an 88-game consecutive win streak—that is yet to be broken. He epitomized character and personified godly values.
Raised on a small farm in south-central Indiana, he took the Christian principles instilled in him growing up in the Midwest to the limelight and the campus of UCLA. To his own admission, he humbly considered himself, “…just a common man true to his beliefs…”
Well…Coach Wooden, unfortunately there is nothing common about a man true to his beliefs. But you, with authenticity and authority, more so than any other sports icon in modern day history, showed us how to live right. Thank you for sharing the wisdom your garnered: think clearly, have love in your heart for your fellowman, be honest, and trust in God.
Thank you for sharing and modeling the creed your dad gave you:
1. Be true to yourself.
2. Help others.
3. Make each day your masterpiece.
4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
5. Make friendship a fine art.
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day.
Thank you for developing The Pyramid of Success. This practical tool has served in a far greater capacity than you ever envisioned. Thank you for providing a true north to which we can align our definitions of success that supersedes possessions, prestige, or positions of power. Thank you for by being a a man of value. Thank you for your legacy, your lessons, and your life.
Thank you for teaching us how to die, by showing us how to live.
When our moment on earth inevitably comes to a close, may we—like you, with an assurance of an eternal hope—utter the verse of 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where oh death is your sting?”
Coach Wooden: A name revered in the history of basketball, in the history of sport; a name synonymous with winning, and doing so with integrity. But for those who had the privilege of knowing Coach Wooden beyond basketball, it was clear that what made him a champion was much deeper than his success on the basketball court.
As a child in rural Indiana, Coach Wooden had humble beginnings. When he graduated from a country elementary school after eighth grade, he received two priceless mementos from his father, Joshua Wooden. First, his father gave him a two-dollar bill and told him as long as he had that two-dollar bill, he would never be broke. Coach still had the two-dollar bill when he died. Second, he gave him a three-by-five card. On one side of the card was written a poem by Reverend Henry Van Dyke, which read:
Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust God and Heaven securely.
On the other side of the card, his father had written seven simple rules to follow for a successful life:
1. Be true to yourself
2. Help others
3. Make each day your masterpiece
4. Drink deeply from good books – especially the Bible
5. Make friendship a fine art
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day (faith in God)
7. Pray for guidance and counsel and give thanks for your blessings each day
Many parents give their children gifts, but with little money available, Joshua Wooden had a better idea; he gave his son wisdom that would last a lifetime.
Coach Wooden and Athletes in Action
In 1997, in a partnership effort between Athletes in Action and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast was born. The plan was to present an award annually to a member of the basketball world honoring character, integrity and faith in the game of basketball. Who better to model the award after than Coach John Wooden?
In talking to Coach Wooden about the desire to make him the namesake for this award, he was very humble and didn’t want his name to be lifted up, but rather, he desired the focus to be on character traits. After much thought and discussion, the Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” award was born, featuring the seven simple principles given to Coach Wooden by his father many years before.
Since the commencement of the Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast in 1997, and the “Keys to Life” Award in 1998, 13 men of character in the basketball world, have been presented with the award:
1998 - Coach Marv Harshman – Hall of Fame
1999 - A.C. Green – former NBA All-Star
2000 - Jerry Colangelo – chairman of USA Basketball
2001 - Junior Bridgeman – NBA veteran – Louisville Final Four
2002 – Mark Price – NBA All-Star
2003 – Clark Kellogg – CBS lead analyst for college basketball
2004 – David Robinson – NBA MVP
2005 – Bobby Jones – NBA champion 76ers – UNC Final Four
2006 – Lorenzo Romar – head coach U. of Washington
2007 – Jim Haney – executive director NABC
2008 – Hubert Davis – ESPN college basketball analyst – UNC Final Four
2009 - David Thompson – NBA All-Star – Basketball Hall of Fame
2010 – Coach Don Meyer – Northern State University – 2009 ESPY award winner
For six straight years, Coach Wooden was present at the Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast to present the award. Many times after that, his daughter Nan was at the event in his place, to present the award.
In addition to the “Keys to Life” Award, Coach Wooden’s connection to Athletes in Action has included:
~ Color commentary, along with Billy Packer, for the AIA basketball team’s televised games in the 1976 season.
~ Use of his name for the future AIA basketball training facility, to be named the “Wooden Family Field House.”
~ Ralph Drollinger, a player for UCLA for Coach Wooden’s last championship game played for AIA for several years.
~ Meet My Head Coach – a pamphlet that shares Coach Wooden’s thoughts on a game plan for basketball and a game plan for life.
Coach Wooden will likely forever hold the title of the best basketball coach of all time. But more important than his ability to win basketball games was his ability to leave a mark on the lives of all he touched—his players, his fans, and even those who just knew him from afar.
Coach Wooden, your wisdom, loyalty, and genuine care will be deeply missed. You were a true gentleman.
by Megan Soderberg
Reflections on Coach Wooden…
Eric Nelson, Director of Sports Team, Athletes in Action:
I had the opportunity to meet Coach Wooden in his apartment several years ago as a high school coach. It just so happened that while I was taking a group of students on college visits in Los Angeles, I made a random phone call to a number I had received for Coach Wooden. He answered the phone and invited me to his apartment. That was the type of man that he was. Gracious with his time, cared about me during our few hours together and shared his life and wisdom freely; truly one of the most inspiring one-on-one conversations I have ever had. He has served the coaching fraternity in ways that will have an eternal impact on many. His service and love for others models the life of Christ.
Stephanie Zonars, Team Building Coach, Life Beyond Sport:
Two members of the AIA Women’s Ministry Board were UCLA alums and personal friends of Coach Wooden. They organized a time for us to go to his home to soak up as much wisdom as we could in an hour-long visit. In a condo adorned with hundreds of trophies and awards, Coach Wooden was a model of humility and grace. Our group of coaches, former athletes and ministry leaders sat in awe as he talked about coaching and life. He recited his favorite poetry and quotes from memory. He even granted a silly request to show us how to put our socks on, just as he did with his players on the first day of practice! It was a day none of us will ever forget.
John F., Athletes in Action Basketball:
I had the privilege of getting to know Coach Wooden before I joined staff and was blessed to have the opportunity to continue to see him over the years. What jumps out at me was his ability to be present in the moment. When you spent time with him, you felt you had his complete attention and you were the most important person.
Obviously, he was full of wisdom, but it was also how he shared it. Humility oozed out of every word and grace in sharing a different perspective.
We shared the bond of being Boilermakers and he showed me that you can be an excellent coach as well as a well-rounded person. He would share a story about being stuck on the team bus in a snow storm on a road trip and having conversations with his players about the Lord, books and the larger world. He taught me that basketball does not have to define you, it is a gift from God to be able to be a part of the game; and you are there to serve others and not yourself.
The last thing that always amazed me in light of spending time with him over the years is how he always remembered my name. How did he do that? I would see him once a year for 4 hours.
He gave his life away and treated each person he met as someone made in the image of God.
Don Meyer, “Keys to Life” Award Winner, 2010
Coach was like a father to me and yet when we told stories he was like a brother.
~The greatest story-teller I ever met and an even better listener.
~He never let you leave him without feeling better about yourself.
~It was all about joy to him: Jesus, Others, You
~You knew you were in the presence of royalty but he treated you like you were special.
~They should build an exact replica of Nell and his apartment so people would see what meant the most to him, what he read, and how simply he lived his life surrounded by earthly affluence.
~He was always a Midwestern boy at heart and that is what really counts—what is in your heart.
~He was a man emulating the heart of Jesus. He practiced the presence of God that Brother Lawrence believed in.
Treasure by Ernie Johnson Jr.
HE SPEAKS FROM THE HEART…WITH THE WISDOM OF YEARS
WHEN COACH WOODEN’S TALKING YOU’D BEST BE ALL EARS.
MOST OF US HERE NEVER PLAYED FOR THE MAN
BUT YOU COULD SAY HE’S COACHED US AS ONLY HE CAN.
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF… HELP OTHERS EACH DAY…
IT CAN BE A MASTERPIECE PAINTED THAT WAY.
DRINK DEEPLY FROM BOOKS..ESPECIALLY THE WORD…
THAT’S SOME OF THE SOUNDEST ADVICE THAT I’VE HEARD.
WHEN THE COACH SPEAKS OF FRIENDSHIP…HE CALLS IT FINE ART.
YOU DON’T TAKE IT FOR GRANTED…YOU JUST DO YOUR PART.
‘CAUSE IT’S NOT WHAT YOUR’RE GETTING THAT’S FOUND AT THE CORE,
IT’S ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE GIVING THAT MAKES FRIENDSHIPS SOAR.
BUILD YOURSELF SHELTER FOR THE RAIN THAT WILL FALL,
IT’S NOT COMPLICATED…IT’S FAITH…AND THAT’S ALL.
COUNT ALL OF YOUR BLESSINGS…AND GIVE THANKS FOR THESE.
AND WHEN YOU NEED GUIDANCE…GET DOWN ONYOUR KNEES.
ON THIS DAY WE’RE THANKFUL FOR SO MANY REASONS.
FOR THE CHANCE TO REFLECT ON THIS COACH FOR ALL SEASONS.
A MAN WHO’S STAYED HUMBLE AMID THE ACCLAIM
AND WHO KNOWS THAT THE SPORT HE LOVES IS JUST A GAME.
FOR HE’S SET HIS SITES HIGHER…AND HIS FOCUS IS CLEAR
HE’S DRIVEN BY PURPOSE…THE REASON WE’RE HERE.
AMONG THE GIFTS GOD HAS BESTOWED FOR OUR PLEASURE
IS JOHN ROBERT WOODEN…A LEGEND…AND TREASURE.
Ernie Johnson, Jr.
Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast
Used with permission