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Interview: Kip Drown, basketball coach

12 January 2024

‘I believe with all my heart that God created me to be a basketball coach’

Basketball is an exciting, fast-paced game, that involves great teamwork and conditioning. In the US, where it originated, it’s played by pre-schoolers through to adult leagues, and it’s watched by millions of fans.

Basketball has actually seen great growth worldwide in the past several decades.
Foreign players are highly recruited by colleges here in America, and both the National Basketball Association and Women’s National Basketball Association professional leagues have been impacted greatly through foreign players.

My dad put up a goal in our garage;
so I started shooting baskets around the age of four or five. When I was about eight years old, my parents took me to a local high-school basketball game. That night, we sat on the row right behind our school’s bench where the team and coaches were sitting. After the game, on the drive home, I told my dad that I wanted to become a basketball coach when I grew up, and I never wavered from that declaration.

I loved playing the game of basketball,
but I loved coaching this great game even more.

I believe with all my heart that God created me to be a basketball coach.
I spent the first ten years of my career coaching men’s basketball (six years in high school, and four years as a college assistant coach). After those first ten years, I moved over to coaching women’s basketball as a head college coach for 31 years.

I was blessed to coach numerous All-Americans and All-Conference players,
but I’ve always believed that everyone on the team had to be committed to putting the success of the team above any individual honours. “Team first” was at the core of my coaching philosophy.

I grew up in the small town of Salem, Missouri.
I was blessed with a very loving and close family that shaped my life greatly. Attending church has always been a huge part of my life. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour at the age of seven years old, and he has guided my life for the past 60 years.

Now that I’m retired from coaching,
my wife, Gina, and I live in Statesboro, Georgia, and I’m able to spend a lot more of my time involved with my church and focusing more on my own personal spiritual growth.

Success in any endeavour of life,
be it sports, academics, or spiritual growth, must be built on a solid foundation of the fundamentals of that particular undertaking. As a coach, I was constantly stressing the importance of executing the fundamentals of the game of basketball (shooting, passing, dribbling, etc.) to our players. They were the foundation to our success on the basketball court.

In my book, More, I’ve taken that same philosophical belief
and applied it to the importance of executing basic biblical fundamentals, so that people will experience growth and maturity in their spiritual life. These five biblical fundamentals — focus, abiding, inspiration, trust, and heeding — form a spiritual game-plan for how to live out and grow one’s life in Christ.

As a basketball coach,
I challenged my players to constantly be improving and to take their game to another level. In writing More, I took that same attitude in challenging believers to never be satisfied with where they are in their walk with Christ, and to always seek to become more like him and for him.

The message of the Bible has not changed.
The Bible tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” The world wants the message of the Bible to change so that it will conform to how the world is currently living their lives. The Bible, however, wasn’t written to conform to the standards of society, but rather for the world to conform its actions to the Bible.

Like many Christians, I’ve had periods of great spiritual growth; but I’ve also experienced times of little to no growth, and I’ve occasionally experienced periods of spiritual drifting away from God. My life is always for the better when I am experiencing closeness in my walk with the Lord.

Both sports and our spiritual lives have a goal — a finish line, if you will. In sports, the goal is to win a contest as judged by the results on a scoreboard. In our spiritual life, the goal is also to win, and we achieve that with the victory we find in a personal relationship with Jesus and spending eternity with him in heaven.

I love studying the Bible,
reading Christian authors, working in the yard, and I love watching movies. I enjoy suspense and action films, especially if it involves a great espionage plot. There have been many excellent Christian movies released in the past few years that are very inspiring to me also.

There are still many items left on my bucket list. I want to take an overnight train trip; I want to drive all the way across the United States, staying off interstate highways as much as possible; I want to see a basketball game in Madison Square Garden. Growing up as a basketball fan, Madison Square Garden, located in New York, to me was the Mecca of basketball in this country, and I have always dreamed of getting to attend a game there.

I wouldn’t use the word “angry”, but many things sadden me as I see this world sliding farther and farther away from God, and failing to be obedient to his word.

I’m happiest when I’m in solitude with God; with my wife, Gina; a good movie; a cabin in the mountains; watching my favourite baseball team of more than 60 years, the St Louis Cardinals, win a game.

I’ve always loved to go to sleep to the sound of a fan blowing.
I grew up listening to an attic fan at night. It’s very comforting to me.

The Bible tells us that our only real hope is in God, who never changes. Everything else in this world is temporary and fleeting.

I believe with all my heart in the power of prayer and the importance of prayer. I pray for the spiritually lost in our world. I pray for God’s Church, that it will stay true to the Bible. I pray for family and friends. I lift up personal requests. All of my prayers are always encircled with the words “Thy will be done.”

Who would I like to be locked in a church with? Wow! So many to choose from. I’ll go with the apostle Peter. Who else has walked side by side with Jesus, seeing and hearing everything that he did, and also walked on water? I would love to hear the details of that story. Peter was a part of so many amazing stories in the Bible.

Kip Drown was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.

More is published by WestBow Press at £14.95 (Church Times Bookshop £13.45); 978-1-66429-130-0.

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