Tuesday, February 10, 2015


I was listening to a sports show on my way into work on Monday. They were discussing the legacy of legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith. One of the things that struck me was his personally typed letter to his star player Michael Jordan. Jordan had just finished his sophomore season and was widely recognized as one of the most-skilled collegiate players. Coach Smith wrote the following to him:

Dear Michael:

I am writing to list areas of basketball on which you should seek improvement this summer. In our last conversation in the office, we discussed these but thought it would be best to put them down in writing.

1. Shoot the ball the same way each time, the same arc.

2. Get your ritual on the foul shot: up on toes and extending. Don't fade back with your body.

3. In pick-up games, try to be a point guard, working on your dribbling and starting the ball low. Also, try to have more assists than turnovers.

4. Work on quick ball fakes and then bounce pass inside.

5. Work on busting out on the dribble from a rebound and making the play from the other end.

6. Continue work on the correct pivot foot.

7. Defensively keep working on the habits you now have and you will get even better.

8. Don't always reach for the ball but contain your man. You can't steal the ball all the time!

Michael, if you do improve on these items we mentioned, you will be a much better basketball player and, consequently, our team should be better and have a chance to win it all in Seattle next year. In your daydreaming, picture us winning it all in Seattle!

Warmest regards.

These days I'm not sure how many coaches could get away with talking to their star player this way, even more once a player has turned pro. I looked back at Dean Smith's college basketball career: he played for a national championship team, but spent the vast majority of the tournament on the bench. Michael Jordan could have blown off the suggestions of a coach who wasn't as physically talented as he was, but Jordan was humble enough to be coachable. His attention to these details transformed a great NBA career to an exceptional one.

It's tough to be coachable. We have to swallow that arrogant pride that says, "Don't lecture me. I know it all." It's doubly tough when that counsel comes from unexpected people -- sometimes even our own children or grandchildren. But no matter where it comes from, good advice is good advice.

Of course, we have the greatest "coach" of all in God. He cared enough to send His Son; He gives us His Spirit and a whole Book to coach us through life. The question is, are we humble enough to live by His teachings?

Have you had an influential coach in your life -- somebody who gave you advice so good it's still making a difference in your life today?

If so, let us know by clicking here and sharing your thoughts.

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