I just attended the funeral of Dean Smith, arguably the greatest college basketball coach of all time. I was blessed to serve as a team manager under him, and the life lessons I learned through basketball (some 30 years ago) still impact me to this day.
Coach’s lessons on teamwork can be put into practice as our campus ministries work together to further God’s kingdom. If we apply the following principles, in our relationships between campus ministries, there is no limit to the impact we can make:
We all have a role to play
From team manager to star player bound for the NBA — everyone contributed. Likewise, every campus ministry has a role to play for the kingdom. We don’t have to be jealous of one another or vie for more recognition or “playing time.” Ultimately, we’re all on the same team.
Use the fire in your belly to prepare you to be the best you can be. But don’t do it at the expense or shame of others. It’s all about improving; “wins” will take care of themselves.
Be an innovator
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, stretch your comfort zone, As an innovator Coach Smith literally changed the game of basketball. What if we changed the way campus ministries have typically worked together and thereby changed the game on campus?
Thank the passer
Coach Smith made the scorer point to the passer to acknowledge him for the assist. Both basketball and Christianity are team sports, so don’t be afraid to pass a student on to another campus ministry where they may be better served. We might be enabling others to help more people convert to Christ by sharing the load. Let’s ask ourselves: What’s the best way to serve the student and serve the campus? Move the ball around. Share responsibility and work together.
Use good manners; Dress to show respect
Coach made all players and managers wear suits when traveling to games. He was adamant in reminding us we were representing the university, something bigger than ourselves. I would say this speaks to our image on campus and in the broader community. Others are watching us. The way we represent ourselves as individual ministries, but more importantly as the body of Christ on campus, says a lot about who we “play” for.
Coach Smith ran on Coach Smith time–which was always 10 minutes early. This showed that you esteemed the other person as more important than yourself. This is basically a servant model. And shows humility. Enough said.
Thought of the day
Coach had a written practice plan detailing every minute of practice, including an emphasis of the day and a thought of the day. Each player was responsible for reviewing the plan and being able to recite those two items if called on. This speaks to preparation, intentionality and focus. As campus ministries, let’s be prepared and intentional to work together and focus on the goal we all have.
Take the charge
Players practiced holding their defensive position when an offensive player was barreling down on them. They stood their ground and took the charge but learned how to do it without much risk of injury. This is an area where we should work together. We need to learn to stand our ground where religious freedom is concerned and to defend our position on campus. When we take a hit, we need to get back up. Additionally, we should all study apologetics so we can stand winsomely and reasonably defend our position.
The buck stops here
Be responsible; own up to your mistakes; take one for the team if you have to. What if we as campus ministries confessed to one another our shortcomings and asked for accountability with one another?
Play hard. Play smart. Play together
That pretty much sums it up. If we ran our campus ministries individually and corporately like Coach taught practices and games we’d be champions for the Kingdom and more would want to be on God’s team.
I think he would be proud that what I learned on a college basketball floor 32 years ago could be put into practice on thousands of college campuses today and honor The Lord he served. Thanks, Coach.
Julie Loos is the Director of Ratio Christi Boosters, the community outreach arm of the campus apologetics ministry. She also serves as the College Groups Facilitator for Moms in Prayer International encouraging moms who pray for college kids and campuses to pray intentionally and strategically. She has a heart for the campus as that was where her faith was solidified and she has one son in college and one on the way next year. She lives in the St. Louis area and enjoys coffee, chocolate and working out.