2 Weeks and Counting…The Basketball Season Countdown

    img_20180703_234246_6747610938281689502199.jpg We are exactly 2 weeks away from the start of basketball season and I can hardly think about anything else!

 

     Did you see how I just jumped right back in there, like I have not been on a blogging hiatus for 4 months now!  Yep, daily chaos, summertime fun, school starting back, a jury trial and writers’ block have gotten the best of me this summer (and fall)!  It isn’t as though I haven’t thought about blogging…I think about it all the time.  I write down ideas and quotes I like and think would make a good post; I carried my computer with me on vacation and while Elle was at basketball camp but this past summer I decided I just couldn’t write about it, I had to live it!  Unfortunately, Team Gunter also dealt with a bit of heartbreak this summer which may have added to my lack of blogging – if you can’t say anything nice…yada yada yada!  But anywho, I am back at it now and just in time for my favorite time of the year…BASKETBALL SEASON!!

     Why do I love basketball season so much…let me count the ways!

  1. I love the sounds, sights, smells and feeling I get from being in the gym. Yes, I  said smells!  It takes me to a more peaceful place.  I learned in college that there were not many problems that God and I couldn’t work out while in a gym alone with a basketball and prayers!

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    Photo by Bk Aguilar on Pexels.com

  2. I love to see my daughter and players putting in the work to achieve their goals.   In today’s world our kids expect to simply have things handed to them; if I leave my players with anything, I hope that one of the lessons they learn is that nothing good in life is ever free and that they can accomplish any goal they set their minds to as long as they are willing to put in the WORK!  So, I ask them to keep a notebook to show me what extra work they have put in during their free time and in the summer.  I also want them to be writing down their goals and keeping them in sight as they progress down that path! I had the pleasure of reading a devotional by Crystal Stine called Holy Hustle, based upon her book by the same name.  In the passage she discusses that God intended the work before us and therefore we should do it as if working for the Lord and give him the glory! It made me ponder about doing a better job of serving the Lord in all three of my professions: criminal defense attorney, part-time basketball coach and Mom; not simply just going through the motions for a paycheck or March! Ouch and Amen! (P.S. I ordered the book! I can’t wait for it to arrive!) 

     

  3. I love seeing the Sisterhood come together!   I started coaching basketball at the local middle school and junior varsity level five years ago.  We had a blast that first season; the players were relaxed without distractions, they trusted each other and me and we had very successful seasons!  Once my little 8th graders got to high school and influenced by the older girls and lost focus, life wasn’t always so easy.  We have had many highs and lows in the last 4 seasons but this year…the feeling is already different in the gym during pre-season workouts…they are focused, positive,  having fun and trusting each other and me like never before…they are developing into not just a team but a Sisterhood!   When I was in college and one of my teammates or I would be asked to join a sorority during fall rush an upperclassman teammate of mine, Brooke, would always quickly chime in that we were already in a sorority and our induction process was far worse than any hazing the sorority sisters could cook up.  We ran together, lived together, ate together, rode buses at all hours of the night together, endured injuries, heart-brakes, milestones, wins and losses together.  She was right, this was the closest thing sisterhood I could imagine.  Now that college is well in my rear-view mirror I still love and miss my teammates dearly, and have a complete desire for my daughter and the players that I have had the pleasure of coaching for the last 5 years to experience this type of relationship, one relatively few women their age get to understand…the sisterhood of  teammates.20180924_1457015713093968130368214.jpg

The Sisterhood of Mothers

“You were teaching me before I ever knew it…Welcoming me into the Sisterhood of Mothers”

Isn’t it amazing to be a woman!  I have had such a crazy few weeks between the everyday life of running my business and household, helping out with a women’s gathering at church, becoming an “auntie” again and Mothers Day; I am all sorts of charged up on the glorious state of being a woman and even more…a Mother!

In reflecting on the blessing of motherhood and of being a woman, whether you bear children or not, I am reminded of one incredible phrase…

“I am who my Creator made me to be…Worthy”  fb_img_15266087273901700557613.jpg

This past weekend made me want to celebrate and recollect on all the amazing women in my life who have helped to shape me into the person I am today.  Women that God put in my path that were examples of grace and compassion, strength and poise and most importantly, love.  I also gained a realization that my impact on other women , including my daughters and surrogate daughters (aka my basketball team), is of great importance and I count the opportunity as a pure blessing each and every day.  It is in fact their presence in my life that reminds me of the person I continue to strive to be, of who I believe my God has made me to be.  It is certainly a call to action or in some cases inaction!

20170506_1540192074152420.jpgI was raised by possibly the strongest  woman you can imagine.  She was gritty and tough when she needed to be. She maintained a career (even changed careers to better provide for my sister and I), developed a loving home, somehow managed to accomplish all the regular mom goals with two super active kids all by herself, taught us the importance of faith and raised my sister and I to truly believe that we could accomplish anything we put our minds to if we were willing to work for it!  It is quite remarkable thinking about how she managed everything….I can’t imagine functioning day to day without my Husband helping out!  Even more so, she lost her own Mother at a very young age to cancer; her support system and friend.  It makes me truly thankful to have the blessing of my Mother to be a presence in the lives of my children.  I gift for which I will be forever thankful.

I am also very grateful for other amazing women that I have come across at all stages in my life that impacted me in almost every way.  A grandmother that shared a love for simple pleasures like the miracle of growing flowers in your garden and great-grandmother who was not only an entrepreneurial pioneer in her small community but also the matriarch of our family and had no problem keeping my grandpa in line, even as a grown man.  The mothers of many of my friends in elementary school and high school who welcomed me into their homes and whom gladly would have cared for any need I had and knew my mother did the same for their daughters; one of which could also give a glare to us teenagers in the back pews of the church on Sunday morning that made everyone within its path take notice and start shouting “amen!” Our pastor’s wife in the small country church I grew up in that loved so deeply and shared an amazing relationship with her Husband; multiple teachers in the elementary and high school I attended that taught me passion for topics I was interested in and how to turn that passion into a career as well as the importance of social conscience – the tiny community in which I grew up knew how to take care of its members in times of joy and in the depths of despair. College friends who warm my heart by just keeping in touch and seeing this families grow!  My first “real” boss when I was straight out of law school was an outstanding mentor, she was accomplished yet humble, very poised and stringent with detail but also kind and caring, especially to those within her inner circle, and super supportive as I took the first steps of independence in my legal career. The ladies in my women’s group at church that I have only recently met, but have given me an outlet like no other, that brings me closer to God and the woman and mother I was meant to be each day just by being around them and sharing our crazy family stories or kid catastrophes! And finally, my own two daughters and basketball team, which I have had the true blessing to watch grow into amazingly wonderful young women and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them or how they will impact their communities, families and the world!

It is abundantly clear to me that being a woman is of great importance; even God ordained Mary to be the mother of the Savior and his supreme supporter even until the end.  Mary was trusting of God and his plan, courageous, strong in character, and accepting of her role in this life, even if it wasn’t easy or popular! Isn’t that what we as women strive to be; whether we are blessed with little tornadoes in our homes or not, we all have the ability to impact others around us in positive ways – and in the same ways God called Mary to impact the world.

So my friends, welcome to the Sisterhood of Mothers or maybe better put the Sisterhood of Strong, Courageous, Compassionate, Loving and Impactful Women…go forward and support the women in your life, love them, and be a woman whose presence will positively influence the lives of those around you.

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She’s Got Skills – How Female Athletes Prepare for Life Beyond the Gym

As we come to the conclusion of Christina’s first club volleyball season I find myself feeling very blessed for the amazing experience she had while a member of this team.  The players, coaches and parents were all extremely positive and as a result Christina grew as a person and athlete.  We are looking forward to her school season more than ever now!  As I reminisce about this spring and the fun we have had watching her play I am reminded of the important skills that female athletes possess that prepare them for life beyond the gym or field.

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time-management-3Its tough being a woman in this world!  We have careers, run households, raise children, volunteer and remain active in schools and our communities and do all this while trying to maintain a sense of self and reach our individual goals!  Doesn’t that sound exhausting?!?

When considering my own experiences as an athlete and now raising daughters and coaching other female athletes, I have come to understand how the skills female athletes cultivate on the volleyball court or other athletic arena can be the foundation of skills they will need to be productive and successful business-women, mothers and leaders of the future!

Teamwork – The ability to work with other women.  I have heard people in workplaces say time and time again that women do not work well together.  I find this statement utterly ridiculous!!  Women, just like men, are smart, creative and have the ability to work well with co-workers, regardless of their gender.  I do think though that an athlete understands the importance of a close connection with those in which she must rely upon to accomplish her goals.  Teamwork makes the dream work, baby!  And who better to understand the importance of that statement than a female athlete that has been battle tested and put through what seemed like unimaginable feats with her teammates.

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The ability to sacrifice for the good of others.  An athlete understands sacrifice – plain and simple.  She understands how to put her body on the line for her teammates that she loves.  She understands that achieving a goal may require her to sacrifice free time, social groups, physical appearance and a perfect manicure!  Being a woman in today’s society is no different – we sacrifice to grow our careers, we sacrifice for our families and we  give of ourselves for our communities.  Currently, I am so far beyond the need for a haircut that I can consider a new longer hairstyle; all because I have not had a free moment lately to hit the salon.  The demands upon my free time for my family, home,  law practice, basketball team, and now this blog are tremendous!  It seems like a norm though, as an athlete I was always giving up something for basketball or my teammates.  I learned that if I loved the game and my teammates it really wasn’t a sacrifice at all, but rather a labor of love and I never thought twice about it!

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We discovered just before we were set to leave for Christina’s last volleyball tournament that she was having pain in her knee that had become more than annoying!  We took her to an orthopedist who explained that her hamstrings were tight causing the pain on the inside of her knee.  Otherwise, she was cleared to play – as she could – which to any athlete means…”Yay! I’m cleared to play!”  And she did.  We could see her fighting through pain during games and applying ice and ibuprofen to aid in reducing inflammation in her knee between.  She was a trooper!  And while I never advocate for a parent to push a child to play if he or she is in pain; I understood the life lesson that this situation provided our 17 year old daughter.  Sometimes, life is tough and it hurts (either physically or emotionally) but we must push through for those that we love and in order to achieve our goals.  Had Christina chosen not to play last weekend (and the choice was hers), her team would have been VERY short-handed and may have had to drop out of the tournament.  Her decision to play through the pain and sacrifice her body showed maturity and love for her teammates.

The importance of positive communication.  I give a speech at the beginning of basketball season each year about positive communication.  I remind my players that one phrase, communicated with different inflection and body language could have polar opposite effects on the person hearing the statement.  My example:  “Come on ladies, you’ve got this!” versus “Come ooon ladies!” (insert eye roll and foot stomp).  One of those statements is encouraging to your teammates and co-workers while the other is condescending and dismissive.  Its a very similar statement that could change the entire momentum of the game or your relationship with your teammates.

As mothers, communication with our families is really no different.  A question to Husband…”Have you done the dishes today?” is nothing more than a question unless I am adding body language and emphasis on words that indicate my annoyance with him (Why haven’t you done the dishes today?)  Positive communication is so vital to any relationship – marital, familial, career-related or friendships and it is an often over-looked trait that needs to be properly developed…the power of positive communication!  Being part of a team requires CONSTANT communication with ones teammates and on successful teams that communication is always positive.  That is not to say that situations do not arise that require a leader to step up and energize their team by challenging them to preform better or work harder, but an effective leader has the ability to energize her team without tearing them down!

The understanding that improvement and achievement of goals requires time and dedication.  Most athletes understand that putting in minimal time and effort is not enough to truly achieve goals.  Successful teams contain athletes than have a desire to put in the TIME and WORK required to grow, improve and exceed their goals!  In the same respect, growth and success do not happen over-night.  A female athlete understand that both require her to be dedicated to her craft and to spend her free time in the gym or weight-room rather than at the mall or texting with friends

wp-15232857102221808897985.jpgAs adults, we come to understand that any goal we want to achieve will require us to give of our time and be dedicated to our cause.  Whether our focus is on advancing our career, raising healthy, happy and loving kids, fighting for a cause that we support or a little bit of all three we have to understand that advancement in ANY of these avenues WILL require that we give of our time and energy to see it through!  Why do you think us ladies NEVER have free time!!

Go with the flow and accept the challenge set before you.  When I made a plan to attend law school after I completed my undergraduate education I NEVER in my wildest dreams planned to do so with a brand new baby girl along for the ride!  BUT, that is exactly what happened.  I began my first year of law school 8 months pregnant and scared to death of motherhood  – who had time to stress about starting law school!  I had to dig deep within myself and recall times in which I had to play a position I was unfamiliar with or guard a player bigger and stronger than me.  I find every situation to be better if you can turn it into a basketball analogy!  So, I loaded up my new born baby and hit the books!  Now that she is 13 and I have been in the practice of law for many years, I hardly remember those hard times.  In fact, I laugh at the fact that while my classmates were freaking out over Contracts class our first year, I was just going with the flow and wondering if I had bought diapers or was out of baby formula!

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I am sure I could go on and on about the positive attributes athletics can provide to young women (and men) but I will wrap it up for today!  I loved every moment of being a female athlete and I am so happy that my daughters have had the ability to be a part of teams and garner these same positive experiences that will help to shape them into the young women that seem to be appearing before my very eyes!

5 Life Lessons We Learn from March Madness

If you haven’t figured it out from my previous posts on this blog…this family LOVES basketball season!  We watch, coach, play and live basketball from November to March and really most every month in between!  After-all, what’s not to love!?!  As with everything else in life, it truly comes down to what your viewpoint is and how you choose to perceive certain situations and when it comes to sports and basketball its all good stuff here baby!  In, fact Team Gunter believes that there are important life lessons that can be garnered from March Madness and we take this opportunity to share them with you!

1.  SIZE DOESN’T MATTER.  

University of Maryland – Baltimore County’s 5’8″ point guard, K.J. Maura, showed the nation that great basketball players do not need to be 6-footers!  In fact, Maura admits that 5’8 may be pushing it a bit!  He doesn’t believe that his size is a hinderance to his game, in fact he reported to the Washington Post that his size was actually an advantage.  “My size is an advantage because a lot of guys are taller than me and they don”t expect me to be pressuring the ball.”  Maura told Washington Post reporter Steve Reed in an article posted on March 17, 2018.

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You see, Maura and many other tenacious athletes like him understand that accomplishing goals in sports or any area of  life isn’t about appearance at all,  its about taking control of the controllables, thinking outside the box, and not being afraid to chase you dreams;  even if you don’t fit the traditional mold!  It’s not being afraid to be who you are and to recognize and use your God-given talents and attributes to excel in your sport or profession and to achieve your goals!  So, K.J. Maura may never dunk a basketball and swing from the rim like his 6’8 counter-parts but what he can do is play tenacious, pestering defense and use his petite stature to slice and dice past larger, bulkier defenders as the drives to the basket to defeat one of the top teams in the nation in a game that will go down in history!

2.  PLAY WITHOUT HESITATION – GO FULL OUT.

I am constantly telling my players and kids that my biggest pet-peeve is when they don’t do things “full out.”  To me, its a waste of energy to only give 75%.  Why stay in defensive stance for 3/4 of the court only to stand up and let someone drive around you on the baseline!?!  Why spend time cleaning up dinner and washing dishes if you aren’t going to wipe off the stove and counter – its still dirty – and the water is right there to clean it!?!

 

 

 

This year’s NCAA basketball tournament has boasted more upsets that a few from teams that would not have appeared to have been worthy on a paper bracket sheet.  But, no one told them that!  They showed up and played “their” game without hesitation against the very best teams in the country and shocked the nation!  On the other hand, there were plenty of “good” teams that either under-estimated their competition or for some other reason showed up on the big stage and didn’t give the 110% required to propel them to a win!

I am loving the stories of lower ranked teams that suited up, warmed up and stepped onto a floor in an arena that may have been much larger than they had ever played on before and played without doubt – what did they have to lose!?!  What if we played EVERY game that way?  What if we approached life that way?  Confident, assured in our preparation, trusting our teammates, respectful of the gravity of the situation but unaffected by the largeness of the moment – that my friends is when we are teams and individuals are UNSTOPPABLE!

3.  ITS THE LITTLE THINGS (CULTURE WINS).

I can already see my players rolling their collective eyes as I jump up on this soap box again!  Close-outs, Box outs, keeping your hands high and in passing lanes, hedging on screens, Peek and Powerful, constant communication with teammates….all the “little” things in basketball that aren’t really “little” at all.  In fact, this tournament proves that the teams who focus on and execute on the minute details are the ones on the top of the score board and moving forward in the bracket.  They are committed to their defensive concepts and offensive strategy put into place by their coaches and program and are executing it in a precise fashion, even in “big” games – stick with your culture my friends!

It was much to my dismay as I watched my beloved Vols fall to Loyola, my real upset…why were they running and jumping at shooters!?!  Had they forgotten how to close out!?!  Did they not realize that as they went flying by the offensive player for the fifth time in a row that the Loyola player simply did a head fake and drove to the bucket or shot after the flash of orange defender went flying into the bench behind them!  I will be a University of Tennessee fan until the end but come on guys….these are basic defensive concepts….they won’t shoot over you if you stay on the floor with your hands high!  I feel like Coach Barnes may have told them this a time or two!  Stay true to your culture and do better next year!

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I read an article this week by the Chicago Tribune about the Wall of Culture that Coach Moser of  Loyola Chicago instituted in their locker-room. Is a commitment to these phrases a key to their successful season and trip to the Elite Eight? It was certainly a powerful enough idea that I posed the question to my G-Girls and asked them to tell me what phrases would go on our wall?

The lesson…stay true to your culture and the little things that your coaches (and parents) believe make your program great!  Pay attention to details, I know you don’t want to hold your hands in the air on defense but it may be the difference in a passer taking the look over your head or them feeling as though this defense has completely shut them down and settling for a poor shot or turnover.  Also, pay attention to the culture of how you behave on your team and respond to your teammates – love them, be positive to them and hold them to the high standards set by your program.

4.  YOU CAN’T DO IT ALONE – TEAMWORK PREVAILS

What more can I say…this one speaks for itself!  You don’t see a single team in the NCAA tournament, men’s or women’s, that are doing it alone!  Basketball, just as life, is a team sport and to excel on the highest level you have to trust and rely on your teammates.  The even more important part of this lesson is that sometimes on a team you have to be the role player, distributing the ball to the hot hand of your teammate or taking the charge and other times, your teammates need you to take the ball to the rim!  It’s that balance that makes teams great!

5.  IT DOESN’T HURT TO HAVE GOD ON YOUR SIDE!

This tournament season, Sister Jean of Loyola Chicago has taught us that even on the court, a little prayer goes a long way! Further, her spirit and love for watching her team play its way through the tournament is refreshing.

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I don’t pray for wins…never have and never will! But faith plays such a strong role in every aspect of our lives, why shouldn’t it in sports as well.  I often pray that my players are safe and play with clear hearts and minds and fully enjoy the game and all the positive attributes that can come from being an athlete and playing this game that I have loved most my life! I believe that training can be largely spiritual, there is nothing like being in a gym alone…I used to have my best talks with God and get in the best workouts in those moments!  When testing your own limits physically, mentally and emotionally isn’t this a perfect time to be talking to God…absolutely!  He may show you things about yourself you never even imagined…giving all glory to Him of course!

So, there you have it….I could go on for days but I’ll try to contain myself.  I love athletics! I choose for athletic experiences to be positive lessons, even when we aren’t necessarily winning!  You can do the same for your teams and families too!  Keep looking for those positives!