Friday, November 25, 2011

Lessons We Can Learn From Lutheran High School Volleyball

Two weeks ago, the Lions of Lutheran High School won the Colorado State 2A Volleyball Championship (see the video link of the championship point, found above). This championship is significant for a number of reasons, the most important for me personally being that my daughter had the privilege of serving as a team manager for this team (she can be seen raising her arms in triumph several times after the championship was secured). However, this victory, I believe, has significance that goes beyond a simple athletic achievement. Let me explain.

This past year was marked by significant challenges for the Lutheran High School community in the Denver area. At this time last year there were two schools that were a part of the Colorado Lutheran High School Association (CLHSA), Denver Lutheran High School (DLHS) and Lutheran High School Parker (LHSP). The two schools were competitors throughout the season with both volleyball squads advancing to the state finals, though neither won the championship. The Denver Lutheran campus had been sold in order to relocate to a more sustainable area of the metropolitan area. However, as time progressed, it was apparent that a new location for DLHS could not be secured in a timely or financially feasible fashion. Therefore, the CLHSA made the difficult decision to close the Denver site and merge the two schools, creating a new Lutheran High School at the Parker campus.

The decision, while prudent given the debt of the association and the concerns about the long-term viability of the Denver site, brought heartache for the Lutheran community in Denver. Nonetheless, a significant number of students and families from DLHS chose to make the trip to Parker in 2011-2012 to the new, consolidated Lutheran High School.

As the 2011 volleyball season approached it was clear that this new Lutheran Lions team had a great deal of potential. Several starters from both DLHS and LHSP were a part of this new team, and the merger provided the Lions with plenty of depth. The key question, of course, was how to meld former competitors into a cohesive unit, especially since the team would be made of up six girls from DLHS, six from LHSP, and one new student.

We now know that this team did come together as a state championship squad. In the process, I believe they taught ALL of us lessons about life, ministry, and service to God. Take a look at the following lessons we can learn from Lutheran High School volleyball:
  1. What we can accomplish together surpasses what we can accomplish separately: We need each other and can, by the grace of God, accomplish more when we set aside differences and come together as a Synod, District, Association, School, or Church. With God, nothing is impossible!
  2. Leadership and vision are essential: Coach Alicia Oates would likely be the first to defer credit to the volleyball girls, but I credit Coach Oates for setting the tone for the season, for challenging the girls to embrace unity and to accept different roles within the team, keeping the greater good of the unit always in front of them. Godly leadership is critical in all ministries of the church, and we would do well to lift up and support this leadership.
  3. Sometimes teamwork means we need to adapt to different roles: There were girls from both DLHS and LHSP whose roles changed significantly during 2011 -- girls who had been starters or significant role players on a 2010 state finalist volleyball team who were asked to move to a new position or accept a new role on the team in 2011. To their everlasting credit, these girls embraced these roles, building up the unity of the entire squad in the process. What roles might change for each of us when we come together as a larger group? It is good for all of us as adults to ask that question and acknowledge that there are times when the Lord might be leading us a different direction -- a direction that might bring even greater honor and glory to our Heavenly Father.
  4. Understand the challenges -- Embrace the possibilities: No doubt the girls of the new Lutheran High School saw the challenges before them as they began the 2011 season. Some were changing roles and positions. All were getting used to new teammates. Still others had significantly longer days in front of them, coming from as far away as Lakewood to be a part of the school and the team. While these girls were aware of the challenges, they kept their eyes focused on the possibility of being part of a very special season, not only for themselves, but for the entire school. How often are we as adults hamstrung by the challenges we see? While being realistic about those challenges is important, are we focusing on the challenges to such a degree that we fail to see the opportunities for growth and service that God is placing before us amidst the challenges?
  5. Let the kids lead! These girls figured out how to come together in unity. While there is no denying the grieving that many feel over losing the DLHS campus, these girls led us all in better understanding what can be accomplished when we come together as a people of God.
Congratulations on your championship, Lutheran Lions, and thanks for the larger lessons you have taught me and many others!


  1. Chris3:41 PM

    Awesome article and even greater lessons. Thanks!

  2. LOVE IT!!! Great stuff here, David. Thanks for the thoughts...keep 'em coming!