This is a tribute to a coach who I had the privilege of growing around. A man who is as passionate about the girls on his team as he is about the sport he is coaching. His love for the game and seeing others enjoy the game are evident in so many ways. However, above all else it is his love for his team that moves me the most. I have heard countless times phrases like "she needs basketball more than basketball needs her" or "getting her in the gym gets her off the streets" or "being on a team requires them to keep better grades and stay out of trouble" or "she doesn't do a lot for us when she is on the floor but she has a good heart." He looked at every girl that walked through the doors of the gym not as his next star but another child to invest in. It seems he has always looked past simple physical ability and straight into the heart of every girl that showed up for tryouts. Don't get me wrong the coach loves to win and is just about as competitive as they come. He loves practicing a play during practice and then watching it be perfectly executed in the next game. However, more than that he sees the importance in reaching out to those kids who might have nothing else. Kids who are used to nothing more than making trouble or having a hard life. These are the kids that pull most at his heart strings. They are the kids that he keeps on the team simply because they need the team. They are the kids he drives 30 miles out of his way for just so they can have a ride to and from practices/games. They are the kids whose parents he talks to so that they might be allowed to actually go out for the team. He fights for them and relishes in their successes no matter if those successes are making their first basket all year or finally remember how to run a play correctly.
It may have taken me a few years to finally see it but when I did it was bluntly obvious to me. The coach was playing much the same role that Jesus played. No matter how much crap he got for keeping a certain girl on the team or putting her on the floor he could see how important it was for her to be included. His team looked much the same as what Jesus' team looks like. Jesus doesn't simply keep the talented, the athletic, or the "good" ones. He takes the physically challenged, the broken, and the needy. There have been many moments in my life when I have felt unworthy of being on Jesus' team. I just knew that there had been some kind of mistake when cuts had been made and they had kept me by accident. However, there has been no mistake...not with me or with you. We were meant to be kept on the team. Jesus is all about winning the fight for souls but he is willing to take the risk of putting you on the team simply because he knows you need someone on your side. He knows you need the team more than the team needs you. So be thankful that we are serving a God who looks past our physical ability and into our hearts. He is a God who sees our brokenness and says put her/him on the team anyways.