On March 22, 2019, after the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball team was defeated in the NCAA tournament, Coach Mick Cronin was asked about the year the team had had. This team had lost key players from last year, and many (most?) people had predicted a losing season this time.
Coach said he’d learned something long ago from his father (who was a high school coach): “You’re never gonna win with bad seniors.” So at the very beginning of the new season, Coach Cronin had challenged his two seniors (Justin Jenifer and Cane Broome), telling them, “There’s a difference between gettin’ on the bus and gettin’ on the bus to make sure your team wins.” This year’s team had a victorious 28–7 season, won their conference tournament, and made the NCAA tournament. Coach said it wouldn’t have happened without his seniors buying in to what they needed to do.
What if our church senior citizens asked ourselves (yes, I’m one too), “Am I just on the bus, or am I on the bus to make sure our team wins?”
I challenge Christian seniors to step away from stereotypical “old people’s behavior.” You know, like criticizing the new flooring or whining that we didn’t sing verse 3 of the song or scolding one of the teenagers for his T-shirt. What if we named behavior like that as…well, as worse than a flagrant foul because it’s against our own team members. Perhaps church elders should “blow the whistle” on such actions, which are—to use flagrant-foul lingo—intentional, excessive, and unnecessary. We’re not supposed to foul, block, box out, and steal from our own teammates. What if we put our energy into important things like these:
- encouraging teenagers (Could we call that mentoring the bench players?)
- helping seekers understand foundational Bible teaching (An assist? You know, because it leads directly to that person’s success.)
- all Christian seniors united in personally, strongly, and loudly testifying that the Lord’s way works (A full-court press rattles the opposition.)
- coming alongside someone who is drifting away from the Lord (An offensive rebound—catching your teammate’s missed shot? Or maybe this is setting a screen—holding the opposition at bay so your teammate can progress?)
- continuing to have “active hands.” That is, not saying, “I’ve put in my time for God. I’m retired now.” Where’s THAT in the Bible? What would have happened to Coach Cronin’s team if his seniors had decided to just sit back and watch?
If we focus on such a game plan, we can avoid “turnovers”—why would we want to give the enemy “possession”? And doing what the Lord wants instead of playing the enemy’s game keeps us from personally stepping into enemy territory (over-and-back violations)!
Even a great senior can’t win every battle. But it is possible—if we get on the bus to make sure our team wins—to be victorious in the big picture. A couple of times in the interview, Coach Cronin said he was proud of his team. And when asked what he told his two seniors when the season ended, he just said, “Told ’em I loved ’em.” It doesn’t get any better than that.