I Never Thought It Would End THIS Way

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For anyone who has ever coached youth sports of any kind, from pee-wee to middle school, and even high school sports in some cases………I have a deep question that has been floating in my mind in recent days. Just give me minute to circle around to it.

My youngest daughter wrapped up her high school soccer career tonight.  The days leading up to it flooded me with memories of all her games past, both far and near.  Thoughts of different leagues, cities, coaches, teammates, hotel rooms, victory, defeat.  Reflections of how she changed over the years as a player, a competitor, and a person.  Wondering how and why things have played out exactly as they have.  Thinking about influences both good and bad that could have or would have made things better or worse if they’d been different.

And I started thinking about the kids that I have coached as my kids have grown up, from youth soccer to travel soccer, Upward basketball to middle school basketball.  And I just can’t help wondering……

If all coaches could see into the future, to that very day when a kid puts away the cleats or the hi-tops for the last time and walks away from a game………would they choose to coach individual kids differently than they presently do?

Every kid walks away from their chosen sport someday…….then what?

Effective youth coaching is psychiatry and it is parenting.  Each player is unique, and they have specific needs that team sports can bring them.

Many coaches fail to fill those needs because they falsely assume they are training the next state champs.  They fail to see each child beyond that day when the sports equipment goes in the yard sale or the closet.

Shouldn’t the journey of sports teach these things and more to prepare kids for life beyond sports?

  1.  Standard of excellence
  2.  Work ethic
  3.  To believe in themselves
  4.  To trust others
  5.  The value of encouragement
  6.  To know they aren’t the center of the universe
  7.  To know that success does not come overnight (or in one practice)
  8.  To lose with dignity
  9.  To accept temporary failures without blaming others, and to realize these failures aren’t permanent
  10.  To be pushed to their physical limit, time and time again
  11.  To love and to be loved
  12.  To sacrifice for others
  13.  To respect authority and rules
  14.  Teamwork/unselfishness
  15.  To never give up

These things still matter when the cheering stops.

Maddies last stand

The cheering stopped for Maddie tonight.  Her team lost in the regional semi-finals.  In a game where she and her teammates truly “left it on the field”, the score was tied at the end of 80 minutes of regulation.  Two 5-minute overtimes later, the score was still tied.  Penalty kicks would now decide the match.

Maddie stood over the ball, ready to attempt her shot with her team facing a nearly hopeless 3-1 deficit.

If she missed this shot, the game was over.  The season was over.

Sitting on my knees beside my wife, I simply mumbled, “Maddie needs to be to one to take this shot.”

Not because it could be the game winner………because it would be the shot that would seal the loss if she missed.

I don’t know what kind of reaction or look Kristy gave me, but I went on to say, “Maddie needs to be the one to take this shot, because I know she can handle missing the shot to end the game.  She can handle it.  That’s my daughter!”

And my voice cracked at the enormity of what I was saying in a trailing voice……..”that is OUR daughter”.

She missed.  Game over.  Season over.  High school career over for her and her senior teammates.

Maddie played her heart out.  And I was so proud of her.  But when those words came out of my mouth, “that’s our daughter” it hit me so clearly.  I was not proud of her effort or her performance.

I was proud of who she has become.

She met her mother and me after the game with head held high.  That’s our daughter.

Do your best.  Have fun.  Train and play to win.  In the end it’s just a game.  The end came tonight.  I’m thankful for all those who have prepared her in the right ways to go beyond this “end”.

If you’re coaching your 1st game or your 1000th, take an occasional peek toward the end.  Winning is a by-product of doing all things the right way.  Some lessons can’t be cast aside for the sake of early wins or just because you ARE winning games.

And while your players are dreaming of making that dramatic game-winning shot, you better spend some time preparing their toughness and character……for missing it.

Missing What Matters While We Do What Seems Urgent

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“Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass”  -Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Simple Man”

There’s no time like the present to be fully present in the lives of those we love.

I saw a post on Facebook recently, an article link about “what men really think about.”  After reading it, I realized that most of the normal “man thoughts” didn’t really describe me.  My mind was consumed by one thing, logistics.  I think my wife could possibly have an overload of logistical thoughts as well.

There is a silent danger in busy lifestyles to have our present thoughts consumed by thoughts of “what’s next”.  Who needs to be where at what time?  How will I get everything done?  How will I deal with ____ problem tomorrow?  How will I fix problems at work?  How will I carve out future time with my family?  How will we pay for college (for 4)?  In what areas do my kids need guidance or redirection?

You get the picture.  The mind is distracted from the present.  Compound this with the tendency to have over-filled schedules, running quickly from place to place, event to event, and you eventually risk living a life that lacks depth.  Healthy interactions are replaced by an urgency to maintain schedules and show up on time.

Eventually, we miss too much of the present because we are distracted by an unhealthy urgency to maintain what’s next.

I’m not suggesting that we live safe, idle lives out of fear of overload.  We should always be willing to consider doing more than we consider ourselves capable of doing, for the purpose of developing faith in God, and a reliance on His strength and not our own.

But just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do it.  Recognize when life becomes too much and too fast.  Our level of distraction when interacting with loved ones is a good measure of this.

My son Kal has a great love for his three dogs.  Of our four children, he is the first to actually follow through on the promise of, “if I can have a puppy, I will take care of it.”

When I got out of bed for church on Sunday morning, Kal was nowhere to be found in the house.  He was already outside playing with his dogs.  By the time he came in and got dressed for church and got his breakfast, we were nearing the point of running late for church.  Being  late isn’t a big deal to me, but since I had a class to teach, I at least wanted to not be late late.

His mother and sister had already left, but I realized his big brother was still in bed.  But just as I started to go roust big brother from his slumber, Kal launched excitedly into a tale of something his puppy Zelda had done earlier in the morning.  I wasn’t the least bit interested in hearing this story.  And we really needed to get moving to get to church on time.

But there was a gentle nudge inside me as I looked down and saw the excitement on his face as he talked…….just as I was ready to tell him to tell me later because “we gotta go”.

This is Important to him.  Today and forever…….to have his dad’s full attention and to place value on his words.

“Look him in the eyes and listen to every word he says, like it is the most important thing you will hear all day”.  

This is the thought that crashed into my brain.  So I listened.  And I’m sure that those two minutes that I almost lost because I was RUSHING to be somewhere on time, represented the most valuable two minutes of my whole day.

Simply being present in the present.  Getting something right that I’ve gotten wrong hundreds of times before.

If it’s important enough for  our kids to talk to us about (or ask questions about), then it’s important enough for parents to give full attention to and provide answers.

Distracted parenting means we aren’t watching or listening like we should.  Value the words of your children.  Be attentive enough to see opportunities for praise and encouragement (and correction if necessary).

When parents stop listening, kids stop talking.  When kids stop talking, parents lose a big part of their ability to have a continued positive impact in the lives of their growing children.

Plan ahead but don’t let your thoughts stay in the future.  Live a full life, but don’t let your schedules dictate your life.  And perhaps most importantly, it may be time to make changes in your life when your level of distraction and overload causes you to miss the little moments in the days of your children…………that become collectively huge moments when you miss them.

Watching Me Watching You

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If we expect our children to become adults who work hard when nobody is watching, it’s important to take time when they are children, to notice when they are working hard and doing their best.

I spent some time Friday night watching my nine year-old son Kal participating in the Center Shot archery program at our church.  It’s his second year in the program, but he has no other archery experience.  More potential than skill.  What he knows about archery, he has learned through this program (his dad knows zilch).

I always watch him shoot at the target, but sometimes two kids are shooting at the same target.  I can’t always tell which arrows are his from a distance.  So I usually just watch his body language and facial expressions and see how closely he’s listening to instructions.  Sometimes he looks my way in the back of the church gym during the night, but usually not.

I wasn’t paying particularly close attention at one point because he had just finished shooting all of his arrows into the target.  I might have even been distracted by casual conversation with someone seated next to me.  But I looked up just in time to see Kal, looking back at me proudly.  He was pulling his arrows out of the target, but he was saving the best for last.  His hand waited on the arrow that stuck perfectly in the middle of the target.  Kal wasn’t going to pull it out until he was sure his dad had seen it (“look Dad, I did it”).  As soon as we made eye contact and I gave him a thumbs up, he pulled it out and went about his business.

I didn’t carry out any notable “dad feat”.  I just sat in a folding chair.  But it made me think of kids that hit a bullseye and turn around looking for encouragement or approval…….and nobody’s there, time after time.

maddie regional 2015

Today I watched my daughter Maddie run in her regional track meet.  The 800M run is her top event and her best chance to advance to the state meet for the first time (1st & 2nd place qualify).  She came into the meet as the 5th seed in region (I think?).  As a 16 year-old junior, Maddie and I have shared hundreds and hundreds of athletic contests, many of those with me as her coach at youth and middle school levels.

But in high school, I have tried to be a quiet presence of support, hiding in the shadows.  As a father of a teenage girl, the thought enters your mind that your daughter probably won’t even notice anymore if you’re not at her events (and does she even care if you come?).  When Maddie was on the track today, I had no reason to believe she even knew where I was.

I stood by myself at a spot just outside the track, about 75 yards beyond the finish line.  She looked strong as she passed me on the 2nd and final lap.  She moved up from 5th place to a strong 2nd place finish on the lap, finishing 5 seconds better than her season’s best time.

Silently from a distance I watched.  I wondered if she would look my way.  I delighted in the joy in her face, felt a sense of pride in her laughter and sportsmanship among the other runners.  And then she shocked me.  Maddie looked across the track at me like she knew exactly where I was the whole time……grinning at me from ear to ear giving me a big thumbs up (“I did it Dad!!!”).

I know it sounds cliche’ and cheesy but don’t underestimate the value of just being there.  Kids just want to be noticed when they do something good.  They need encouragement to continue on when they think they’re doing poorly.

As our kids grow older, will our kids choose us as parents to share their triumphs with?  Will they give up on something too soon because we weren’t there to help them believe in themselves?

Some kids feel constant pressure to be the best on the court, track, or field.  Kids that are playing to please somebody else are miserable.

But kids that look over their shoulder for support, encouragement, and direction…….and always find it, are something else entirely.

SECURE!

Whatever your kids are doing, just find a way to be there.  They don’t need you to be there to tell them how they can do it better.  They just need you to celebrate when they do it well (or give a a great effort, of course).

Are My Kids Gonna Recognize and Avoid That Big Pile of Poo?

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Right from wrong.  Truth.  All parents want their kids to recognize these things.  How will our children choose what is right?  How will they define what is right?  How will they become critical thinkers?

Ultimately, will they develop good decision-making skills?

It won’t happen by accident.  Blessed with young children in your home?   Embrace opportunities early on to not only teach right from wrong, but also to demonstrate truths, values, and worldviews that will form the foundation of their ability to make good decisions as they mature.

When my kids were small I made a habit of pushing their buttons of critical thinking by giving them small doses of impossibilities.  Tell them you think a puzzle piece goes somewhere it can’t possibly go.  Tell them to try the square peg in the round hole.  Watch their reactions, guide them toward finding the truth for themselves and toward correct solutions to problems without blindly accepting everything they are told.  They don’t have to “question everything” but they do need to assess the value and truth of things as they grow.  Crap or not crap?

The bad news is that the world is full of lies.  But…..the good news is that the world is full of lies.  Teaching moments come in large doses these days.  Failure is a great teacher.  TV and social media flood our lives with perfect examples of “how not to do things”.

Be ready to engage in conversations with your kids about the aftermath of bad decisions and the complete crisis of truth.  If you are a believer in the truths of the Holy Bible, then you must help your kids figure out daily how to apply these truths in a broken world……….to recognize crap when they see it, to realize when things have no value.

Parents who are silent in these areas risk seeing their kids’ system of values shaped instead by a culture that spews this garbage and more:

-Life is supposed to be fair.

-Other people owe me something.  Personal responsibility amounts to talking about what other people should be providing for me.

-There is great value in physical appearance, along with the attention and approval of others.

-If you don’t like the rules, re-shape them to meet your own desires.

-Instant gratification always outweighs patience, obedience, and hard work.  You can start at the top.

-If you fail, it must be somebody else’s fault.  Nothing wrong with blaming and excuse making.

-Lying is ok as long as you compare yourself to “worse acts”.  Results are more important than honesty and integrity.

-If you fail to embrace a decaying system of truth and morality, you must be a hater, bigot, sexist, racist.

-The president controls jobs and the economy and my prospect of work.

-It’s of utmost importance, not only to be right, but to convince others that you are right and they are wrong.

-Bruce Jenner……nah, not even opening that one up.

-It’s ok for Christians to spew venom toward and gossip about their brothers behind their backs……as long as they don’t use 4-letter words while they’re doing it.

There is an abundance of crap out there and it changes every day.  As parents, arm yourself with prayer and truth each day. Eyes and ears open.   Be intentional when your kids are young.  Set out to not only arm them with truth but instill in them a desire to choose it and live it.

Philippians 4

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Recognize the pile of poo.  Steer away from it.  Steer others away.

Put Me In Coach, I’m Ready To Play!

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THERE COMES A TIME IN EVERYONE’S LIFE WHERE THEY MUST TIP THE BALANCE AWAY FROM DOING THE THINGS THAT MAKE THEM STRONGER……AND START DOING THE THINGS THAT THEY DO WELL.

The ongoing struggle to balance life- family, church, work, community……with God at the center of all.

The day may come when balance is an impossibility.  There is no fight left in you to get through an average day…….because there are no average days anymore.

When you’re picking up pebbles and holding onto them for enough consecutive days, you eventually pack the weight of a boulder on your back.

Maybe some pebbles were steps of faith or acts of obedience to God.

Some, I’m sure, were misguided steps rooted in people pleasing and over-reliance on self.

But carrying something for good reasons doesn’t mean we need to carry it forever.

Look to God when you’re still standing instead of looking to Him after you collapse from the weight.

Maybe it wasn’t a breaking point, but more like a “something’s gotta change” moment.

I picked up my 9 year-old son from Wednesday night church activities after finishing a 14-hour work day.  As I was trying to have a short conversation with another adult, play-fighting/wrestling started between my son and me.

He hit me with a right hook……so hard that my glasses went flying across the room.  As I led him silently (and not so gently) out of the room, another child retrieved my glasses and nervously handed them to me.

She knew Kal was in big trouble  .And I knew something had to change.

I saw a glaring deficit of character in my son and I knew it was time for a sobering look in the mirror to see how he arrived there.

Among other things, I told him that this was the worst thing that any of our four children had done………..and then truth hit me square in the face this time.

During the first nine years of life for his brother and sisters, I wasn’t off trying to save the world…….living life like God had granted me some sort of invincibility.  Raising God-honoring children had been my greatest passion, and I somehow got off course.

Change came gradually.

My life’s not supposed to be easy.

Living life at a high rate of speed.  Rest is overrated.

To whom much is given much is expected.

Not worrying, just plotting the next challenge.

If you’re doing it for God, then God will provide a way to get through it.

Bend over and pick up the next pebble.

Sometimes in obedience to God.

Sometimes unintentionally people-pleasing.

Never willing to show weakness, I attracted the pebbles of others

As the weight gets heavier, does trust in God grow, or does one just simply work harder?

Maybe I started thinking, “That’s ok God…..I got this.”

Time and energy that God seems to supply when we follow His paths somehow go away.

My best hope for changing the world and changing eternity…..is to raise kids who have an amazing impact in this world.  Character doesn’t happen by accident, especially the kind that honors, obeys, and loves God.

Change has to happen.  If I knew how, I would.

Pray, and wait, and be ready to make changes today that don’t necessarily bring results tomorrow.

I traditionally go Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve by myself.  My oldest daughter was in from college, so I asked her to tag along.  Thankfully she said yes.  We shopped, not because we had to, but because we could.

It turned out to be a wonderful day spent together.  A day that felt so different than any in recent memory.  I transformed into a different person.  A person with a greater ability to impact the lives of those around me.  Relaxed.  Smiling and speaking to strangers.  Truly enjoying my daughter’s company.  Enjoying the moment in a new way.

Later in the evening, I came to realize why.

A mind at true rest.  The burden of problem solving and problem preventing that normally fills my mind was absent.  Even though I’m not a worrier by any means, I am a thinker and a planner…….constantly on guard against winding up in unfavorable situations.

Looking too far ahead.  Distracted.  Missing out on right now.  Constantly training and preparing for “tomorrow”.

Be careful of a life that becomes so full (even if it’s full of good things) that you spend your days in deep thought trying to solve it all, distracted from the present……..and the people in the present…..and in your presence.

A life that becomes too full for rest is in danger of becoming too full for God.

God’s love and direction in our lives can become clouded as we live like a panicked drowning man fighting against the person trying to pull us to the surface.

For the people who depend on you to shape their future, it’s important to have a vision for the future.  But their greatest hope may lie in your efforts to make the most out of each moment in the present……without distraction.

Sports teams in preseason practices get dreadfully restless and bored until the real games start.

“Coach, can we at least scrimmage today?”

“Coach, you gonna pass out uniforms today?”

Don’t be a Bengals fan, living each season for “next season”.

John Fogerty – Centerfield

Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes
You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride
Just to hit the ball and touch ’em all, a moment in the sun
It’s gone and you can tell that one goodbye!

Oh, put me in, Coach, I’m ready to play, today

It’s time to carry people instead of rocks!

Being a parent is a full-time job.  Do it well.  The season starts today.

Got the right uniform on again.  Put me in Coach.

 

Hangin Out At Urgent Care Just For Kicks

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Today would be a great day to spend two hours at an urgent care facility to find out my daughter has a cold.  Any day is a great day for that, right?  Misery, here we come!

Or it could turn out to be a perfect reminder of what a treasure one’s daughter is.  A time to figure out that a father’s role and relationship with his daughter changes significantly as she gets older, but his value in her life should not.

I slept only an hour before being rudely awakened by a splitting headache at 1am.  Restless, painful sleep until 4am until I gave up and got out of bed.  It couldn’t hurt any worse, might as well go into work.  Besides, retail management at Christmas time has advantages to be gained by working at times when no one else is around.

The pain diminished throughout the day, and I felt like I’d accomplished enough to call it a day after 12 plus hours without a break.  As I was walking to my truck to leave for home at an unusually “early” hour, my cell phone rang.

My 16 year-old Maddie had been battling terrible head congestion for days and was due to travel the following morning with her mother (who was running her first marathon).  “Karrick, Maddie is running a fever now and I really think she needs to be checked out this evening.  Can you take her to urgent care?”   Yeah…..uh…..sure.

But I was selfishly irritated.  Kristy couldn’t take her because she had a meeting at church.  Gee, hadn’t we talked about telling people “no”.  I didn’t feel good and I just wanted to go home.

But of course flu and strep have been spreading through our schools like wildfire.  I knew she needed to be checked out as a precaution before traveling.

We arrived to the warzone of a waiting room after navigating the onslaught of cigarette smokers in the parking lot.  Just enough empty seats for the two of us.  It looked like we were in for a long wait (and we were).

We sat surrounded by awful sights and sounds of sickness and pain.  Snort.  Sniff.  Moan.  Cough.  Cry.  Yelling children.

“Sis, we’re gonna wait two hours to find out you have a cold.”

“Dad, have you noticed how angry the nurses look when they step out to call back the next patient?”  Yep.

Did I mention that my daughter is 16 now and that I struggle terribly to carry on conversations with her?   We had a nice 30 minute wild run of catching fish in the surf every cast back in July.  We’ve had some good conversations about the appreciation and acquisition of classic vinyl records in the last 6 months.  Past that, I’m just sort of “present” in recent history.

Make the most of the opportunity.

I noticed kids running wild doing things that she knew she would never be permitted to do at their age.  Parents doing crazy things in the waiting room that she knew I would never do as a parent.  So I texted her about it.  We laughed.  Not at people, but at the crazy circus environment that surrounded us.  We found funny stuff on Twitter and shared laughs.  She picked my brain countless times as she played a trivia game on her phone.

And since we knew her mom was in a church meeting, just for laughs, we sent her a text of our ordeal that included what some might consider colorful language.

We found common ground to talk about and laugh about.  In a miserable place during a miserable wait, I enjoyed my daughter.  She may have even enjoyed me and my odd sense of humor (and my trivia prowess).

As we walked out (it was a cold) at 8pm, I admitted to her that I was tired and that I’d been up since 4am and worked a 12 hour day.  Her response reminded me what a treasure she is,

“Sorry dad, I know this is the last place you wanna be right now.”

I told her I was fine and that we need to be certain that she didn’t have flu or strep.  What I didn’t tell her was that this was exactly where I needed to be at that moment.

Sometimes dads are at a loss about what to say or do.  We just need to be ready to say “yes” sometimes and remember that life’s not about us.  And even if we are a bit lost in the shuffle as our girls get older, the least we can do is be present.

Show up where we are needed or wanted.  Show up for things that are important to our kids.

Being present doesn’t mean we always know what to do or what to say.  It does mean that we choose to spend our time where our family is.

The daughter who spends her evenings in her room with little to share with her father on most evenings still finds great comfort in knowing that her father is always available in the next room.

Be there when she needs you.

 

 

Smile….God Loves You!

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Sometimes perspective arrives when we stop searching for it.

One of those days…….

Too many hours spent at work (if I can just get caught up on some things, I’ll have more time with my family)

Too many rude and impatient people (“I can be nice to anybody for five minutes.  I can bite my tongue.  I’m not offendable)

Too many things to do.  Not enough help to do it.  The demands and requests keep coming.  (I can’t figure out how to get it all done)

Too many places to be at the same time.  (If this day was 30 hours long, I would still be in trouble).

If one more thing goes wrong, I’m gonna lose it.  (and it always does)

“This too shall pass.”

I don’t believe this is actually in scripture, but I repeat it to myself often when overwhelmed with circumstances.  It does give biblical perspective, but sometimes there is no comfort in simple analytical thinking.  The weariness doesn’t go away.

My day finished with a long church meeting that left me arriving home at 10:30.  Little to no time spent with any family member in an entire day.  Great.  Weary……very.

I mindlessly watched TV for a while before bed.  Kal had fallen asleep in the recliner next to me.  When I picked him up to carry him to bed, perspective came in the most gentle and perfect way.

He had been sick and hadn’t gone to school.  Almost 9 years old now, I struggled to pick him up and carry his sleeping body.  His head rested on my shoulder as I started through the house.  I took just a few steps and felt his fevered cheek against mine.

Weariness, unrest, and anxiety gave way to an amazing feeling of peace.

God loves me.  That’s enough.

“God loves you” sounds terribly cliche’ and empty when tossing it out to others, but it’s powerful enough to bring you to your knees in moments like this.

For just an instant, with my son’s head resting on my shoulder, I was reminded how much I love this precious child (and all four of my children).  And as I gave thanks for this boy and the privilege of being called “daddy”, I saw so clearly my Father’s love for me.

And I saw great purpose again.  Not to survive the day and schedules and get things done……but to love.  To be the best dad I can be.

I may not get to spend as much time as I’d like with my kids tomorrow either.  But if I trust, honor, and obey God with my plans and efforts to do so…….He will provide a way.

In comforting my sick son, I found comfort in my Father.

God loves me.  He loves me enough to make me a daddy.  He loves me enough to send His Son to die on the cross for me.

I carried my son to bed with a smile on my face.