Friday, March 28, 2008

The Starfish and The Spider

Here are some notes from a book I read recently. I was given the book by a dear friend and colleague. It has some remarkable ideas for implementation in our work with Sports people, teams and people on the fringes of our networks of relationships. “The Starfish and the Spider” is a good read with sharp insights. These are selected points from the last chapter followed by some thought provoking questions. Thanks.

1) The network effect. As our network grows by a person or a team, the whole network gets stronger. Each one who joins makes the network stronger. How does each of your players, coaches or teams make all the others better?
2) The power of chaos. In a decentralized world, it pays to be chaotic. Sometimes it will appear that no one is in charge. That’s okay. “Good ideas will attract more people and in a circle they will execute the plan.” Ever been to a team function where the coaches are not in charge? Chaos Central. They love it!!
3) Knowledge at the edge. “The best knowledge is often at the fringe of the organization.” I certainly believe that the ones who have the best ideas about serving coaches and players are coaches and players. It’s not necessarily in the minds of the chaplains or ministry organization people.
4) Everyone wants to contribute. In a decentralized organization, there is not only knowledge at the edge, but willingness to contribute also. Give those at the edge a chance to contribute and we’ll get their best.
5) Catalysts rule. “Although they don’t conform to the CEO role, catalysts are crucial to decentralized organizations.” This is because they inspire people to action, not because they run the show. Who are the people in your organization making things happen?
6) The values ARE the organization. “Ideology is the fuel that drives the decentralized organization.” Without the shared beliefs and core values, the organization would crumble. How clearly do we communicate what is most important to volunteers, ministry board members, staffers, etc…?
7) Flatten or be flattened. The authors see the trend toward flatter (less hierarchical) organizations continuing to gain momentum. There are also ways to shape an organization into what they call a Hybrid – a flat, decentralized organization with some central leadership, provided they understand the value of networking. How responsive are we as leaders to those at the most remote edges of our organization?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

End of a Career

Below is an article I recently posted on related to the end of one’s sport career. I hope some of these thoughts are helpful to those you serve in sport.

Through my 51 years of being a player, a coach, an official, a parent and now a sport chaplain / sport mentor, I have seen hundreds of careers start quickly, flourish powerfully, diminish painfully and end suddenly.

Millions of people watched Brett Favre’s career come to a tearful end yesterday on world-wide television. Imagine the fascination of people watching someone announce his retirement. Careers end with such finality, often with pain and even grief. Let’s think about why this is.

For us who are highly competitive and highly achieving, much of our identity winds up being found in the competition and those achievements. That’s not necessarily good for us. When we come to the end of our careers we have a terrible time figuring out who we are apart from those things which have characterized us for so long. Is there anything sadder than the washed up athlete who is still living in the glory of his sport career thirty years ago?

I recall a conversation with a college basketball player just a week after the close of her career. She said, “I woke up yesterday and wondered, ‘What do I do now? I don’t have to go to practice.’ I don’t know what to do with all this time.” Since fifth grade she had been a basketball player, but suddenly she was a former basketball player.

Here’s some advice from an old guy who has witnessed the close of hundreds of careers first-hand. Play every game of your whole career with the end in mind. Everyone’s career comes to an end at some point, whether due to injury, failure or simply the exhaustion of one’s eligibility. Understand who you are, in and out of the sport. Live your whole life with an understanding of who you were created to be and don’t let your sport career define all of who you are. Play your heart out and fully express your life in sport, while you have the opportunity.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Game Day Prayer

Today’s note is an excerpt from an article in the April 2008 edition of Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s Sharing the Victory magazine. If you would like a copy of the complete article, please reply to this email and I’ll send you a copy as a Word file.

“O Lord, Please Help Us Win Today.”

How many times have you uttered that prayer, either under your breath or out loud? How often have we asked the Lord Jesus to intervene in the course of human history so we could get a win and not a loss?
Does the Lord care at all about who wins and who loses in any given sport contest? If not, why should we pray at all prior to competition?
In the fourteen years I’ve served as a sport chaplain and sport mentor, I have seen a number of different approaches to game day prayer. I’ve seen players and coaches treat the chaplain like a good luck charm, thinking, “If that guy prays for me, God will bless me and I’ll play greatly.” I’ve seen teams treat their pre-game recitation of The Lord’s Prayer like the rubbing of a lucky rabbit’s foot. I’ve looked players in the eye and known they were bargaining with the Lord. I could hear their hearts saying, “Lord if you will give us this championship, I will give you the glory as I talk with the media, sign endorsement deals, get a new car, get a date with that beautiful girl and more, ad nauseum.” I have also seen my own approach to game day prayer change over these years. My prayers for coaches, players, game officials, and even our opponents have undergone a good deal of transformation over time as I have learned to hear the Lord’s heart toward sport and toward those engaged in it.
Let’s think through what might be some matters for prayer which we can be sure are items of interest to the Lord Jesus.
· Pray that each one in the contest competes honorably.
· Pray for matters of the heart related to competition.
· Pray for the Lord’s purposes to be accomplished in your subjects.
· Pray for all those involved in the competition.
· Pray that those who compete, experience the Lord’s pleasure and presence in the competition.
Simply said, I do not think the Lord cares at all about who wins and who loses any particular sport contest. I do believe He cares infinitely about how we compete in pursuit of the win. Our character, which will certainly be revealed by competition, is always His concern. I truly believe that a Christ-honoring competition which results in a loss is ultimately more satisfying than any dishonorable win with all its accompanying guilt and shame. Let’s commit ourselves to prayer and to honoring Christ in competition and leave the scoreboard results to those who compete.