And a Small-Town Team Getting What It Means to Win

I am afraid that we have adopted the “winning is the most important thing” so much that we have forgotten how to lose with grace. Yes, I have won a championship as a coach, but the truth is that most of my moments were not singing some rendition of “One Shining Moment.”

My coaching gig is long done and now my basketball moments are spent doing stats for my wife’s girls’ varsity basketball team for our high school in Pembine. I have been associated with this team for almost five years now, with four of those years with my daughters playing, and now just having an excuse to hang with my wife.

This team has lost some of their big guns and now are learning to play as a new team with new floor leadership. We are a co-op sports team between us and another school because we do not have enough girls in either school to have a full team. And just recently our girls won their first game of the season.

First game. You might as well thought we had just won Regionals in the state tournament. I have a great job – I just take stats on my iPad and create a picture of the game through numbers. During the four years my girls played, I was throwing stats around like a machine gun.

“Lay ups! High percentage shot!”

“Legs! You have two of them! Statistics show you make more shots when you use both of them!”

“One turnover every 2 minutes. Stop. Turning. The. Ball. Over. Please.”

Now, with my girls gone, I am a bit more reflective (for the most part) and am just enjoying the game unfold.

I watch these girls game-in and game-out. And the beauty of sports is that, sooner or later, you are going to see the “true self” begin to emerge. Hardship can do that. Losing can certainly do that.

And yet, as I have a front-row seat to this season, I begin to see what this team is really about. Their essence. Their composition. And here are some qualities that are causing me to pause and think through this a bit.

7 Worthy Characteristics


  1. There is no drama on the team. I mean none. These girls can be facing the number one team in the conference and getting it handed to them and it does not affect their disposition. No one snaps with a chippy comment, no one disrespects coach. Oh sure, there are those “coachable moments” but there is no drama.
  2. A “bad day” on the court does not carry over into their off-the-court lives. Move on. Look forward to the stop at the gas station going home to get their snack of choice, giggle on the bus, and get ready for the next day.
  3. They are coaching and teachable. I watch these girls in a huddle taking instruction and then getting one-on-one coaching on the bench. They can have poor play pointed out to them.
  4. These girls truly love each other. There are no cliques. They all sit together, laugh, and braid each other’s hair.
  5. The game is fun. They lose with grace.
  6. They sprint to the last buzzer. Just the other night we played a tough game against a very strong team. And we were on the losing end of things. We had multiple players out due to illness. And yet, at the end of the game, these girls are racing for every loose pass and running plays to get one more basket. They do this every game. They only know how to play hard to the end.
  7. They enjoy encouraging each other. At this same game just described, we were down by quite a bit, and yet here is our bench screaming, “D-D-D-Defense! D-D-D-Defense!”

Gotta love these girls.

And I’ll be honest. I see a lot of games around the league and this is not common. It’s not just default-small-town-gamesmanship. I see plenty of screaming coaches and bickering players.

But the purpose for this post is to highlight my title: “7 Reasons a Leader Should Embrace a Coaching Mentality.”

Warning: the following narrative is probably biased because I am the husband of the woman mentioned. Nevertheless, it is true.

Why do these girls “get it”?

The seven attributes listed above do not just happen. Sure, these are good girls, but there is something way beyond that.

It’s their coach. My wife. This is her philosophy that she breathes with her team. She loves these girls with a Gospel love that transcends the game. She does not allow any drama on the team. She communicates. And she makes sure every girl knows they are more important to her than the game. Caring for each other is just what they do. Encouragement will happen. And her team buys into it. It has created a sense of “belonging” for these players.

I see refs come up to her (who don’t even know her) and hug her after a game for the fight her girls displayed. I hear of another coach coming to her and asking her how she is able to stay so positive all the time as a coach. And she is! She is all about the X’s and O’s, but more so about the X’s and O’s of a life.

Imagine, as a leader, having a team with the seven characteristics described above: no drama, moving on from disappointment, being teachable, a you-first mentality, enjoying the “game,” all-out effort, and building up those around you. That is the amazing thing about leading – you get to shape and mold to help others understand the bigger themes of living life. You must own this philosophy first.

I appreciate this team. And I appreciate their coach. And what these girls do not know yet is that they are building a platform to be successful in their family roles and in their vocational roles one day. Coaching just got a whole lot more critical. 



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  1. Great read…totally agree. But I would like to add, the way Stef handled the team last year when one of the team members was in a serious car accident that left many questioning if she would survive or recover was a huge factor, in my mind, in bringing these girls together. So, it was more than just learning to deal with adversity on the court. It involved dealing with adversity off the court and how to continue working hard and playing your best in spite of those circumstances. Stef’s leadership in those girls lives during that event continues to carry over into today.

  2. Very good article and I don’t think you are biased!! Your wife is an amazing woman. Proud to know her and have must respect to how she (and you) have raised your children-Claire was one of the most respectful kids I have ever encountered.

    • Thanks for reading my post, Amy, and thank you also for the comments! I am very grateful for my kiddos and God’s influence in their lives. Awesome thing to watch as a parent.