I was a soon-to-be high school sophomore, trying to boost both my skill and college recruitment by attending the University of Tennessee's men's basketball camp. At that time, I had developed an interest in new Tennessee head coach, Kevin O’Neill, and the disciplined way he appeared to run his program. I was eagerly looking forward to learning what I could from O’Neill and his staff.
O’Neill and his staff wasted no time pointing out to campers that the week would be an extended time of serious basketball learning. As O’Neill was introducing himself and his staff to the camp, he stopped mid-sentence and pointed at two campers that were not paying attention to O’Neill, sitting near the back of the group of close to four-hundred campers. O’Neill said, "You two. Come up here." Stunned that O’Neill noticed their behavior, they sheepishly walked up front and stood next to O’Neill in front of the entire camp. O’Neill said, "Do you guys know what these two are?" O’Neill was pointing at the two campers while he spoke. "These two are fools. And, at the University of Tennessee, when we have players acting like fools, we have them do what we call a fool's drill."
O’Neill proceeded to have a student manager put thirty-two seconds on the big clock of Thompson-Boling Arena. O’Neill told the young men that they had to run a "deep six;" three trips down and back, the length of the floor, in thirty-two seconds. If they did not make the time, they would have to repeat the drill until they did make the time. Other campers, myself included, started to grin at the predicament of our camp-mates. Well, that is until O’Neill uttered the following words addressed to the rest of us, "Now, before you think you guys get off easy, we run this camp like we run our team. If they don't make the thirty-two second time, the entire camp runs." I was stunned, concerned at the possibility of having to run, and impressed all at the same time.
When I think back on my first day at O’Neill's camp, the following words from Proverbs come to mind, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." O’Neill was teaching all of us the importance of character and discipline at the very beginning of camp. The two young men were fools, according to both O’Neill and Proverbs, due to their unwillingness to fear and respect O’Neill while he was dispersing wisdom and discipline.
We are called, as followers of Jesus Christ, to seek out the wisdom and discipline of Scripture, Biblical teaching, and Christian mentoring. Our ultimate coach and mentor is Jesus Christ. When we listen to and apply his teaching, Psalm 1 states that we will become like a strong tree planted next to a life-giving stream. Jesus himself stated that, if we abide in him, we will bear much fruit. But, again, we've got to make sure we listen and apply his teachings. If not, we will find ourselves performing the real life equivalent of what Kevin O’Neill called, "a fool's drill."
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.