Thursday, December 1, 2011

What I Learned on the Sidelines

So what if I'm sitting here in some cow spotted footed pajamas? You can buy your own at your local Wal-Mart. They're real nice.

Cash is off on yet another hunting trip this deer season. He loves going with his dad and brother the most, but this happens to be a trip with work. Sweet job, huh? I talked to him at lunch today until he lost service, so we're on our own until Sunday. While I of course hate not being able to talk to him, I love so much that he gets to go on these trips that he loves so much.

Tonight I went with my mom to my brother-in-law's basketball game against Cedarville. (I know, imagine!) When I got to the gym, I immediately spotted my cousin Brad sitting up top scouting. Yep..scouting my own brother-in-law! haha. I went up to sit by him then saw my sister, niece, and nephew across the way. They eventually came over, and we all got to hang out.

Then I saw Coach Parrish and his family sitting across from us as well since his son-in-law is the coach at Cedarville. (very. small. world) Coach Parrish was Brad's coach growing up and my brother-in-law's head coach when he was the assistant at Ozark. And Coach Parrish was a huge influence on me when I was in school.

My freshman year I had had an okay basketball season and unbeknownst at the time the best high school track season of my life. After placing 9th in the state meet as a 9th grader, my track coach had expected me to possibly win state in the 800 the next year. I had run the last leg in the 4x800 the entire season, and we placed 6th in state. I was in the shape of my life and had so much potential ahead of me with the right amount of preparation the next year.

But track season ended, and I had to have surgery on my left foot that kept me out the entire summer. I was going into high school basketball with a cast. While not wanting to miss anything, I sat in the old gym every single day that summer with Coach Parrish. To give you an idea of what the old gym was like, it had wooden bleachers with all sorts of names carved in them, dim lights that barely aided in seeing the goals, side goals that literally rolled up when you manually cranked them, and not one single air conditioner. Hot, humid summers in Arkansas were deathly to a teenager playing in that gym.

Coach Parrish and Coach Rippy would open it everyday, though, just so we could go in and shoot and play pick-up games. Since I was just going into high school, it was intimidating to know I was getting so behind in basketball.

Some of the kids would come in and just goof off. That burned me up, because I wanted to be out there so bad. I even got to the point that I started walking without my crutches and shooting around. Then I played a few half court games. Then I started playing full-court games. By the time I went to the doctor to get my cast removed, I had worn a hole out on the bottom of my cast. Dr. Magrini griped at me, because he had never released me. I still had another couple months in a walking cast before I was supposed to even play.

Coach Rippy ended up letting me go to summer camp anyway, and I played a few games. Then within the first two weeks of practice, I was back on the sidelines. He was explaining something to the entire team, then when he let us start again I began dribbling. He stepped one way, and I stepped another; yet his foot was accidentally on top of mine and it broke my ankle. We didn't know it was broken until a couple days later...after I had been out on the track running.

At that point I was devastated. Surgery, broken ankle, what next? How could I ever compete with these older girls if I couldn't ever get out there? I couldn't.

To be honest I never ran a track season like I did the year I ran up as a freshman. I gleaned most of my basketball experience my sophomore year from the end of the bench. It seemed the only way to learn was to watch.

But what I learned on the sidelines that summer and beginning of that semester shaped my life more than a starting position in basketball or state championship in track ever could.

When I was out that summer, I would just sit in the gym and watch. Coach Parrish would sit right next to me and give me a hard time about something, try to teach me something else, then call me ignorant. But I knew he loved me, because he started letting me go to summer team camps with the boys so I could watch. Of course that was Brad's senior year, so it was fun to spend time with Brad too.

Coach would talk to me about politics, something I didn't realize at the time would have so much emphasis on my life. He openly hated (hates) Bill Clinton, but I would research anything I could to argue with him. It wasn't my side that I cared was winning an argument with Coach that mattered. We were both pretty stubborn that summer and never admitted when the other could possibly be right.

We fought about who was a better player...this such and such girl or that such and such boy. We fought about who was a better coach...Jerry Sloan or Phil Jackson. (Jerry Sloan is, if you're wondering). We fought about square bales vs round bales of hay. We fought about pure bred or mixed breed cattle. We fought about if you should cuss or not.

But one thing Coach would make sure he taught you, not fought with you about, was your relationship with Christ. He might send 3 zinging cuss words at you, but he would never..NEVER..use the Lord's name in vain. He would always be fair, because that was the right thing to do. He would always have a belief and stick to it. He would always tell you about his love of his Savior. Always.

You know as well as I do that as a teenager, you are impressionable by any adult. While I thought my summer on crutches getting behind in sports was detrimental to everything I had ever wanted in life, I look back and realize that Coach showed me that at the end of the day a game is over, but your relationship with Christ is eternal. His boldness in sharing his faith helped me to see what a strong adult Christian would look like. He didn't just do it by shoving it down your throat. He built relationships with his players and students, and he showed them you work hard in life. You make the best of who you are. You make good choices. And you love, love, love the Lord.

Of course my own basketball coach was a very Godly man, and he would always encourage us to be in the Word. I remember Coach Rippy being the first person to ever explain fasting to me, and he encouraged us to fast if we ever were in a situation that may call for it. My senior year I wanted to write my favorite verse on my basketball shoes. Coach Rippy sat me down to discuss how important it was to set the example of that verse first. He allowed me to put it on there, but he made sure I was always showing the attributes I so highly admired in that verse.

We were lucky to have faithful teachers and coaches where I grew up. Tonight looking across the gym at one of the men I have so highly admired all my life, I realized how blessed I was to sit a summer on the sidelines. To listen. To grow. And to be good at something besides sports.

After the game we walked over to say something to Coach Parrish, and he met us before we even made it to the other side. Mom and I both gave him big hugs, and you knew he had to be proud to see 2 of his own prodigies (Brad and Dustin) scouting each other. I told him that I had been meaning to call ask if he would come speak to my FCA group at school this year. After a moment he said, "Yep, I'll come talk to your kids. But only after I get my corral built."

This past summer Coach Parrish was inducted into the Arkansas Coaches' Hall of Fame. I know he's proud of that. But what he'd tell you he's most proud of is his relationship with the Lord. I'm glad I got to learn both from him.

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