Saturday, March 18, 2006

We lost...and won

Well, we lost the final game, 45-38. Trinity Christian School from Hialeah, Florida has won the 2006 FCAA state championship. They deserve it should be congratulated. It was a hard-fought game with several lead changes until the final few minutes. Our girls did not play nearly as well as they did the first 2 games, but they played much better than I coached.

If you have followed sports much you probably have seen some occasions where a good team was "overcoached" in a crucial game or situation. That is what happened to us. We have an experienced team--4 seniors, all of whom are starters--and they know how to play together very well. In retrospect (which is always clearer than prospect) I should have simply encouraged them to play our game on defense rather than trying to alter what we normally do in order to stop Trinity's very talented guard. We might have done better against her had we not adjusted so much to contain her. That, combined with one of the poorest shooting games we have ever had, was simply too much to overcome. We hit only 1 three-point shot and no other shots more than 5 feet from the basket.

This game, and the whole tournament experience, highlights some of the great lessons that can be gleaned from sports. The whole range of human emotions can be experienced in athletics--you know, the "thrill of victory and agony of defeat" as well as everything in between. Life in a fallen world is filled with disappointment. Athletic competition gives you lots of opportunity to deal with disappointment on a relatively small scale. It also forces you to deal with issues of pride and humility, jealousy, frustration, anger, joy and sorrow. In this sense a state championship basketball game is really something like a labratory for life. The kinds of temptations, opportunities and pains that inevitably attend us in this life can be pressed on you in a microcosmic way in the span of 4 eight-minute quarters. Valuable lessons can be learned and those lessons can serve a person very well throughout life.

We learned--and will learn--some of those valuable lessons. Here are a few that occurred to me during a night filled with intermittent sleep.

  • The ball does not always bounce your way and your shots do not always fall, no matter how hard you practice or how badly you want it.
  • You do not always get the calls that you think you should get.
  • Despite your strongest resolve and determination, you are prone to doing things that you know are unwise.
  • It is possible not only to win to the glory of God but also to lose to His glory.
  • It is possible to play your best and yet not play well.
  • Disappointment is painful, but serves as a regular reminder that we were designed for something far better than life in a fallen world.
  • Basketball is really not that important. It is just a game; a great game! But a game, nevertheless.

This last lesson was driven home in a most poignant way to me just a few hours before the championship game. We received a phone call that one of the most gracious, gentle, godly men I have ever known had just "entered the land of the living" after a long bout with cancer. I had the great privilege of serving with Allen Harrison at Grace Baptist Church 2004-2005. He was our Associate Pastor. In the middle of that year he was diagnosed with cancer. His and his sweet wife, Roberta's, testimony during his suffering has been a gracious gift to me and to countless others. They came to our games and always had encouraging words for our girls. Several girls on the team were very close to him. We didn't tell them of his death until after the game. Life and death are real and forever. Basketball is just a game.

One final note, and forgive me for any improper pride that may be mixed in with the reporting of it. Every year the referees who call all the games in the tournament get together and decide which team should be given the "Christian Character" trophy. Their decision is based on attitude and demeanor that a team displays over the course of all the games. Our girls were awarded that trophy. The lead referee for the championship game pulled me aside after the game and said these words to me: "Coach, you have the classiest team in the tournament, boys or girls. They play with real class and are a great witness for Jesus Christ." That, along with whatever other success or accomplishment we have enjoyed this year, is all because of God's grace and all glory belongs to Him.


Garvis Campbell said...

Congrats on making the final game, brother. The trophy is a wonderful testimony to God's grace in your girls. A "win" indeed!



Scott said...


My family will be praying for you and your church. We will pray for Roberta! Thanks for sharing .

Cary Loughman said...

Congrats, Tom. I came here this morning specifically to see how the team fared. Sorry about the loss, both of the game and the brother in Christ. His loss is his gain...sort of like the basketball game for the lessons taught and learned. God is awesome!

Scripture Searcher said...

There is nothing IMPROPER about a Christian parent's pride when a child performs
well for fun - plus the glory, honor and praise of
our sovereign God!

I, you and both my adult sons were athletes and all
of us know the valuable lessons we learned from the
world of sports!

The lessons you list at the
bottom of your article will
be used by some of your fans
and friends in a sermon!

I would do it myself if I had not done so long before you were born, Beaumont boy!

What's the name of that high
school you attended? My son
attended Forest Park!

Persevere! And if you ever
need to supplement your salary (HO HO) you would do
well as a coach or sports writer!

Use me in a future resume if
you desire. HO HO HO

Tom said...

Thanks, Scripture Searcher. Nobody could ever pay me enough to coach girls' basketball. This is the kind of job I would only do for free!

I went to South Park High School in Beaumont. It no longer exists. It was located on the other side of the tracks from Forest Park...way on the other side!

jthomas899 said...

Tom, I came to your sie just to see how the girls did. They did a great job. We will be praying for Roberta. Jeff

Pastor Steve said...


I know how disappointing a loss like that can be. I appreciate your reflective comments, it is still a game, something we all have to remind ourselves at times, and you said it well.

My only regret is to live so far away that I cannot watch the Lady Ambassadors play.

Baptist Superman said...

Better providence next time.

Don said...


I met Allen Harrison about eight years ago at a conference in Springfield, Mo. After graduating from Bible College, I was under his preaching ministry for several months. When you described him as a gentle and a gracious man, you were correct. He was full of grace and mercy, and I will greatly miss him.