Something to believe in, someone to believe in us and something that you believe you were created to do. These are three basic beliefs are essential to every person in determining what path their life is to take. This world has so much to offer and do. Choices and opportunities are everywhere. It can be downright confusing to sort all of it out and find your thing. How do you sort through all of it and discover what those beliefs are?
That is where Mentoring comes in. Mentoring relationships are the way to discover and develop them. Author and Success Coach, Bob Proctor says:
" A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you"
Mentors come in many varieties through many means. There's no one way to be a mentor , but for the last 25 years, I have used sports as a way to mentor. Sports is a language that many people speak. Sports have brought many people together that otherwise may not have connected. I learned years ago that my love and gifting in sports have provided me the opportunity to use sports as a way to help others realize their God-given purpose in areas other than sports. How does that work you ask? It is all about relationships centered around what I like to call the Three B's (Basketball, Brotherhood and Bible) allow me to explain.
The three B's aren't listed in order of importance but in order of process. The door is opened through the game of basketball. There is something that happens when two people are locked into battle. There is a bond that is formed which creates the opportunity to build a relationship or brotherhood. As the relationship is built, there's a trust that allows both parties to open up and make it possible for open communication that provides the opportunity to speak truth into someone's life. Those truths that are shared find their roots in the bible. For me, it is the foundation for the principles that I share. It isn't necessary that one share the same faith journey that I do. The relationship is the most important aspect of the mentoring relationship. Basketball builds the brotherhood that is rooted in the bible and it's principles. Here's how all three work in sports mentoring.
There has to be a starting point for any good relationship. For some it is a simple meeting at a coffee shop, a restaurant, church, work or someplace where the opportunity to engage in conversation can happen. In my world, the gym is a place where I feel most comfortable. When it comes to developing genuine friendships, the best ones happen when they occur "along the way" when both people are just being themselves. For me I have found that when I meet people as I am doing life, it takes the awkward edge off. It is not like we set out to befriend every person we come into contact with, but generally when we are out and about doing our thing, we tend to gravitate towards people who share similar interests. It's a story that has followed me most of my life.
Basketball is something that has provided some of the best friendships that I have ever experienced. I can remember as early as elementary school when my family moved into a new neighborhood. It was the first block I have lived on where all the other kids didn't look like me. It wasn't long before I realized that the one thing we had in common was basketball. I'd say it was there where I learned how basketball could be a tool for me to make friends. All throughout junior high and high school, these friendships not only taught me the game I love but allowed me to grow as a person. The growth came through the competition. I learned that through competition, I could not only push myself to be better but I could push my opponents and teammates to be better. This set the foundation for my life as a mentor.
Today, I use basketball as a way to meet people. When one of my mentors showed me how basketball can be used to serve others, it didn't take me long to begin to use it to connect with others. It has been the starting point for relationships that have gone beyond the game.
If you have ever played a sport or participated on any kind of team, you know that there is something about having a common goal to work for that brings people together in a way that they wouldn't have otherwise. It's a natural way to build a close friendship over time. The best starts happen when they occur naturally, unlike dating. Allow me to explain. If you have ever dated, it is always an awkward thing. It's generally two people who don't know each other putting themselves in a place where they can get to know each other. I have a preacher that I admire that is a bit of a relationship expert and he always says that when it comes to dating, you have to keep in mind that you are not really meeting the real person, you are meeting "the representative" or the person that they want you to meet. Both parties are putting their best efforts out there in order to impress the other.
When it comes to "ironsharpening" relationships (relationships where both parties are chasing the goal of becoming a better person) it is not about impressing someone or presenting this perfect image. It is more about both people just being who they are and allowing themselves to learn from the other person. It's a lot like sports! We come to the game with what we know, but when the game starts, it's all about putting all of themselves out there, competing, pushing the limits, learning how to overcome. The best games and the best relationships work best when both lay everything out there, both the good and the bad. Both are willing to learn what it takes to succeed even if one has to take an occasional L. A wise man once said that "you never lose, you either win or you learn" When you and the person you are grinding it out with both understand that, it sets the groundwork for a relationship where both can grow. Here's what a session looks like.
How Ironsharpening Works
In a typical "ironsharpening" session, we usually engage in some activity, usually it's a game of 1v1 basketball. After we have tired ourselves out on the court we usually get a chance to sit on the sidelines and talk about life. Depending on the level and interests of the person, we either simply chat about life or for some we actually engage in learning together. It can be working on basketball skills like shooting, post game, defense or dunking or we can actually get into a book study which can range from a leadership book or my favorite book, the bible. The goal is to help each other become better at life and reach the full potential that we have been created to do.
That is what mentoring is, helping someone get where they are destined to go! Along the way you develop a friendship that can have a profound effect on the future of both involved. There is a trust that is built that can be called upon at anytime when there is a need. A perfect example of this happened recently when I made a major life transition. It played itself out with a couple of guys that I invested in years ago.
The Brotherhood In Action
Our relationship started years earlier when Adam was a college student who had recently come to faith in God. From our first conversation it was pretty clear that this was going to be a Three B relationship. We both loved basketball and had a desire to grow in our faith. Through our journey together, I got to watch him develop and realize a call to be a disciple-maker and follow the same career path that I have been on. I got the honor of walking with him in the process that resulted in him moving to Minneapolis. Years later, in the course of our relationship, he had the opportunity to walk with me through my journey to following my dreams. An opportunity to not only follow my dreams but it gave us the ability to work together for the same organization in the same city with the same mission of investing in the lives of college students.
The opportunity to move to Minneapolis provided an chance to re-connect with another long time friend Jon. We have journeyed together through life since he was a high school basketball player with amazing potential. Our relationship started because of our shared love for basketball. I noticed he was a lot like me in many ways. What started with weekly battles on the court and great life talks afterwards at the farm grew into a relationship that has now spanned nearly 25 years. There were many times along the way when we were there for each other. One time in particular was when Jon was contemplating a major career change. It was an honor that he trusted me enough to walk with him through the decision making process. After months of sorting it out Jon made the decision to follow his dream and uproot himself from Chicago to Minneapolis. That is why it was kind of ironic that Jon was there for me during my life transition that moved me from Chicago to Minneapolis.
My relationship with both of these brothers define what Three B relationships are supposed to be. It started with our shared love of basketball and the bible. It was a natural thing for us. It was in the course of engaging in something that we loved that I could see the desire both guys had to invest in others. As our relationships developed, it moved from a mentor/mentee relationship to a brotherhood. That brotherhood has afforded us the opportunity to grow together and passionately pursue the calls on our lives. The foundation that we built through the Three B's back in Chicago led us to Minneapolis where we are investing in the lives of others. Jon has a great chiropractic practice where he not only treats in invests in his patients (of which I am one) but he is also active in helping to train up the next generation of Chiropractors. As for Adam, we are serving together with the Navigators at the University of Minnesota where we are investing in the lives of college students who are destined to become the world's future leaders.
The brotherhood is based on principle of doing life together in such a way where everyone involved can be pushed to become all they are meant to be. It's a relational thing that has its foundations in the bible.
The three B's are rooted in one simple idea found Proverbs 27:17 and Proverbs 17:17 Proverbs 27:17 says "As iron sharpens iron, so does one man to another" and Proverbs 17:17 which says "A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity." The idea is that relationships have a deeper purpose.
It's one thing to be a friend and simply love someone which should be basic to everyone but it's another thing to go deeper and get into the nuts and bolts of life. Those nuts and bolts can include everything from celebrating graduations, marriages, kids, jobs etc to walking through the tough times of life changing decisions, illness, loss etc. Brotherhood has everything to do with being there no matter what the problem and being ready to help without hesitation. (Proverbs 17:17)
Brotherhood is also about wanting the best for each other pushing to be the best versions of themselves. (Proverbs 27:17) Competition makes people better when it's done the right way. True competition is not about destroying someone but it is about taking the best you have and putting it to the test against someone who is looking to do the same thing. The battle that ensues is where the sharpening comes in as you learn what works and what doesn't work in pursuing the goal of success ("As Iron Sharpens Iron")
The Three B's are all about taking something that two people have in common and using it as the platform for building life changing relationships. In each this case, the relationship started with something as simple as a basketball, a bible and ended up in a brotherhood. This is a "formula" that has served me well the last 25 years. All of us have gifts and interests that make us who we are. The whole idea behind "The SportMentor" is simply taking that gifting and using it to invest in others.
"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:” 1 Peter 4:10
What is that gift that comes natural to you? All too often we think that investing in others is a "special" calling reserved for a few that spend years perfecting a "special" talent. The reality is that ALL of us have something to give to others. It doesn't take a fancy degree or a special talent, it simply takes a desire to invest in others and a willingness to take what you already do and invite someone else along for the journey. As you embark on the journey together you will discover something to believe in, someone to believe in you and something that you believe you were created to do!
Stay Forever Strong!