A New Year’s story about a coach who lives his faith

The new year seems like a perfect time to share a story about my friend Lynn Plett, who played basketball at Hillsboro High School and Tabor College in the 1970s. He’s currently head coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

In addition to being a coach, husband and father, Plett has actively lived his faith in God, taking multiple summer trips for Athletes in Action with student athletes through the years. Last summer, for example, he led an Athletes in Action women’s basketball team on a trip to Ethiopia.

While there, the team played five games and conducted six basketball clinics, and participated in some service projects.

“The level of basketball in Ethiopia is not nearly the same as here in the U.S., consequently the scores were not very close,” said Plett. The young ladies on our team were very supportive of their opponents, however. After each game and clinic, we spent some personal time with the teams, coaches and participants, where one of our players would share a personal story of their life and faith, as well as allowing for individual interaction.

“With the help of our interpreter, our message was still communicated and numerous individuals responded openly to the ‘Good News’ that was shared,” said Plett.

The U.S. team was comprised of individuals from various universities and colleges who did not know each other prior to the trip.

“The journeys God brought a number of these young ladies through to become His children are nothing short of miraculous,” said Plett. “Their openness and vulnerability in sharing their personal struggles and family history had a positive impact in developing an undeniable unity within the entire team.”

The trip had a significant impact on Plett’s life, too.

“So many of the people there had very little material things and were living day-to-day, seeking the bare necessities of life,” said Plett. “Children and mothers with small babies would consistently come to the windows of the bus as we drove in traffic, begging for food or for whatever we could or would give to them.

“I did not sense resentment from them if we did not contribute to their needs at the time, but I did experience a consistent guilt of how much I do have and how little I do help those in much greater need than me. I need to be more generous and give more to those who are in need.

“That is the challenge I brought home with me from Ethiopia, to think of others as more important than me, to give to those who ask of me and not to turn away from those who want to borrow from me.

“For not even when one has an abundance, does his life consist of his possessions,” said Plett.

Not that earthly awards matter all that much to Plett, he was named the 2018 recipient of the Kay Yow Heart of a Coach Award by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Named for the late North Carolina State icon Kay Yow, the award is presented annually by FCA to honor a basketball coach who has exemplified biblical principles over the course of his or her career.

Former K-State women’s basketball coach Deb Patterson won the award in 2012.

“I have seen Coach Plett exemplify the qualities of the Heart of a Coach Award in that he has put together competitive teams,” said executive director of athletics Nathan Gibson. “But more importantly he has used his platform to impact the hearts of his student athletes and those around him.”

Assistant Coach Liz Doran said: “He is a passionate coach who genuinely enjoys impacting and helping the young women on our team grow and develop as people and athletes. I admire his ability to remain objective and even-keeled without letting his emotions rule him – I know he attributes a lot of this to his faith. His positive outlook on the game and the next opportunity have really helped our team (and staff) continue to grow.”

Thank you, Lynn, for reminding us to count our blessings and to challenge us to live our lives as a sacrifice of praise.