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by Amanda Murray on April 3, 2014
They stood there on the mound, camera’s flashing, boys hugging, and mom’s crying.
10 gleaming white smiles brighter than the stadium lights on that summer field of dreams.
10 dirty uniforms testified to the hard fought battle that had taken place to reach this moment.
10 freshly empowered young men reveled in the glow of a well earned victory.
10 golden championship trophies in their hands served as icons of affirmation for each boy that he can do whatever he applies himself to do.
As the celebration came to an end, the boys packed their ball bags turning their thoughts to post-game snow cones. Among the hugs, hand-shakes, and “atta-boys” surrounding him, the little league commissioner hands the head coach 6 unclaimed trophies, one for each boy who started the year with this coach, practiced every day, and played in every game that had earned this team a tournament berth. However, these boys never played an inning in the tournament.
Earlier, this head coach made it clear that the playoffs were “extra games” and now these 6 boys were considered “extra players”. That is what he said. However, what the boys heard was “you don’t matter now.” The words of encouragement this same coach showered on them all season, now dried up like shaved ice in the desert. Unfortunately, his well-intentioned words to them, once full of strength and promise, now seemed hollow and powerless.
It isn’t fair to say that this coach was a bad coach. In fact, the truth is that he is knows as a great coach. He is in it for the kids. He plays to win but focuses on teaching the boys good baseball and strong character first. However, when the real “trophy”, the blooming heart of a young warrior, was on the line, he didn’t consider the next step in leadership. He didn’t consider the legacy he would leave behind in these 6 “extra” boys. Unfortunately, he equated his legacy with a championship win in a little league regional tournament that no one would remember in a month.
6 unclaimed trophies. It’s a metaphor warning great leaders that you can win the day, yet lose the battle. A great leader will effectively lead people to achievement, but there is something beyond great leadership and great achievements. It is the concept of legacy.
You can define legacy as what is left behind in the people you lead. You can say that it is the far-reaching impact of your actions after you have moved beyond the stated objective.
The most devastating failures in leadership I have ever witnessed occurred when people became caught up in personal achievement or fulfillment. This happens in business, sports, and parenting. All too often, we forget the goal is not the prize.
Consider Paul’s focus in life:
Philippians 3: 13-14
“…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
The word for goal is “skopos” meaning the end-marker or the target. Think of a scope on a gun. It implies that immediate thing at which you take aim. It is the target, but it is only the means to the end. It is the vehicle by which you attain the true prize.
Whereas the word for prize is “brabion” meaning the reward or the lasting benefit that is given to the competitor. It is not the victory that matters. It truly is all about what you gain from the struggle. Playing the game to win is the goal, but the prize is the heart and mind left behind when it is over. This is much more profound and valuable than any piece of gold, or in this case, cheap plastic. When you lead people, especially your kids, you must be looking not JUST at what you need them to do, but who it is that they NEED to become.
What if the goal is not the prize? What if the objective is a means to an end as opposed to an end in itself? What if God controls the outcomes and holds us accountable for the methods? What if discipline with our kids was about growth, not control? How would it change the way I led my family if I wasn’t concerned about performance as much as the performer?
Was there more to be gained in that little league tournament than a championship trophy? I think so. Consider this. The team they beat that day was the same team that beat them a few weeks earlier for the city championship. Every kid on that team played just as he had the entire season. In fact, when the regional championship game was on the line in the last inning, there was a telling moment which displayed the difference between two coaching philosophies.
With the winning run on second base, the other team sent their weakest batter to the plate. When he managed to hit two foul balls, his coaches cheered and celebrated because earlier this season making contact with the ball seemed like a nice dream. Earlier, that season, this coach told this boy before the game that he hoped the whole thing would boil down to him having the last chance to win it. “Why me”, he asked acutely aware of his lack of batting prowess. Looking him squarely in the eye, that coach made a move that cost him the goal but won the ultimate prize. “Because, I believe that you can do it even though you may not. I want you to have the chance to face that moment and see what happens.” And so he did and they lost. After the game, the parents of that young man pulled this coach aside. Earlier in the season, they made very public expressions of disappointment about not being drafted to the other team. However, today they wanted to make sure this coach drafted their son onto every team he ever coached no matter what sport it was. They are grateful beneficiaries of his pursuit of the prize over the goal.
6 boys were missing that day because the final message from their coach was “you don’t matter”. 6 trophies went unclaimed because they were worthless to those boys. What did mean something to them had already been lost. Their coach made a choice to win the game and claim the trophy. But in achieving the goal, he failed to claim the prize, the heart and mind of 6 boys. That is leadership without consideration of legacy.
Chris Witt is the Executive Pastor at Grace Community Church in Tyler and Lindale, Texas. He is a long time Sky Dad as the father of two boys and has previously held a number of jobs, including Chief Ministry Officer, at Sky Ranch.
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