You're As Good As #1

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” Luke 12:48


My husband has been coaching young athletes at all levels since the 1980’s. He is very good at what he does. He is an extractor of the amazing in human potential. He can spot raw ability and all it’s potential and help a person develop into something even beyond what the individual knew was possible for themselves. He is a hard coach. He expects a lot. Most athletes either love him or hate him, there probably isn’t much in the middle. He understands that his job is to help them achieve, not necessarily be friends. This post is about one such story of a young man who didn’t like my husband much, but grew to be thankful for and see how much John loved him. I’m talking about a young man who was a walk on college basketball player who rose to the challenge and became a #1 NBA draft pick.

I’m not a high level coach, but I have lived with one for 20 years now. Much of how he expects excellence in sports carries over into every area of his life, including his home. My husband will challenge you to be your absolute best without cutting corners, but he is also a man who if he were wearing his last shirt and you needed it…I know he wouldn’t hesitate to take it off and give it to you (attributes that endeared me to him).

It was the late 1990’s. John was still working in Division 1 College Athletics as a CSCS (Strength and Conditioning Coach). He met a young man who was new to the school’s basketball team and would be working closely with this fellow for the next several years. It didn’t take long for John to realize he had, what he said to me, “a Greek God” on his hands. Not only was this man big, he was strong, he was fast and had stellar athleticism that could adapt and learn quickly. This kid was not only a walk on to the team, but this kid had never played basketball a day in his life. The son of a Nigerian Ambassador in England found a basketball in a closet and began to read about the sport and thought maybe he could play it. Play it he did, for a number of years in the NBA when all was said and done.

My husband was hard on him, harder on him than any of the other players. He pushed him. He expected. He reminded him of the expectations and he was in the player’s hip pocket. After several months of this push for absolute everything in the weight room and with the speed quickness drills, the ball player finally asked John why he hated him so much and why he was always picking on him. John took him into his office, sat him down and asked him a few questions. While pointing his finger toward the glass window out onto the weight room floor directed toward the other team members, he asked those questions that sounded a little something like this:

John: “Who else out there is as strong as you?”

Players reply: “No one, Coach.”

John: “Who else out there is 7’ tall?”

Player: “No one, Coach.”

John: “Who else can move with speed and agility like you?” Player: “Well, no one, Coach.”

Then John looked into the young man’s eyes with that piercing intensity that John is known for and said to him, “You have more ability, talent, skill and potential than anyone else on the team. It’s my job to help you find the maximum ability you’ve got locked inside of you. It’s my job to push you to the next level and watch you become the NBA player I see inside you. To whom much is given, much more is required.”

The young man just looked at my husband, eyes wide, as though he just learned something about their relationship that was a bit deeper than he had previously thought. Though the practices stayed tough, their relationship changed after that. The player understood why John was so hard on him and he embraced the challenge to reach his own potential. He put in the work, and when the time came he began to be heavily courted by the various NBA teams. Post season his last season of ball he chose to train with John one on one as John taught him what the teams would be looking for when they flew the player in to be “reviewed”. He accepted John guidance and he blew all the teams he visited out of the water with what he could do. A few short months later he became the #1 drafted player in the NBA draft.

At the basketball banquet that year the player had a chance to speak to his coaches, his team and all their parents. He specifically addressed “Coach McBride” and admitted he really hated him at first, but over time realized how much John’s tenacious work ethic, instinct, and vision to see the man’s potential helped him immeasurably to get to where he was. He personally thanked John right there in front of everyone.

It’s Christmas time as I write this, a time to reflect on the birth of the Christ, the ultimate Coach. He is the one who came to enable and equip us all to reach for and achieve our personal potential. In fact, his birth made it possible for us to expand our potential into all of eternity. He sees all of the possibility woven into the core of each being. The greater His Purpose for a life, the more demanding the preparation will be…just like a practice before “the big game”.

If we accept his love, care, discipline and courtship…if we do the work he has called us and equipped us to do…then we can each be a super star success story, too. I know we won’t all play in the NBA (especially me, hello, kind of “diminutive” in stature here), but when we’ve got a leader like our Lord, the sky is the limit on what we can achieve. We will only ever go as far and we dare to believe we can.

Catch God’s Vision for your life. Take hold and take the steps toward your potential and God’s promises for your life. I can’t think of a better way to say thank you to God, who emptied himself into the tiniest of human form just to give us the opportunity.

Merry Christmas…I believe in you with the same faith that Jesus does. You are His #1 Draft Pick!