Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why JV Basketball Matters

The Junior Varsity Basketball Team comes under the scrutiny of Scots sports fans at least once a year. Students make comments that range from condescending to contemptuous. Here is a sampling of just a few from previous years:

“ I’m sure y’all had higher SAT scores than them!”
“Their school is just a lot bigger…”
“Why are you guys so bad?”
“Y’all lost by HOW MUCH!?”
“I bet an Intramural team could beat you guys.”

Out of all players on the current roster, I have spent the most time on the court, played the most games, missed the most shots, committed the most fouls, and deserve the most blame for our poor record. I say all this not so that people might be more specific in their comments (“John, Why are you so bad!?”), but so that people might understand my unique perspective on the value of the Junior Varsity program over the past few years as a fulfillment of the Covenant College mission and as the refinement of character in individual athletes.

In the USA, it is hard not to miss the high regard most people have for college athletes. Theirs is a position respected by our peers and an accolade that seems to last for a lifetime. I have never played with a skilled adult without hearing someone ask, “Did he play college?” That status of having once played in college and especially in the NCAA makes you, in many people’s eyes, an authority on your sport. The idea that this activity brings pride, respect, and a sense of identity and self-worth is vital for understanding why JV basketball is important to the redemptive mission of Covenant College. Bearing this in mind, let’s briefly explore what a typical season has looked like for the JV player over the past 3 years.

The season starts with the JV player signing loads of paperwork and getting lots of shiny new gear. There are new shoes, dry-fit shirts, jerseys, sweats, and even your own locker. Every freshmen takes a picture of their new stuff and sends it to their friends at some point. Here is mine:

After the players receive their stuff, tryouts commence. Those trying out for Varsity spend their Fall Break on campus with two-a-day practices. After about 7 practices, the Varsity roster is chosen and the remaining players are told to start reporting to JV practice. This is where the divide begins. Some players will choose to quit at this point and try again at  another school or spend their time doing something else. Those players decide that it’s not worth going through the work and commitment only to have the accolade of “JV College Athlete.” Which is fine, but they are missing out.

Fast-forward to the middle of the season. All the games up to this point have been lost, some of them by as few as 5 or 6 and others by as much as 50. There have been glimmers of good basketball. But as a whole, no one is pleased with how well they have played. It isn’t what any of the players imagined their college careers would be.

At this point, the JV player is at rock bottom. The sport that he based his identity and self-worth on isn’t panning out like he had hoped, Covenant classes are hard, and it is the crunch time of the semester. Freshmen who tried out for Varsity have not been home for months, and basketball just seems like a lot of unrewarding work that results in no wins, upset teammates, and disappointed coaches.

The JV player has two choices: he can quit, or he can change the reason he plays the game.

At least in my experience, the humility that comes with this situation is a gift from God. After he accepts the “shame” from his culture in not being among the top 20 players at a school with only about 1,000 people, there is a glorious opportunity for God’s grace to transform the heart and mind of JV player.

What is the chief end of man?
To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

When the player recognizes that God cares about basketball because of the enjoyment and glory he receives by delighting in his good creation, the player can participate in the sport to that end, rather than focusing on himself. The driving pressure to be successful by the world’s standards falls away when the player recognizes that he is, from an eternal perspective, accomplishing something more glorious by praising God through the act of playing the game. The JV player is reminded of where his identity is truly and eternally found: in Christ.

Christ is preeminent in all things, even basketball.

Without the pressure to protect his identity and self-image, God’s redemptive mission has an even greater opportunity to work itself out in the fallen relationships between the JV player and his teammates, coaches, and opponents in ways that are different from almost every other basketball program in the country. The difficulties and disappointments are still there, but they are now viewed as opportunities to practice God’s grace rather than just obstacles.

There is probably no other place than Covenant College where biblical teaching is so faithfully applied to such a difficult and fallen situation so effectively and continuously. To judge from the world’s standards, the JV program at Covenant college has been a failure: 2 wins in the past 5 seasons. but from the viewpoint of Christ’s redeeming work in the lives of his followers, it has been a continual success in producing men whose lives more fully reflect Christ.

For those who don’t believe me: play a game of basketball with Jase Gallagher, Isaiah Day, or Jung Shin and you will see humble, God-centered men who are a joy to be around and an honor to play the glorious game of basketball with. These Seniors are great examples of what Christian basketball players look like regardless of the points scored, the stats earned, or the playing time. I am blessed to have been a part of their team.

The JV program will probably always face difficulties and it is my hope and prayer that those will always be used in God’s will to bring about his redemptive purposes in the hearts of the players and coaches.

Covenant College’s faithful teaching has had no greater direct application than in the JV men’s basketball team over the past few years.

Disclaimer: This article is written with the intent to highlight some of the ways in which God has been faithful and active in the Covenant College men’s basketball program over the past few years. It is NOT an indication of current or future seasons’ prospects and attitudes, but merely a reflection of the past.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

How To Play Basketball. Part 1

A guide to playing basketball? Seriously? Yes, I am serious, and qualified to write this article. Which isn't really about how to play basketball, by the way. Its a short post about how to play basketball for those who don't. Huh? Yes you read that correctly. This is a short description of how to be a more effective basketball player at the playground or during pickup. So basically, we are just going to cover some fundamentals. Impress all your friends, get picked sooner, and make the NBA, by just following these simple guidelines.

1. Keep Your Knees Bent.

This one is dedicated to my dad. I have heard him yell it every season for years now. Sounds simple right? well its not. It is utterly exhausting to do for any length of time. But it is what makes the biggest difference of all. If you aren't extending your legs for a jump or shot. Your knees should be bent and you weight should be over your toes and the balls of your feet.

2. Keep Moving on Offense.

After spending time here in Australia, I think all basketball players should be required to play Netball. (Its the   Basketball Lite for Australians, or for people who can't dribble......) Watch this clip and see how nobody stops moving except the person with the ball.

You don't have to watch the whole thing.. I didn't

If you feel like nobody passes you the ball, its probably because you aren't moving enough.

3. Keep Yourself Between Your Man and the Basket On Defense.

Defense Wins Championships, that should be cross-stitched, hanging on your wall. Defense is the only part of Basketball that you can really control. There is more than ample explanation on the nuances of this. But in a nutshell. You should never be anywhere but between your man and the rim. That is unless you are playing help defense. But who does that in pickup?

4. Take High Percentage Shots 

Don't do this. Do this.

5. Keep Both Hands Up.

This one is also dedicated to my dad, as it was always his second favorite thing to yell. Everybody wants to touch the ball during the game, (that is the fun part!). But I can tell you from experience that there is nothing more frustrating than when you decide to share the ball and the other guy doesn't catch it. And yes I have been on both sides of it. (I take the time to apologize to all those people that passed me the ball when I didn't catch it...)

You should also have both hands up when you go to rebound. It might be cool to catch it with one hand. But statistically its just not worth it.

In conclusion, if you do all these things, you are 100% guaranteed* to make the NBA,
Thanks for reading.

* or at least you will have a better chance...

Friday, September 7, 2012

How to feel if someone ignores your message

So almost a month without a blog? Didn't see that coming at all. But while we are here.. How bout we talk about something interesting.

Have you ever messaged someone and they either didn't message you back or responded hours, maybe days later?

It probably didn't make you feel very good did it?.... You probably had thoughts like "they are ignoring me.." Or "they obviously think my message is a low priority.."

Let me start by saying that it is entirely possible they do think that.

But not necessarily.

This post is an apology/self-defense about this subject. Yesterday I sent/recieved over 200 electronic messages between Text Messages, Facebook, Skype, and Email. And I had to delay my responses to many people as well as ignore some entirely.

So all that just to say, don't take an ignored or delayed message personally. And if I have done this to you, I sincerely apologize. Sorry to say it will probably happen again!

P.S. Sorry there are no links or pictures... I wrote this on my phone, because I had too many messages to answer!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lists, like Listerine, but even more fresh

So I've probably told you that I like lists. There really is nothing quite like the feeling you get when you can visually see Progress.

I mean just look at this:

Don't you feel better now?

But anyways, I should start explaining why you should care about lists.

Lists are great! They can be instrumental in keeping a person focused on the things that are most important or put things in the order in which they should be done. I personally have a list of topics that I plan to blog about. I also have a list of past posts in order of popularity (measured in views). Wouldn't it be cool if I could combine the ideas modeled in both lists? and make a future blog post list that reflected which topics would be considered the most popular?

You mean something like this:

What you see above is from a website called Trello. It's basically a just web application that lets users make lists. The proper name for the collection of lists on this site is called a "Board". On the board are "Lists" that have "Cards" on them. You can view the individual cards by clicking on them and seeing their details. Click on the picture above to visit the board yourself.

Of course there are risks in making such an interactive, public list of your ideas. There is always the chance that I won't be able to deal with the MASSIVE number of comments and suggestions. But somehow I think I don't really need to fear my blog getting too popular ;)

There is also the possibility of me losing motivation for my blog... resulting in:

But we aren't going to be pessimistic...

You can do your part to keep me motivated and writing! Just follow this List:
  1. Comment on this post. 
  2. Go read my other posts. 
  3. Share one with your friends 
  4. Give your opinion on the Trello Board. 
And just like that your done.

Check back again soon!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tech Tips and Thursdays:

Why make a blog post about Tech Tips on Thursdays? Because:
  1. The words Tech, Tip, and Thursday, amazingly all start with the letter T [1]
  2. At the time of this writing, it is in fact, Thursday
  3. I like Tech
  4. I like Tips
  5. I like Thursday
I am sure that most of my readers already know this little tip. And most have probably known it for several years. But I still think this is without question, a necessary skill for living in today's world.
So if you already know it, keep reading because I have some really great examples as to WHY its so fantastic. 

Now I hear some of you saying: 
"But John! If most of us already know this why are you writing about it?"
Because some people don't! Like my grandparents for instance.. I am pretty confident that they don't know this... So, Let me take a moment to dedicate this blog post to all my grandparents. Grandma, Grandpa, Jo, or Pa, if any of you are reading this... Pay Attention! I say that with lots of love

 Without further adieu, the command is called.... 

You say: "find? you mean like Google?"  No I do not mean like Google. I mean something else entirely. Like, now, would be a great place for a practical demonstration.

Find the 3 below:


I hope it didn't take too long to find the 3...
Try again,


still not convinced that you need help finding things? Try it one more time:


I think I have made my point.

If you couldn't find the three in under 2 seconds... then your in luck. After this article, You will NEVER* have to spend so much time searching for text again. And the best part is that it is really simple! If you are using windows,press these two buttons, simultaneously:

*I have no way of backing up this statement

If you are using an Apple computer press these two buttons simultaneously:

If your keyboard does not have either of those buttons... you have bigger problems than searching for text....

Anyways, A box should pop up somewhere on your screen after you press both keys at the same time. it will look something like the following:

(Adobe Reader)

(Google Chrome)


(Microsoft Word)

By typing the number 3 into the box and pressing enter. All the 3's on the page should be highlighted.You can look at the previous and next instances by clicking on the arrows. If it says your query was not found, you misspelled the number 3... which again, if you did that.. its a sign you may have bigger problems...

Ok! so lets try this again.

Find the 3 below

Easy right?

Ok one last time, Find the last 3.

Huh? the magic didn't work that time? WWWHHHHYYYY NOOOOTTTTT!!!???

Because our little "Find" trick only works on text. It does NOT work on images. That last section of 2's was a picture that I put there. How did I get a picture that looked identical to the previous 2's? That my friend is a lesson for another day.

If you aren't fully comfterable with your newfound talents and would like to practice. You can practice anywhere, try searching this page again, and then go try it in other applications.

I hope you learned something today. If you didn't, go read this.

[1] Another apt attributes that all amazing authors apply. It is called "alliteration"

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blog. Why?

A blog post... is REALLY HARD to write!... Ok not really. But yeah, it kinda is for some people. Especially for those of us who don't have a great record at any kind of writing. This also goes for those of us who are spleling chalinged two. And yes I know exactly what you are thinking, "Dude, your typing this... there is built in spell check.." Well too bad! You guys can't see the little red squiggly lines after I post it anyways. And I would like to think that it adds some kind of unique flavor to my blog.

But anyways.. back to the main idea, I DON'T have very much patience. So why would someone like me take the time to write a blog if its so hard, slow, and painful?  Well I will tell you why. I have a list of reasons actually
  1. I am a POOR writer.
  2. I want to be a  RICH  better writer.
  3. I tell others they need to be better writers.
  4. I need to practice what I preach.
  5. The world needs more clear documentation (more on this later...)
  6. It improves communication skills
And here is where the voice inside my head says, "Ok great, sounds like an ok reason to start a blog. But everybody knows that you don't actually have the patience/time to see this through. This could quite possibly be the one of the ONLY post you even make.. What makes you think you can actually keep this up?" 

I Have No Idea!

But hey its not like I am doing this alone. Right?
There are lots of people who have blogs that I read, and they think writing is possible, useful, and even necessary

Before you click on those links above, be warned; They are written by two programming nerds! 

no not those.. 

These Guys!

 Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky are both experienced coders. They have built some pretty cool things. Like StackExchange and Trello. But I know what all you people reading this are thinking.. 

"I've made some cool stuff too, why arent you putting my picture up and linking to things about me?"

Because, your work doesn't relate to my main topic! Which I remind you is: Why this blog is being-written/Why you should write more/Why writing is hard/Whatever you want it to be, This is a blog post for crying out loud!

No but really, In all seriousness I write this in hopes that I might make the world a better place. Whenever you do something that isn't easily understood, you don't clearly document it, and someday, somebody else may need to know exactly what you were thinking/doing. 

You make the world a worse place to live. 

At least for some poor person who has to follow your actions. Yes, I know that its hard to write down the steps that seem so logical at the time, and that you don't have the time or skill to write something extensively or in a way that someone will actually try to read or be interested in. But trust me, you do. I just wrote a whole blog post! Complete with links, pictures and even videos. And if you don't believe this is a real problem, understand that other people don't write very good reference material either, regardless of if it is for Code, Clocks, or Air-Conditioners

All of these examples are just for you, so that you can make the world a better place too. 

Document your work! Always!

I don't want this to happen to me

So in conclusion, one of the main reasons why I am writing this blog, is because I want more things to be more clearly explained. And if I can't clearly articulate my ideas, I can't expect others to do the same. So even if I never blog again, at least I made a small step toward making the world a better place in this post

Rant Finem 


Foot Notes: 

[1] Does anybody know how to embed a YouTube video at a certain time.

[2] Can somebody teach me to make an html link that will take a reader to a specific scroll frame in this post? It would make these notes a lot more readable if someone could just click the number in the post to come down and then click the corresponding number down here to go back.