We were up by 4 at halftime in the championship game of our conference tournament. My team, which consisted of a bunch of scrappy girls, had by far exceeded expectations for the season. They had endured injury, heartache, and team turmoil and were now on the cusp of winning the school's first conference title in over a decade. My assistant coaches and I felt good about the way we played and our lead.
The agreed upon game plan was to press the entire first half in order to wear down the opposing team's best player and then to switch to a 3-2 zone defense after halftime. The goal of the switch was to throw the opposing team off by playing a defense we had not played all season (yet practiced extensively). The game plan was going to work. However, as we were getting ready to exit the locker room and head back onto the floor, I looked at my team and said, "Girls, we are going to stay in '100.'" "100" was code for our full court press. My top assistant heard what I said and quickly grabbed my arm, "Coach, I thought we were going to switch to the 3-2 after halftime." My response, "I know, Coach. But, it's working. So, let's stick with it." He urged me one more time to reconsider, "But Coach. We thought long and hard about this game plan." "I know, but '100' is working. Let's stick with it." My assistant reluctantly agreed. As a result, we went back out onto the floor against a team that had made all the necessary half-time adjustments to easily beat our full court press. We ended up losing the game by 12.
What Can My Halftime Mistakes Teach Us About Following Christ?
1. Listen to the wise people around you. Proverbs 15.22 states that, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." My team's plans failed that day because I refused to listen to my advisers. My assistant coach, who had twice as many years of head coaching experience as me, urged me to stick to the game plan. If I had listen to my assistant coach and stuck with the game plan, I believe we would have won. As you follow Jesus, make sure you have a "team" of older and more mature Christ-followers who are discipling you and speaking into your journey.
2. Leave your pride at the door. Proverbs 16.18 says that "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." Sadly, I cringe when I reflect on that halftime experience because, to simply put it, I was too stubborn to listen and too prideful to think my reasoning was wrong. As a result, I had to stand in front of a locker room full of hurting athletes who had worked so hard and endured so much just so they could win their conference tournament. Most of the time, a prideful person not only hurts themselves, but those around them. As you follow Jesus, leave your pride at the door by embracing your weaknesses. Embracing weakness helps us realize that we need others, and ultimately the grace of God, to accomplish anything worth accomplishing, especially Jesus-Kingdom size things.
3. Adjustments often need to be made. I believe that I committed a coaching cardinal sin during that halftime; I made no adjustments. The best coaches are always willing to take a good game plan and adjust to make it better. Proverbs 16.9 states, "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps." This verse acknowledges the fact that we, as humans, will make plans. Making plans is prudent and wise. (See the ant in Proverbs 6.) However, as we plan, we must always, ALWAYS be open to God's leading and when an adjustment in our plans needs to be made, we follow God's leading.
If I had listened to the wise people around me, if I had left my pride at the door, and if I had made adjustments at halftime, there would be a conference championship banner hanging from the rafters of my team's gymnasium. Alas, there is not a banner and that halftime will always haunt me.
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.