What does it mean to be a Word of Life Husky? There’s something unique about this team, and I wanted to hear about it straight from the source- so I sat down with the coach and captains of the Word of Life Huskies Basketball team to find out.
As Quiece and Antoine entered my office, it was easy to see the bond between them. They walked and talked like brothers, and as they sat down to discuss life as a Husky, it became clear to me that they weren’t just members of the same basketball team, they were warriors on the same battlefield, athletically and spiritually. I asked about the college life, classes, and spirituality, and then got down to business- what made their second year at the Bible Institute worth it? What did it really mean to be a Husky?
Quiece spoke up first. He pushed his dreads to the side with a thoughtful look and said, “Returning for second year has allowed me to learn how to apply a lot of what I learned in first year. It’s more about learning outside of class, and being intentional in leadership. I’ve already been at Word of Life for a year, and because of that, Coach challenged me to step up and become a Captain. On the basketball team, you realize it’s about more than yourself.”
Antoine nodded, and I focused in on Quiece’s last sentence, asking what he meant about basketball being about more than just yourself- in what sense did he mean? He said, “When you’re a leader, you have to recognize that the way you respond and the way you react affects your team. Coach would get on me about something, and I would start to mentally check out. Then I saw how my guys caught on to my attitude, and how it impacted the team… I realized that despite how I felt, I needed to choose to have a good attitude- for them. Being a Husky basketball player is about letting everything you learn in God’s Word overflow onto the guys around you. It’s about focusing on them instead of yourself”.
As Quiece sat back, I turned to Antoine. He had seemed to agree with everything Quiece said, and I was interested in what he had to say- what did being a Husky mean to him? He took in my question with a serious look, and paused a moment before answering. “Being a captain on this team and a second-year student has taught me how to be a model to the guys around me, on and off the court. It’s all about taking the things you’ve learned and choosing to use them in your life. God has used this team to show me that no matter what, I want to apply what I’ve learned to whatever youth ministry I work in. I’ve learned that the Kingdom of God has to be central- it has to come before everything else. That’s what being a Husky is all about- and that’s what life is all about.”
He quieted for a moment, and then cleared his throat, stating “Having a guy like Coach in my life… that’s made a real difference”. Quiece glanced at him and then at me, and simply said: “Yeah, it has.” Simple words, but the meaning was profound. Their coach was an integral part of their lives, and I could see the impact he’d had on the both of them. I decided I wanted to learn more about their coach, Justin Cousins.
A few days later, I met with Coach Cousins to hear a little bit about his take on the Bible Institute and what the Huskies meant to him. I was struck by what he had to say. “The competitive nature of basketball can quickly bond guys together, and it’s a unique bond because of how basketball naturally brings out the best and the worst in people. With this year’s team, I laid out the foundation of what it meant to be a Husky from the beginning. I told them on day one that I expected them to be leaders on the campus spiritually, in the class academically, and on the court athletically. My priority as their coach is to minister into the lives of these students. We address character issues, personal and family problems, and spiritual things that come out. I’m with them at least two hours a day for six months- we’re together constantly. This year, I was with these guys through highs and lows, and I had to decide how to biblically address each twist and turn of the road. As Huskies, they’ve realized how basketball can make them better followers of Jesus- they’ve also forced me to be a better leader, a better disciple and a better discipler. My lens as their coach is to develop their game, yes, but it’s first and foremost to develop their relationships with Christ.”
I asked Coach what he felt was most important for his guys to know about the team. He said, “I want them to know that I care about them more as a person than a basketball player. They can always come to me about life stuff, and they know that- especially this year through various trials we’ve experienced as a team. It’s more than just the game; it’s living life with the guys.”
As he stretched and stood, I hit him with one final question: What does he think it means to be a Word of Life Husky? He slung his coach jacket over his shoulders and simply said, “Being a Word of Life Husky means developing your game and your relationship with Jesus Christ. We’re gonna do everything we can to develop you as a disciple, and we are going to use basketball to do that”.
Well, I guess I got my answer.