The Accidental Ball Coach

In a weird sort of way, I should probably thank the friend who left me standing there with the proverbial whistle.

The past few years, I’ve assisted that friend in coaching our respective daughters’ YMCA basketball team.  My friend knows his stuff.  He was a high-level athlete in his day.  He’s also a gentle giant, and the girls love him.  Meanwhile, I’ve dutifully sat on the bench and helped with the rotation.

I was looking forward to another year of my Robin to his Batman when life happened.  I can’t do it, he said.  Not this yearYou’re in … Coach.

And just like that I’ve got a clipboard in hand, and I’m walking around the court like I’m supposed to know what I’m doing.

From the very first practice, I notice one of the girls has the look.  She’s tall.  A baller, no doubt.  She’s never played organized basketball before, she says, but she’s been in the driveway with her big brothers plenty, and it shows.  She has a pure-looking shot, and I see potential all over the place.  Keep shooting, I say.

She does.  The Baller has a solid season.  She gets rebounds.  Plays defense.  Hustles like crazy. Her shot always looks good as it goes up, but more often than not, it doesn’t actually go in.  It’s only a matter of time, I say.  Keep shooting.

In the blink of an eye there’s one practice left, one game, and we’re staring attrition in the face.  One of our best ball handlers won’t make it to the final game.  OK, girls, I say, I need a backup point guard on SaturdayEverybody gets a chance to play the one tonight, and at the end of practice, I’ll tell you who it is.

We have the best practice of the season, and when it ends, I say:  Backup point guard duties go to The Baller.

Be ready, I tell her.

Oh, wow, she says.

On gameday, I put the girls through warmups.  I’m watching them shoot layups and jump shots, and I see something.  The Baller isn’t missing.  The ball goes in.  Every.  Single.  Time.

Did you practice this week? I ask.

The Baller nods, and the game starts.  The Baller scores the first six points.  Six to nothing, just like that.  The other team calls timeout, and I’m standing there sort of in disbelief, but not really.

Turns out, The Baller isn’t finished scoring.  Call it a scoring explosion.  We win the game.  The season’s over.  The girls are happy, and I shake my head.

My daughter and I enjoy a pleasant car ride home.  Then I go for a run, and somewhere between mile two and three it hits me – what it was that just happened back there.  It wasn’t an accident The Baller practiced all week and came out with her hair on fire.

She did it because I told her to be ready.  She took the challenge to heart, and she reached for it.

And I think to myself isn’t that what a coach does?  A coach sees the potential.  A coach challenges us to extend our reach.  That’s precisely what so many teachers, ecclesiastical leaders, mentors, coaches, bosses, colleagues, friends, family members, and heroes have given me over the years.

The difference is they knew what they were doing.


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six children.  He has a B.A. in communications (print journalism) from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law.  Chris enjoys music by The Piano Guys, flying kites, and pumpkin pie.  Chris is the author of Red: A Football Novel.

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All the News …

Call me a true believer.

It all started, I suppose, when I stepped off a bus in Santo Domingo sometime in the spring of 2000.  My two years in the Dominican Republic as a proselyting missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were coming to a close.  I was twenty-one years old with a burning question on my mind:  What to do with the rest of my life?  I stepped down from that bus, and the inspiration struck.  Journalism was the answer.  Just like that.  I knew my calling.

The Dominican Republic, May of 2000

I got home to Nebraska a month or so later.  I worked like a dog that summer – two jobs and sixty hours a week – to save money for college.  That fall, I returned to BYU in Provo, Utah, for my sophomore year of studies, and this time I had a purpose.  I threw myself at a print journalism major.  I loved it.  I lived it.  I wrote on deadline.  I read The New York Times.  I thrived on the electricity of the newsroom.  I relished seeing my name in print.

And I drank the Kool-Aid.  Journalists, I came to realize, play a vital role in our society.  They seek the truth.  They hold the powerful to account and shine a light on injustice.  Without the Fourth Estate – a free and robust press – this whole American experiment crumbles.  I believed that then.  I still do.

But I admit I flinched.  During my senior year at BYU, I told one of my journalism professors I needed a favor.  He said, “Anything – as long as it isn’t a recommendation letter for law school.”  I must not have been the first.  The J.D. was the right thing to do, even if a part of me will always feel like a traitor for it.

My journalism degree is still one of my prized possessions.  The diploma hangs on the wall in my office.  Right next to my law degree.  I’m proud of both.  If I have a favorite, I won’t admit it any more than I would admit to having a favorite child, but deep, deep down, I’ll always be a newspaper man.  My time in the journalism trenches changed me.  It changed the entire trajectory of my life.  I learned a skill, developed some much-needed confidence, and came to admire a profession that is too often misjudged.

B.A. in communications (print journalism) 2003

Frankly, I’ll never understand the paranoia.  Journalists aren’t perfect.  Mistakes happen, but let me assure you the profession as a whole isn’t out to get us.  Journalists are mostly honorable people out to get it right. So, perhaps if one day you’re reading something you don’t particularly like, something that makes you feel a wee bit uncomfortable, maybe just maybe that means there’s a journalist out there doing his or her job.  Yes, the truth can be messy and challenging and disquieting, but it can also set you free.


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six children.  He has a B.A. in communications (print journalism) from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law.  Chris enjoys music by The Piano Guys, flying kites, and pumpkin pie.  Chris is the author of Red: A Football Novel.

2021 Ho!

Whew!  The year 2020 is in the books, and we’re all glad it’s over.  Right?  Right?!?

Well, don’t look now, but here comes 2021.  And while we may be in for another wild ride, I also believe the future is whatever we make it.  With that sentiment in mind, here are my personal goals for 2021 – because I figure if you have goals, write them down.  Better yet, publish them to the internet:

Intellectual Goal

This is the year I will finish a complete draft of my sci-fi action-adventure novel titled Space Corps Academy, which might just be my longest, most ambitious project to date.  It’s been a while since I touched the thing, but I’m ready to go back.  For me, the writing process takes a lot of effort and a lot more time.  In fact, the thought recently occurred to me that if I do ever make it as a published author, I’ll probably be bringing in a whopping thirty cents an hour, but what the heck.

Physical Goal

I’m out to shed the COVID fifteen.  We’ve all become more sedentary this past year.  That, and we’ve needed comfort food.  Lots of it.  Even though I’ve tried to watch my steps and take at least one walk around the neighborhood every day, I admit I’ve packed on a few.  I’ve never been big on diets or exercise, but this year I’ll eat less and burn more.

Spiritual Goal

My plan is to find a quiet place to be alone every night and then pray out loud.  There are things I need to say to my Father in Heaven.  There are petitions to make, and I have come to realize that my prayers are more effective if I force the words across my lips as opposed to rolling them haphazardly through my mind.  I will pray for specific individuals by name.  There is power in that, and there are so many people who need the prayers.  More than a few of them are people I don’t know how to help but wish I did.  Others don’t want my help, but they can’t stop me from praying for them.  And I will.

Social Goal

I lack many skills.  I’m not handy with a tool belt.  I’m not mechanically inclined.  I’m not blessed with the gift of gab.  I do hope, however, that I can put the talents I have been given to good use.  In 2021, I will write a minimum of one letter of appreciation per month.  That letter could go to a long-distance friend.  I might send something to a favorite author or artist.  Perhaps a family member or neighbor will receive a note.  Words can absolutely uplift and edify.

So, no matter what 2021 throws at us, let’s do everything we can to make this the best year we’ve had since the last best year we had.  You in?


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six children.  He has a B.A. in communications (print journalism) from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law.  Chris enjoys music by The Piano Guys, flying kites, and pumpkin pie.  Chris is the author of Red: A Football Novel.

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Great-Full

“Now have we not reason to rejoice?”  (Alma 26:35)


Last Friday, Russell M. Nelson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and beloved prophet, challenged those listening to counteract the world’s present turmoil with a simple remedy:  Gratitude.  President Nelson then invited us to make social media our personal gratitude journal over the course of one week, and I’ve done just that.  What a wonderful opportunity it’s been to count my blessings and watch others do the same.

There’s just one problem.  Seven days aren’t nearly enough to document all the things I’m grateful for. My life is full of so many great people, places, and things worthy of recognition I feel compelled to add this addendum to my social media gratitude journal, and even then I realize I’m barely scratching the surface:

I’m grateful for a challenging and rewarding career that allows me to comfortably support my family.  I’m grateful for a good boss who cares about his employees and fights hard for justice in our community.

I’m grateful for autumn.  That means colors, falling leaves, cool breezes, family, football, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie – not necessarily in that order.

I’m grateful for rockets and airplanes and kites and clouds and sunsets and barn swallows.

I’m grateful for stories and for the gift of imagination.  Watching a good movie on the big screen is one of the best things in the world.  Plays and musicals are amazing too.  I love science fiction.  I’m grateful for late-night poetry jam sessions with my kids.  I’m grateful for Barnes & Noble and the Lincoln City Libraries.

I’m grateful for talented people – especially talented people who are good.  I’m grateful for authors who inspire me.  I’m grateful for my personal writing partner who motivates me to keep pressing forward with my goals.

I’m grateful for music.  I’m grateful for trumpets and French horns and for Christmas tuba concerts at the rotunda of the State Capitol Building, although my dear wife has taught me there’s more to life than the brass section.  I’m grateful for violins and cellos and pianos too.

I’m grateful for warm blankets and Oreo cookies and Godfather’s Pizza and cherry limeade.  I’m grateful for fresh-baked bread.

I’m grateful for my siblings – two stylish sisters and a brother who is nothing less than Super Uncle to our children.  I’m grateful for an abundance of brothers- and sisters-in-law.  I’m grateful for too many nieces and nephews to count – or to remember all of their names.

I’m grateful for teachers and medical professionals and law enforcement officers.  I’m grateful for handy people who, unlike me, have actual skills and know how to fix things.

I’m grateful for my church family.  I’m grateful for my quorum.  I love and appreciate all the people I’ve ministered to over the years.  I love and appreciate all the people who’ve ministered to me – and especially to my children.  I’m grateful for everyone I’ve served alongside.  I’m grateful for people who are trying to live what they believe.

I’m grateful for full-time missionaries, priesthood authority and keys, saving ordinances, temples, modern revelation, scripture, a living prophet, and the comfort and guidance of the Holy Ghost.  Most of all, I’m grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who has blessed me with all of these gifts and more and who withheld nothing in sending His Only Begotten Son to atone for me and for all mankind.

Let’s just say I’m grateful.


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six children.  He has a B.A. in communications (print journalism) from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law.  Chris enjoys music by The Piano Guys, flying kites, and pumpkin pie.  Chris is the author of Red: A Football Novel.

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Holy Kapow!, Batman!

Slam!  Blast!  Rip!

I’m a bit of a news junkie.  I can’t help it.  The newsroom is in my blood such that I spend more time scanning headlines than a healthy person rightfully should.  I have a problem, yes, but that problem led me to a recent observation:  Have you ever noticed how many headlines these days contain one of the aforementioned combat words?

Road Runner slams Wile E. Coyote!  Harry Potter blasts Draco Malfoy!  Pooh rips Piglet!  You get the idea.  This is what passes for news these days.

It’s like the old-time Batman TV show.  You know the one I’m talking about.  Burt Ward.  Adam West.  Enough cheese to shame Wisconsin.  Bam!  Pow!  Thwack!  Take that, Penguin!

That show was hardly a thing of beauty.  Neither are today’s headlines.

Blame it on the internet.  This is the click-bait culture, I guess.  Conflict creates interest.  Fighting words signal conflict.  What outrageous thing did so-and-so say about so-and-so today?  And down the rabbit hole we go.

Blame it on us.  This is increasingly who we are, I’m afraid.  Who can get in the sly dig?  Who can “destroy” an enemy with quick wit and a superior intellect or maybe just the brute force of belittling an opponent?

Never mind that somewhere out there the other guy has a mother who loves him too.  Never mind that the other guy puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like you do.  (I mean, you do, don’t you?)  Never mind that the other guy has a life experience and a viewpoint just as valid as yours and mine.  No, apparently, it’s more fun to duke it out.  It’s more satisfying to demean and demonize.  Sort of like picking a scab.

Call me a spoilsport, but when did we become such an insufferable bunch of know-it-alls, so convinced we’re right but so insecure in our position as to feel compelled to beat everyone else into submission?  Whatever happened to turning the other cheek?  Why must we dignify every slight, perceived or otherwise, with a response?  Move on and think happy thoughts.  Better yet, just listen.

No question something has to change, so I’m starting with me.  I hereby vow not to take the bait.   I won’t go down that rabbit hole.  I want to build up, not tear down.  Maybe if we all work together on this, work on ourselves, our own little positive contributions to the ocean of humanity will add up enough to make a difference.  At least that’s what I’m hoping.

Kerplop!


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six young children.  He has a B.A. in communications (print journalism) from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law.  Chris enjoys music by The Piano Guys, flying kites, and pumpkin pie.  Chris is the author of Red: A Football Novel.  He also spent two years in the Dominican Republic without a pillow, but that’s a story for a different day.

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