There is something special about the relationship between a coach and his players. It’s a very unique relationship. There aren’t many things greater than being able to lead a kid while they explore their passion in life, especially when you get to see them grow, mature, and develop in the process. Seeing the potential in a seed and then planting, watering, and cultivating it until it produces is one of the most exciting things I’ve experienced here on Earth. Participating in the joy of a kid celebrating after seasons of challenge is an incredible thrill.

Yes, coaching is demanding and exhausting, the pay is minimal. It can be a burden on your family. It has a whole lot of challenges that come with it. But it is special. People are special. And any opportunity to lead and invest in another person is special...and I believe comes from God. I have been blessed to have so many special relationships with kids through coaching. And now that I am years removed from some of those relationships, I can say an even greater joy comes from receiving their graduation invitations, seeing them come back to visit, the Facebook message to say “Hey Coach, I’m getting married” or “I’m having a kid,” and the text messages, “I love you, Coach.”

Most of the time, they can’t accurately express what the relationship means to them in the season of life you are together. Their window into life is a little too narrow. They haven’t even figured out how much your influence means to them, but they will in time. As for now, as a coach or a teacher, a parent, whatever role it is you play, you just keep being an example of love and grace, keep taking advantages of opportunities to teach and inspire and listen, and keep challenging them to be their best self in all that they do. One day they will embrace it.

But every now and then, there comes a unique child that is ready. Maybe they are mature beyond their age. They see what you are doing and why. You’ve had to challenge them pretty hard...they have learned how to embrace it. You have had to correct them for their wrong...they have learned how to receive it. You have worked to show them basketball is great, but it’s only part of life. It’s just a temporary vehicle to teach us more about how we are supposed to do life on Earth.

And when you have one that understands all that, in the season of life that you are really is special. It’s life-giving and life-changing. There isn’t much in life that compares to a relationship between a coach and his players. But there isn’t anything in life like being there for the planting, watering, cultivating and then seeing the harvest.  

After months of getting our hands dirty, dragging out the hose, and positioning correctly in the sunlight, this was a way more special moment for these two coaches than any victory on the court.

There were some broken hearts the night that final shot wasn’t enough. It’s a long journey to be that close and end up second, especially when you fall by just a point or two. We walked out of the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center that night with the score saying we had lost. But for some reason, maybe it was the Holy Spirit, I didn’t feel that way. I felt like a winner. I felt like our kids were winners.

They say “the truth always prevails.” In the coming days, the truth would prevail. The truth is before we even stepped on that court, we had already won. We just didn’t know it yet. It was just a few days later that he came and asked us both to baptize him...together. Victory.

Two proud runner-up coaches. I’ll gladly take the second place trophy now, to “run the race so as to win.” This picture means way more to me than any trophy ever could.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

Adam Walker