Fighting apathy with AGGRESSIVE Humility

Assistant Coach Ethan Whaley


As games began, our coaching staff was concerned!


There was an overwhelming feeling of apathy that seemed to be contagious in our locker room. Between the National Title game and our first practice, 9 members of our returning roster and staff had contemplated moving on for reasons other than graduation.  The reasons varied—some were burnt out on the game, some desired a greater role, some felt like they had already accomplished all that they could.  Whatever the reason, the team lacked an excitement and a drive that had carried us so far in past seasons, and it felt like there were too many in key roles who were not fully committed to growth.


Make no mistake, our coaches, players, and managers worked hard in the off season, putting in as many hours of work as ever before. While I couldn’t put my finger on it, something appeared to be different. It was as if the approach had become, “I’ll go in, do my job, and go home.” The atmosphere of unselfishness and humility that I had grown accustomed to were was not as apparent. 


While this didn’t show itself right away, over the course of weeks and months the apathetic approach slowly chipped away at the pillars that our program were built upon.  After all, apathy in one area of one’s life will undoubtedly spill over into other areas. While apathy on the court was hurting our program, the bigger picture was that our players were not capable of being fully committed in one area while apathetic in another.  As coaches, we began to talk about how to nudge our players out of their comfort zone and force them to commit one way or the other—“Are you in or are you out?”


After an early season loss to Cornerstone along with a couple of other lackluster performances, we went back as a staff to a foundational passage for our program--Phillippians 2:1-11, a chunk of Scripture that every member of our program has memorized that is about ‘Christ’s humility.’ 


We began to talk about true humility.  Oftentimes in our culture, the term, “humility” can be mistaken for “weak” or “passive.”  While we wanted our players to get ‘smaller and weaker,’ the humility we were talking about was not passive.


As Jesus was on His way to the cross, he was confronted with two options:

1)         I’m the son of God, and I don’t feel like going through that pain and misery. I have never sinned. Why would I give my life for people who repeatedly disrespect and take for granted all the gifts that God has given them?

2)         If I don’t give my life, there is no way the world can be set free from the sin that enslaves them.


A passive form of humility likely would have chosen the easy path.  But when you read Philippians 2, Christ’s humility was not passive or mild. He took his position (in nature God) and leveraged it for the good of others (he humbled himself BY becoming obedient to death on a cross).  It was an aggressive humility!


We began to challenge our team to think and pray about their gifts, influence, and power—and how they could leverage those things for their teammates.  It was amazing to watch our team hit a growth spurt. We saw a freshman make 29 3FG’s in a 5 game stretch when he realized that using his gift of shooting would be helping his older teammates rather than taking shots from them.  Another upperclassmen who was adept in relationships reached to a younger teammate and began intentionally investing in him over weekly lunches.  Personally, I was challenged to be more focused in using my gifts to help our players grow, and it led to a greater passion for coaching.


While the growth spurt could not last a full season, and there were more challenges ahead, pursuing aggressive humility would continue to be an important concept for our players as staff as we pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone and attempted to reach our potential as a team.