As a basketball coach, there are a few sayings that I yell as habitually as I breathe. For example, I find myself repeating the words, “Dribble with your head up!” often enough that even I become annoyed... But still, I scream the words over and over again to remind whoever is driving the floor to stop staring at their Nike’s and start looking for a smart pass.
Here’s the scene:
Our team has been battling with our rivals, gutting their way through a difficult game. It’s the fourth quarter and there are still 3 minutes left on the clock. The opposing team just completed a fast break to tie the score and they have now fallen into a full court press. Their cheering section is loud. Our cheering section is determined to be louder. We have 10 seconds to cross the half court line. This is do or die. Every player has resolved to put in 3 minutes of hard work. The referee blows his whistle. The clock is counting down.
We have a player inbounding the ball. She passes it in, successfully, to our point guard who starts to drive the sideline. Two of the opposing team’s players hustle to meet our point guard, attempting to cut her off so she can’t run the length of the floor. Both of our wings have sprinted to our basket, where they stand completely unguarded. I scream from the bench, “Dribble with your head up!” hoping that among the other 200 voices in the gym, our play maker can hear my reminder to look around the trap and see that we are still in the game.
In basketball, the danger of looking down while you dribble is that you limit your vision to only what is right in front of you. With your head down, you can only see your feet, the court lines and the ball. You feel the defense hovering somewhere above your eyeline. They feel giant. You feel pressure. Your mind exaggerates reality and what was a 5 v 5 competition now seems like a 1 v 2 contest. When you only allow yourself to see what is right in front of you, reality slips further, anxiety presses deeper and eventually you break.
“Dribble with your head up!” It’s a reminder to our ball handler that they may be temporarily stopped, but that they are not in the game alone.
I spent the morning in my office sending e-mails and making sure that everything is ready for our church services tonight. I couldn’t stop tapping my feet and spinning in my chair. I simply couldn’t sit any longer! I went outside where I was greeted by perfect temps as I began circling our church parking lot.
This route is one that I know well. I walk this way when I’m stressed. I jog these laps when I feel good. Today was different. I didn’t have my headphones. I wasn’t staring at the ground to make sure I don’t trip. I just looked up and admired the beautiful campus the Lord has blessed us with.
I smiled as I recalled the Journey students clearing out the brush in the woods as a service project last spring. I walked past the playset where our Northside Kids love to hang out in the summers. I see the gazebo in the woods where I pray and study on crisp, fall mornings.
I see the fog hovering above the soccer fields where we have made many great memories. I pass the youth building and am reminded of how the Lord is working through our young people. I laugh a little as I pass the Sunday School Classrooms, thinking of all the strange and wonderful things I’ve heard our kids say.
I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to serve here.
I begin another time around the parking lot, coaching myself to walk with my head up. My gaze fell on our sign which currently reads, “It’s a new year, but the same God.” I am thankful that even when I receive devastating news, His faithfulness remains. I am grateful that when it feels like the ground I have been standing on suddenly gives way, He is already rebuilding new worlds.
Church Family, this is your reminder to keep your head up.
You may be trapped at a sideline, pivoting, wondering how you’re going to get out of this mess. Look up and see that you are not alone.
You may have received some news that was the exact opposite of what you expected to hear. Look up and see that something else is in the works.
Move forward with your head up. There is still time left on the clock.
Director of Student Ministries