Africa, Summer 2012
I wanted to give you a report of my trip to Africa this past July where I conducted a combined training camp / coaches clinic in the Ivory Coast.
We came very close to not going at all. Our first flight out of Jacksonville was canceled which started a domino effect of missing all the other flights. We sat for 2 days in airports in the US. It turned out to be a time where our group came closer together because of the deep conversations, prayer times, a lot of laughter, and perseverance. We were able to add some time on the end of the trip to make up for the days missed.
Once we made it to Abidjan we met with the Ivory Coast Basketball Federation officials and set up a game plan for the week. They were very gracious and easy to work with. Each day we started training the sideline was filled with basketball coaches with paper and pen in hand. Most of the players and coaches only spoke French so it made things interesting.
Fortunately one of the University of Florida players (Wil Yeguete) helping me had grown up in Abidjan as well as France and spoke fluid French. It was very helpful that he not only knew French but the game of basketball as well. Patric Young was the other player assisting me with the training camp. These were two great young men and it was a privilege to have them along side of me. By the way, they both are starting for the Gators this season.They both have a good chance to be drafted by the NBA next year.
In reflecting on my time in Abidjan I was moved by the hunger of the people. Certainly I saw an overwhelming amount of physical hunger but they were hungry for many other things that we were able to share with them in this brief stay. The players and coaches were hungry for knowledge and direction in the sport of basketball. The players were focused on everything I told them and demonstrated to them. (I wish I would always have had this on my teams in the US) The coaches asked many questions and wanted to stay after the sessions to continue learning. I believe the players were hungry for a coach that gave them more positive reinforcement and encouragement than consistently being torn down by their mistakes. They were hungry to better themselves. They would ask me how they could get to the NBA. Although the chances are slim I tried my best to give them guidance on how to improve each day. They also showed a personal hunger for a more meaningful life. We shared the gospel with them and many responded. (players and coaches)
We are now trusting Ammousan (Athletes in Action Staff) and Rabe (Director of Campus Crusade for Christ) to follow up on them. I have great confidence in them and their staff members
I believe we made a difference in the lives of the people we came in contact with in Abidjan but as usual it greatly impacted my life as well as the others on this trip. I thank God that he allowed me this opportunity. This trip played a major role in preparing me for my present assignment here in India. The Ivory Coast will always have a special place in my heart and I truly hope to return someday. I now focus on my new assignment. In the future I will be sharing my journey as the national basketball coach of India. It will be a great challenge to further develop the sport in this country and to be used to make an eternal difference. SALT & LIGHT