Owning The Unknown

LIFE IS A PROCESS

The statement, “Life is a process”, is something we hear all the time. Every day we get to wake up is a piece of the process we call life. As I talk with the youths of this generation and also many adults, I hear the same repetitive words come from many mouths. Those words are, 

I fear the unknown and don’t have much patience in my life.

I hear these words consistently and I want to enlighten anyone reading this that has those words stuck in their head every day. We currently live in a world that is becoming so accustomed to instant gratification that it is trickling down into how people approach and deal with their futures.

First, if you are scared of dealing with the unknown, right now you must come to grips with the reality that you have NO CHOICE but to deal with the unknowns of life. This is life we are talking about right now. Stop fearing life and the unknown of your future. Start living confidently and have confidence in who you are. Be confident in the fact that you have so much life to live rather than fearing the years you have ahead!

RIGHT NOW, start being grateful for everything you have and understand that you can handle anything that is thrown at you in life. RIGHT NOW, stop envying other people and things. Honestly, STOP acting like the unknown in life has any control over you. Start owning the unknown!


Larry Taylor is the founder of Vertical Vision and a graduate assistant for the men's basketball program at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida.  His playing career consisted of stops at Liberty University, Bob Jones University, and Southeastern University.

Why Do You Play?

I was recently eating dinner with one of my teammates when he asked me, “Why do you keep playing?” I smiled and said, “That’s an easy one. Because of you guys.” My teammate looked back at me not knowing how to respond to that. But that got me thinking, and that’s a question I want to ask you—Why do you play?

My name is Robert Horn. I’m a 5’ 10” senior at Bob Jones University in South Carolina. I walked-on my freshman year and have played less than 100 career minutes. I’ve only scored 12 points in my college career. Knowing that, you now see why my teammate asked me that. It was a fair question, and its one that I’ve often asked myself.

Why do I play?

Why do I put myself through the grueling grind of college basketball only to ride the pine?

Because of my teammates and the opportunity I have to build relationships with them and make an impact on their lives. I know a lot of guys say that, especially when they are being recruited, but it’s a whole other thing when you’re forced to live it out. This is something that God’s been teaching me throughout my entire college career. If I was here only to “get mine” or for my own personal success, I would have quit my freshman year to play intramurals—and believe me, I almost did. And again sophomore year. And again junior year. But through this process, God has been showing me that basketball is so much more than scoring 20 points a night or playing 35 minutes per game. Basketball isn’t about me. Basketball is just a tool God’s graciously given me to be able to connect with guys who others can’t and in ways that no one else can. This opportunity didn’t come by me pouting on the bench or slacking in the gym—No, I earned guys respect by working harder then them though I saw less on-court opportunities than them. I earned guys respect by showing them support and excitement at their personal success and the team’s success rather than whining over my lack of PT. It was not easy and I struggled with it at different times. But when took my eyes off myself and aligned my perspective to what God called me, I found myself thankful and satisfied for the opportunity rather than selfish over unfulfilled desires. God has shown me that basketball isn’t about my glory, but about His. It’s a platform to serve Him for where He’s called me.

FOUR YEARS AGO

Four years agoI would have told you that a college career spent on the bench was a waste. But God has used these last four years to radically change me in such incredible ways. He has humbled me, convicting me of prideful desires for my own glory over the success of my teammates and the team.  He has revealed my selfishness in caring about my own athletic success over the welfare of my teammates hearts and souls. He has given me the opportunity to be a leader from the bottom, rather than someone who sticks out as the most skilled player or physically dominate person.

THE BEST PART

But the best part is that what God has taught me through basketball will carry over to life. Life isn’t about me or my success or my happiness or my glory. It’s about Someone so much greater me—God! I think it is awesome that we refer to our teams as family because our relationship with God is also portrayed as a family. God has given us the opportunity to be on His team, but we have to accept that we are not the superstar—He is! Just like we could spend 4 years chasing after PT and records, we can spend our lives chasing our own glory and satisfaction and end up wasting it on ourselves! Or we can examine our heart’s motives and take our eyes off of ourselves and finally realize why we are alive —to bring God glory. If we are Christians, we are called to follow after Jesus (Luke 9:23). Jesus’s goal was to bring the Father glory (John 17:4). Bringing God glory, not ourselves, is why we were created. So look at the gifts God has given you and ask yourself why you do them. It may be basketball, it may be music, it could be art—whatever it is, do it to the glory of God, not yourself (1 Corinthians 10:31)!

MY HOPE

My hope is that my story will cause you to examine your heart, and change your mentality as you head into next season. Ask yourself today, “Why do I play?”

Dominican Republic With Bethel Hoops

Take a look at our daily recaps from our trip to the Dominican Republic below!  Sorry that the WiFi didn't allow me to upload videos in HD.

10 years ago I had the privilege to go on a trip to the Dominican Republic with my college basketball team.  I went into it expecting to have a good time experiencing a new culture while serving the people there, but I came home knowing that my life had been impacted in a powerful way.  I had always hoped that I'd get the opportunity to go back someday.

Today, I am excited to travel to the DR with Bethel Hoops and serve alongside our guys.  We will be playing several basketball games as well as ministering to the people there.  Bethel has been going to the same city, Guanabano, every two years for a long time.  I'm thrilled to meet everyone down there that they have been building relationships with over the years.  It's cool to be a part of this group and I'm excited to see how God works in the hearts of our players and the people of the Dominican Republic through the game of basketball!  

Which Do You Love More?

Lord, don’t let my gifts take me farther than my character can sustain me.
— Mark Batterson

DREAMERS ARE EVERYWHERE.

No matter what career you are invested in or what goals you envision yourself accomplishing in the future, you are probably the type of person that is passionate about the process required to realize your dream.  You are a gifted individual with unique talents that separate you from the rest of the pack.  

But if you're anything like me, sometimes the dream God gave you takes precedent over the God who gave you the dream.  You get so wrapped up in the work and excitement of pursuing it you forget to acknowledge the reason you're able to pursue your dream in the first place.  

In his book, All In, Mark Batterson writes a brilliant excerpt about the Gift Giver.  

"If the gift ever becomes more important than the Gift Giver, then the very thing God gave you to serve His purposes is undermining His plan for your life.  God is no longer the End All and Be All.  And when God becomes the means to some other end, it's the beginning of the end spiritually because you have inverted the gospel.

God-given gifts are wonderful things and dangerous things.  One of my recurrent prayers is this: 'Lord, don't let my gifts take me farther than my character can sustain me.'  As we cultivate the gifts God has given us, we can begin to rely on those gifts instead of relying on God.  That's when our greatest strength becomes our greatest weakness."

I know in the game of basketball it can be very easy to rely on our gifts rather than on the One who gave us those gifts.  Sport is one of the easiest places for people to become prideful and believe they are accomplishing their dreams because of their talents.  I want to challenge you to love the God who gave you your dream and know the gifts allowing you to be successful were given to you by Him.  When the tests come into our life we are given the opportunity to rely on God and put an awesome testimony on display.  Keep taking action to acknowledge the Gift Giver and you will be amazed how your dreams will begin to come true as you pursue the process!

Welcome Home

QUICK LIFE UPDATE

We recently accepted a coaching position at Bethel College in Indiana.  Immediately, we felt welcomed and part of our new family.  Every single person that we have come in contact with at Bethel has been nothing but kind and helpful to us!  We are excited to get moved here from South Carolina and get into the full swing of things.  Thank you for the prayers and encouragement over the last few months as my family and I have been in transition.  I will be getting back to blogging more consistently as well once we get settled in.  God is good!

Extraordinary Leadership Begins and Ends With These 3 Words

Anyone can be a leader.  From the guy in the entry level position all the way to the experienced CEO, every person has the ability to lead.  But what separates the ordinary leader from the extraordinary one?  There are three words that permeate the best of the best; love, trust, and serve.  And please understand, the greatest leaders not only act on these words every day, but they also have the ability to get their followers to act on them as well.

LOVE

Extraordinary leaders love.  They have a genuine desire to care for the people around them.  This is more than just mentioning it every once in a while, it's living it out on a daily basis.  

Loving your followers is active and if you are doing a good job at it, the people you lead will actively love you back.  

TRUST

Extraordinary leaders trust.  They spend countless hours building trust by showing compassion and caring for those around them.  They allow their followers to fail and use those situations as teaching opportunities to grow.  

When the people you lead feel confidence from you as their leader, they in turn will trust you and run through a wall for you.  

SERVE

Extraordinary leaders serve.  They constantly look for opportunities to put others needs in front of their own.  They understand that if they want to be the best leader they can be then they must serve their people.

There will rarely be a time when serving others is convenient, but as a leader you must do it.  When you put the needs of others first, others will serve you and the team in ways you could never imagine.  

No matter where you find yourself in the chain of command, you have the opportunity to love, trust, and serve those around you.  Stop being an "ordinary" leader.  Make the choice to be extraordinary today!

Top 5 MLB Logos of All-Time

Last year I posted my Top 5 NBA Logos of All-Time, so I thought it would be fun to look at baseball since the season has just begun!  There are many iconic logos in baseball, which made this a tough list to put together.  I'll warn you ahead of time that I left Boston & New York teams off the list.  I'd love to hear what your top 5 are!  Here's mine:


5. BALTIMORE ORIOLES (1966-1988)

 The first team I ever played on in tee-ball was the Orioles.  I remember collecting baseball cards that had this logo on them.  Brings back good memories, so it comes in at #5.

The first team I ever played on in tee-ball was the Orioles.  I remember collecting baseball cards that had this logo on them.  Brings back good memories, so it comes in at #5.


4. CLEVELAND INDIANS (1979-1985)

 This logo makes me smile.  Not sure if the movie "Major League" has anything to do with it, but I've always liked the Indians because of this logo.

This logo makes me smile.  Not sure if the movie "Major League" has anything to do with it, but I've always liked the Indians because of this logo.


3. MONTREAL EXPOS (1969-1991)

 The red, white, and blue colors have always been a favorite of mine.  If you had an Expos hat back in the day, you always received a compliment.  Definitely a crowd favorite.

The red, white, and blue colors have always been a favorite of mine.  If you had an Expos hat back in the day, you always received a compliment.  Definitely a crowd favorite.


2. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (1987-1990)

 My uncles were from Chicago and were huge Sox fans.  While I only have known the most recent logo, I have always loved this throwback White Sox brand.

My uncles were from Chicago and were huge Sox fans.  While I only have known the most recent logo, I have always loved this throwback White Sox brand.


1. MILWAUKEE BREWERS (1978-1993)

 The ball and glove logo is simple and creative.  Yes, I'm a Brewers fan, but how can you argue with this logo?  It is easily the best. 

The ball and glove logo is simple and creative.  Yes, I'm a Brewers fan, but how can you argue with this logo?  It is easily the best. 


HONORABLE MENTIONS

All logos were taken from Chris Creamer's Sports Logos.

The Journey

Just because it didn’t happen the way you wanted doesn’t mean God isn’t working.
— Steven Furtick

I have a dream that burns inside my heart.  It casts a vivid vision in my mind; filled with clarity.  The destination seems certain, but the pathway leading me there isn't as much.  Although each step is unclear, the place I discover most joy is on the journey.

THE JOURNEY...

It's a trip where my character is revealed through the way I respond to adversity.

It's a venue where I fail, get back up, and then succeed.

It's an adventure where each step I take leads to growth.

It's progress in learning that sometimes the right decision is the one that hurts the most.

It's when my faith is challenged.

It's progress in realizing the dream that God instilled in my heart.

And most of all, it's path that's only lit when my full trust is in the One who is I AM.

ALONG THE WAY

Along the way there are detours, bumps in the road, and wrong turns.  

There are also beautiful views, magnificent sunsets, and worthwhile purpose.

Every day the journey emerges clearer and my scope reveals more of God's plan.  Not because I've found some secret, but because I'm trusting God to direct my steps.  This dream I'm referring to can't be stripped from me.  Despite the world's attempts to divert me, I will continue to hold on to the promises that God has given me.  

Which do you love more? The dream God gave you or the God who gave you the dream?
— Mark Batterson

We are all on a unique journey and we all have a dream burning inside of us.  Regardless of the circumstances trying to bump us off course, stay true to the principles that will keep us running full steam ahead, chasing that dream!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6

Land The Plane Safely

Coaching is like flying an airplane, there is going to be a lot of turbulence, but your job is to land the plane safely.
— Chuck Daly

I love this #4 posting in "Brendan Suhr's Top 10 Chuck Daly "Dalyisms."  I feel like this is the point in the season when this quote might really hit home.  Some coaches have endured tough seasons, and others have experienced their best, but no matter which one is you, it is time to land the plane.  It is time to finish strong.  Hopefully you've kept your composure and stayed focused throughout the season.  Stay strong. Stay committed.  Rise Up.

“Coaching is like flying an airplane, there is going to be a lot of turbulence, but your job is to land the plane safely.”

During the season, there are going to be a lot of ups and downs, but as the coach you have to understand you have to remain calm and poised and remember the goals that you have established for the team. On the road to each Championship season, we had major turmoil occur, but Chuck landed the plane safely.

 

Contesting Shots Matters and Here's Why

Earlier this season I listened to Eric Mussleman, head coach at Nevada, speak to his team on the importance of contesting shots.  He referenced the 2015-16 NBA season to explain why the distance of your closeout on a shot makes all the difference.  He said that defensive FG% was lower as shots were contested closer.  You can hear him talk to his team in the YouTube video at the end of this post.  

Sometimes it's difficult to compare NBA analytics with lower levels because of the type of athlete, the longer 3-point arc, etc., but I thought that this statistic could be applied at any level because of it's nature.  We decided to make it a point of emphasis with our team defense and it has been instrumental in our success.  We play Pack-Line defense, so closeouts are an important aspect of what we do.  Early on in the season we struggled to contest shots, but noticed we gave ourselves a chance when we did.  We kept working on closeouts every day and determined this could be the single most important statistic that we track.

HERE'S WHY

Over our last 13 games we have a record of 10-3.  Our defensive FG% is directly related to our W/L record and has proven to be a key factor in our success.  Here's what I mean:

Overall DFG% last 13 games (infographic below):

0-2 feet contests - 35/137 (25.5%) 

2-4 feet contests - 39/101 (38.2%)

4+ feet contests - 9/12 (75.0%)

DFG% in our 10 wins:

0-2 feet contests - 32/125 (25.6%)

2-4 feet contests - 23/76 (30.3%)

4+ feet contests - 4/7 (57.1%)

DFG% in our 3 losses:

0-2 feet contests - 3/12 (25.0%)

2-4 feet contests - 16/35 (45.7%)

4+ feet contests - 5/5 (100%)

You can see the difference between our wins and losses.  In our wins, we consistently contested shots 0-2 feet more often that any other distance.  We made teams uncomfortable shooting the basketball.  In our losses, we failed to consistently contest shots 0-2 feet and allowed teams to get comfortable shooting unguarded shots.  We have found that contesting/not contesting shots is a huge stat for us. I believe that contesting shots is extremely valuable at the college level.  The more our players see the proof of how contesting shots directly impacts our success, the more seriously we take it.  If you would like to discuss in more detail how we track this or see more examples of its impact, please reach out to me at awingree@bju.edu.  Happy contesting! 


Here is an example of what I use to track contested shots during games.  I will make my best judgment on the distance of the closeout and then go back and watch film to determine the accuracy.  If we have mostly 0-2 feet closeouts, we find that we win most of our games.  If the majority are in the 2-4 or 4+ column, we find that we typically are playing from behind.