I was invited to joint the Men's Basketball team on a road trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma. I teach a lot of athletes and the advisors thought it might be a good idea to see how the student athletes spend their time. Having declined before, I had to say yes. There was no room for Neil but he was glad to send me on this adventure :)
We boarded the chartered flight and it was pretty funny to see 7 footers and broad shoulders manuvering their way into those small seats. There were gift bags waiting on each seat with sandwiches, chips, and a snack. In the pocket in front, there was Gatorade and water bottles. Every 15 minutes (literally) the flight attendant came down the aisle with something to eat - trail mix, fresh fruit, candy, grapes, ice cream, beef jerky. If you go hungry on these trips, you are doing something wrong.
I sat one row in front of the players and I have to say, I was thouroughly impressed. I grew up around athletics. My dad was a coach, I dated athletes. I watch sports. I know that locker room talk exists. I know that there is a culture in sports that can be less than desirable. That is NOT what I experienced. The guys were gentlemen and childish at the same time. They speak highly of each other. They speak kindly about women. They invest in each others futures. I witnessed a conversation where one player was asking the other, "what are your 5 year goals?" Not in a teasing way, not in sarcastic way. They thought no one was listening. He wanted to be able to encourage and help him outside the gym.
I know this culture starts with the coach. He surrounds these players with men that he would entrust with his own son's spiritual upbringing. He said that! We prayed at take off and landing. There is a no cursing policy. Coaches included. In a society where coaches push, tease, ridicule, and scream at players, it is so refreshing to see that there is another way.
We had a hiccup and had to land in Oklahoma City due to ice. And while the trip was MUCH longer than expected, I'd prefer that to danger any day! Plus, it gave me time to chat with these guys. Check back later for "Traveling Chapel". A post about breakfast with these guys!