Inside The Locker Room
February 10, 2017 by Staff
(Editor's Note: the still photos in this post were taken on Senior Night; the video clips and post content recount the game on January 20 between The Oaks and Covenant Christian.)
It's always fun to be in a winning locker room. Alas, sometimes, teams not only lose but lose big. How do coaches, teams - Christians - handle losing?
Some games are, well, better just forgotten. But, for good or ill, we were invited into The Oaks locker room before the game for Coach Andy Mattson's strategic pep talk. It wasn't supposed to be this way. While Covenant had put a big scare into our boys early in the season, The Oaks roared back after the half to take a hard-fought win. We picked a game that the team was confident it would win.
Coach Mattson began by challenging the team to reflect on Christ, the cornerstone of any 'house' we seek to build, even the house of a unified basketball team.
Are we building together on the Rock or not?
Then, Coach Mattson turned to the x's and o's, taking the boys through their defensive and offensive assignments. We captured an excerpt of his strategy and the team's pre-game fellowship, below.
We won the opening tip. If only the game had ended there ...
Beginning with their first shot, virtually the entire starting five for Covenant began draining their three-point attempts. Swish. Swish. Three. Oaks turnover. Swish. Three.
No one likes Christians who wear their faith on their sleeves, but nowhere else. With the scoreboard showing us down 37-11 at the half, the biggest threat our team faced wasn't losing the game, but losing their spiritual poise. It's traditional for coaches to give team leaders a chance to address their teammates before they enter the half-time locker room.
Luke Long - not a happy camper - exhorted the team to put a hand up in the faces of Covenant players. Any thought of hands up had unquestionably been missing-in-action throughout the first half. Coby Kim, both in the locker room and during the second half, stood alongside Luke. Coby also calmed Luke down. Successful teams thrive on leadership duos that combine fire and ice; heart and mind.
Coach Mattson didn't mince words about the mishaps of the first half. If he had, no one would have believed him. But he didn't leave it there, either. Could the team come back? Well, they had come back from a twenty-point deficit against this same Covenant team early in the season.
They could come back if ...
We would love to report that our team pulled out the greatest comback in Oaks, maybe even in basketball, history and won the game or, at least, won the second half. The truth? The second half went only slightly better than the first. Basically, we were clobbered from the opening tip to the closing whistle.
"Clobberings" happens to us in life, sometimes. They happen to adults as well as to sons and daughters. We experience them if and only if we dare to compete. Still, if we won't risk losing, how can we hope for unexpected victories? Wins (and losses) cannot be erased from life at The Oaks, in class as well as on the court.
School is life too.
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock." (Matt. 7:24-25, NKJV)
Strangely enough, we remember the greatest losses we shared with teammates as much or more than our greatest victories. We laugh together about our defeats. We rarely smile over our victories.
Life is about winning. The question, though is, "what means winning?" We have all known people who lose while winning. We know others who win, though the world's scoreboard seemed to say otherwise.
Senior night, for both the secondary boys and girls basketball teams, followed a few weeks later. The scores? They mattered! We won, both games. Better yet, teams, parents, friends and fellow students had a great time. Enjoy a few of the many photos that captured the action and the feelings.
Sometimes, life gives us not only a second, but a third, chance to play Covenant Christian. At last weekend's tournament in Pullman, Coach Mattson urged the team to prevent Covenant from sinking three-point shots, to win rebounds and, finally, get to the foul-line. Getting to the line is a sign that offensive execution and rebounding has been working to plan.
And ... it did work. Covenant hardly sank a single three. The Oaks team got to the free-throw line 41 times. But, more important than the winning score were the conclusions that both Luke Long and Coby Kim shared without a moment of hesitation. "We played like a team, " Luke said, with Coby nodding. Coby added, "everyone was unselfish."
Looking back at the earlier loss, Luke criticized himself for having been distracted by some challenges outside of the game. When Coby said, "I'm not sure Luke played any differently; sometimes, the other team is just playing really well," Luke agreed. Still, Luke also described how he had come to the tournament with a different attitude that helped his game. Maybe so. Fire and ice. Heart and mind. Two different young men, yet both were united in respect for their coach and love for their teammates.
Bottom line, what had Luke and Coby taken away from these games and the season? Heart and mind agreed. "When we put everything aside for the sake of playing as a team, we're at our best."