Is a place on the high school varsity basketball team worth the price he'll have to pay to keep it?
Liam couldn't believe it when Coach Kloss told him he'd made varsity. One of the guards had broken his leg, and Coach needed someone tall, who could box out and catch rebounds, starting with the game that night. But playing varsity wasn't like playing JV, even before they left the locker room. Coach knelt down prayed for their success in the game, and the whole team had to say the Lord's Prayer together. And afterwards, Coach said he wanted them to play team basketball, without any hotdoggers or showing off. Do your job, and only your job, and win the game.
But the only player he seemed to be talking to was Darius, a black sophomore who'd just moved to town. At halftime, Coach barely mentioned the two balls Liam had dropped, and concentrated on Darius, who'd made some plays on his own, rather than doing what he was supposed to. Darius just sat there calmly, listening to Coach yell at him. Finally he went to his locker and started to change clothes. When Coach asked him what he was doing, he had only one word-"Quitting."
The next day, Liam learned about some of the advantages of being on the varsity team. Jared Drake, the captain, offered him a part time job in his dad's shoe store, so he could get 40% off anything he bought. Jared also reminded him that all the varsity players had to go to HAF, the Horizon Athletic Fellowship, every Thursday morning before school. Missing HAF wasn't an option, and neither was wearing the HWJC wristband during games, to remind him How Would Jesus Compete.
Coach continued to pray before games and at halftime. Sometimes he asked a player to lead the prayers. Not all of them believed the words, but no one refused. HAF was more praying, more talk about what it meant to be a Christian and a basketball player. By now Liam was certain that he didn't really like being forced to do things he was uncomfortable about. Having his own private beliefs was one thing, but having to do and say things he didn't really believe in was another. But if Liam refused to go along with all of it, would he still have a place on the varsity team?
This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian, and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart.