Becoming “Coach Mom”

I am a 5th and 6th grade boys basketball coach!  I NEVER, EVER imagined that I would say that!  I am getting ready to begin my 2nd season as “Coach Mom” as the boys have named me, and it is still so surreal – God most definitely has a sense of humor!!

Last year I started off 2014 studying the life of Gideon, beginning in Judges 6.  The story of Gideon is one of the many examples in the Bible where God uses the weakest, least likely person to accomplish great things.

Here’s a brief synopsis (but really, go read the whole story – you will love it!):

  • The Israelites were hiding in fear from the Midianites. An angel of the Lord came and sat down under a tree where Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress.  When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
  • “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
  • The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
  • “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
  • The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
  • Gideon went to battle with a small army of men and defeated all of the Midianites.

So, of course, as I studied how the Lord strengthened Gideon and led the Israelites to victory, I started praying that God would give me new opportunities to do extraordinary things. (Be careful what you pray for!) I wanted to experience God’s strength in my areas of weakness.  I wanted to experience God in the greatest capacity possible and glorify Him with my life.  I wanted God to exceed my life far beyond my dreams, expectations and imagination.  As usual, I had in mind what some of these opportunities might include – feeding the homeless, overseas missions, disaster relief projects, digging wells, fostering orphans…BIG adventures!

As I was waiting for these big opportunities to present themselves, I went about my life.  It was time to sign my son up for basketball so I ran over on my lunch break to register him. While I was getting all the info the guy organizing the teams said, “Would you be interested in coaching this year?”  Ha! Seriously?!  I mean, did this guy see me?  I’m a 5’1″, I’m a woman, and I have never played basketball (unless HORSE counts)!

I really thought he was joking, and I totally laughed in his face!!  Haha!  He said “No, really.  A lot of extra kids signed up, and we really need another coach.”  I mean, I like basketball, and sure, I grew up watching Michael Jordan slam dunk, and I’ve been a Duke fan (don’t hate)ever since Grant Hill and Christian Laettner played, but I didn’t know nearly enough to coach!!  If he had asked me to coach football or baseball, it would’ve been an easy yes, but not basketball!  He said, “we can give you a coaching manual and all the tools you need, we just need someone to help.”

I couldn’t believe it!  There was no way I was going to be able to coach boys basketball!  I had a few more minutes of my lunch break, so I sat in my car and prayed about it.  As I was praying, God reminded me of some other prayers that I had prayed over the years:

Shortly after I became a single mom, when Ty was 3, he started playing t-ball.  Taking him to t-ball was one of the hardest things for me.  I would sit out at the field and look at all the dads out there with their kids and just be so brokenhearted for Ty!  I don’t know how many practices I cried through and prayed that God would send our family a godly man that would be willing to be out on the field with him.  As time went on it got easier, I made friends with the other parents, Ty’s coaches got to know him and really invested in him on and off the field.  And soon the fact that our family was different wasn’t so hard to accept.

Secondly, (hello!) I had been praying for new, God-sized opportunities, right!

So God said,” Mandy, this is your chance! I’m answering those prayers. This is Ty’s chance to have a parent with him on the court and your opportunity to be involved in your community in a new way. Where is my girl that wanted adventure and to learn how to rely on My strength? I am with you Mighty Warrior!  All you have to do is say yes.”  Just like Gideon, I thought about how unqualified I was.  I was scared, I was excited, I was nervous; I couldn’t even imagine myself on a basketball court leading a team, but I trusted my Lord to do what He promised.

Sometimes God rescues us from a hard situation, but sometimes God empowers us through it; and when He empowers us through something the end result is always victory!

For Gideon, it was a victory that impacted an entire nation for 40 years: “Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years.”  Judges 8:28

So, I called back and said yes!  The guy was really surprised that I changed my mind, but he put me down to coach!  The next day at the coach’s meeting I got some strange looks as the only female in the room!  All the other coaches were talking about the game rules and asking questions about defense and I had NO IDEA what they were even talking about!!

I spent the next several days studying, researching, talking to people who had coached before and just trying to learn as much as I could.  I ended up with a great team of boys who played hard and kept me laughing!  One practice I was having them run suicides (or whatever the politically correct term is these days) and they all hiked their shorts up like Steve Urkel and said, “Okay Coach Mom, we’re ready!”  Hahaha!  I’ve been “Coach Mom” ever since!

I drilled them on the basics during practice and at game time I told them to just go out there and have fun!  We ended up as the #3 team out of 14 in the county, we won an award for best defense and 2 of my players qualified for the state All-Star tournament (where we got stomped!)!!  Before, when people asked me about Ty’s ability to play basketball, I would always say that he was really great at football and baseball, but basketball wasn’t really his thing.  With me out on the court with Ty, he found the confidence he needed to be aggressive and play really well!  We had both wins and losses, but we all had a lot of fun and learned a lot!  So, when I was asked to coach again this year – I was excited to say “YES”!

What I love the most about this story is that I can’t take any of the credit for a successful season – God is the hero, all I did was say yes!  God wants to get us where He wants us to go more than we want to get where God wants us to go – all we have to do is follow.  God will use whoever is willing.

I do realize that this story and the events that took place is not of high impact to the world at large!  My coaching basketball hasn’t changed history in any way and there’s no way to tell at this point if any of my 5th and 6th grade players will ever play in the NBA or even remember this season years from now.  I didn’t preach the gospel at games and have people on their knees ready to accept Jesus as Lord.  I didn’t get calls for  interviews or WNBA job offers! 🙂

But it was never about all of that.  It was a beginning step that led to something bigger.  Like a proud parent watching their child take their first steps, God rejoices over every baby step.  And He turns our small steps into giant leaps.  I got to experience God in a deeper way and it was a profound turning point in my life!  That first “yes” to coaching was the key that opened the door for more opportunities. The more I say “yes” to God, the more He allows me to do and the more I get to experience Him.  Our walk with God is designed to be progressive, He leads us step by step on the path He has planned for us.

Right after basketball season last year I was presented with another opportunity that was also a big challenge.  I prayerfully accepted it and, within weeks, the Lord opened a door from there that led me to something even better! And then I got to do some of the big things I had dreamed of – I got to travel, work on a disaster relief rebuild project, feed the homeless and share the love of Christ through a women’s ministry!  The opportunities keep coming my way and I don’t have to strive or fight and worry to make things happen.  It’s my job to listen for God’s voice and it’s His job to establish my steps! And when I do my job, He does His!

As I look back, I realize that each step of trust and obedience led to the next opportunity.  I would not be where I am today if I had allowed fear, shame or doubt to keep me from the opportunities God sent my way.  Being dependent on God’s strength has also allowed me to grow closer to Him and experience His power and hear His sweet voice in a much deeper way!

The Bible talks a lot about how when we are strengthened by God spiritually, then we are physically able to do what He calls us to do:

  1. ” I CAN do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13
  2. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”  2 Chronicles 16:9
  3. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10
  4. “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs and will strengthen your frame.”  Isaiah 58:11
  5. “I will strengthen them in the Lord and in His name they will live securely.”  Zechariah 10:12
  6. “But the Lord is faithful, He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”  2 Thessalonians 3:3
  7. “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.” Daniel 10:19
  8. ” But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ That is why I delight in weaknesses. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  9. “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”  2 Peter 2:11
  10.  “The Lord has given us everything we need to live a life that pleases God.” 2 Peter 1:3

I have all I need to do whatever God wants me to do. The same is true for you. He’s equipped each of us to do everything He’s calling us to do!  God is in the business of strategically positioning you in the right place at the right time, but it’s up to us to see and seize those opportunities.

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