Are You a Difference-Maker?
by C.A. Phillips
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)
From time to time I reflect on the people who influenced me the most during my time as an athlete. There’s a man by the name of Bill Cooper who coached me in baseball at Oregon Park when I was 10 and 11 years of age. Coach Cooper was one of my favorite coaches ever. He introduced the “paddle” to our team to improve our fielding. The paddle was a piece of thin plywood with an elastic band stapled to one side, so you could slip it on your hand. So, instead of wearing your glove, you put on the paddle. At first, everyone was a bit concerned by this. But, in time, you began to get the hang of it, and it forced you to use two hands when fielding ground balls.
I also remember Gary Pruitt. Coach Pruitt was never my baseball coach for the regular season, but I had the privilege of playing for him one summer in All-Stars. He loved the game so much, and so enjoyed working with kids, that he coached for years, despite not having a son playing on the team. Everyone loved Coach Pruitt, but he was a no-nonsense guy. I can remember one game when I came up to bat – Coach Pruitt was in the Third Base Coach’s box giving the signals. You have to understand, I was the cleanup hitter. I was a bigger kid and had little speed. But, on this occasion, Coach Pruitt gave me the bunt sign. “Are you kidding me?” I wondered. I stepped in the batter’s box a bit dismayed. When the pitch came, I didn’t square around to bunt. Instead, I swung hard – and hit a home run over the centerfield fence! I can vividly remember rounding third base and getting an earful from Coach Pruitt. He was not celebrating. With a rabid snarl, he yelled, “I told you to bunt!”
Then there’s my favorite basketball coach: Rock Rockwell. Coach Rockwell was my best friend’s dad. But, that didn’t do me any favors. Coach Rockwell worked us hard. Each week in practice we ran countless lines, and performed dozens of drills until we were precise with our dribbles and our passes. He knew the game inside and out, and he loved it so much that he helped us understand the importance of doing the little things well.
Like many of you reading this, I had a number of coaches in a variety of sports over the course of my career. But, only a handful really stand out as “special.” What made them special? In my estimation, it came down to two things: a love for the game, and a love of watching other people come to love the game like they had.
So, let me ask you this: are YOU making a lasting positive impression on those around you – at work, at school, in your neighborhood, on the ball field? Like it or not, people are paying attention, and they are forming opinions about us constantly. Let’s leave them with something worthwhile – something that will give them joy when they reflect back on the time they spent with you 20-30 years from now.
C.A. Phillips is a lifelong sports enthusiast and youth baseball coach, and currently serves as the Communications Pastor and Director of Men’s Groups at NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, Ga. He lives in Kennesaw with his wife, Amy, and his two sons, Chaz and Chandler.
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