Two people to thank (for now)…
1. Lisa Rolston. Bible Bowl leaders of larger programs have so much work that goes unnoticed. From finances to renting vans to college/nationals registrations to medical releases to parental dealings (know-it-all types like me) to making all of the pieces fit on a four-man team to, well, you name it. Lisa has always been one of Christian’s biggest fans. I can remember her coming to watch him play as a 5th grader in Indy. It was there that April and I began repeating for the many years to come her often used phrase, “You never know.” We’d ask if she thought we could beat this team or that team and she almost always used this answer. We played with Southeast for five of the next seven years (we stopped going to SE as a family in 2003 but they were always kind to welcome us to play with them) and Lisa was an integral part of all of those years. She coached Christian, Haley and Rachel to their first National Championship in 2008. I would drop Christian off at her house numerous times over the years on my way to work, she would quote with him most of the day, then I’d pick him up on my way home from work – not just the year that she coached him but all throughout his career. She is actually the first one that introduced Bible Bowl (in 1999 when the text was Genesis) and homeschooling to our family – she invited April to ‘shadow’ her in the late 90’s (I think) while she taught Ashley, Eric and Kayla. April came home from that confident that she could teach our little ones. Lisa has had an impact on our family far beyond the game. After her two teams were out of the double elimination this year, nothing warmed my heart more than seeing Lisa and Ashley (and most of the Southeast folks) following our boys, cheering them on. I don’t think I got to see her after the Championship Rounds but I’m sure she was hoping for nothing but the best for the boys. I’m glad that she was there – the lady that introduced our family to this program some 11 years before, was there rooting for the boys, watching what would be the crowning achievement for our three boys (and, indeed, our whole family) in the program. So thanks Lisa – thanks for encouraging a young 25 year old mother to homeschool and thanks for introducing and encouraging our family to participate in this game – what a ride it has been! (I couldn’t find a picture of Christian with Mrs. Rolston.)
2. Tracey Chamberlain. What a guy. He’s been around Bible Bowl a long time and he is still extremely passionate about the game. I can remember Tracey from Christian’s seventh grade year – he was always so encouraging to him. Interesting that in the Lord’s Providence, Christian would wind up in an exclusive friendship with Tracey’s Ruthie. I remember Ruthie going 0-11 at the Round Robin at Nationals (2008), I’m sure he was frustrated but he was so wise in his dealings with Ms. Ruth. (Something I would get to see this year in how he dealt with Christian.) I don’t think he expressed too much frustration, at least to her – but he always had a plan. After that I would look out of our hotel room and see Ruthie quoting with Tracey in the bar area what seemed to be all the time. And it worked – she went from placing 12th in the RR to getting 5th in the Double Elim that year.
One of the things that I most appreciated about Tracey is that he was exceedingly wise (at least in my opinion) on how to deal with Christian. My son can be/is/was a difficult player to coach. I know that, I’m his dad. I guess it takes one to know one – if you know what I mean. Tracey was smart in not overcoaching him. That was certainly my tendency when Christian was younger. Great players (I guess I can say that about him now) typically know what they need to do to be prepared when it counts. When we placed 11th out of 12 in the January Round Robin just before Tracey started working with the boys, he didn’t start by trying to change his game – Tracey just went to work. He started putting a text foundation in place. The next four months when we would do no better than 4th in the RR (and had fallen out of the Top 16 in the coaches poll) – Tracey knew we would be okay. When Christian would buzz on keywords and not say anything other than, “It’s a keyword” – he didn’t panic. He would say “You won’t miss those in June.” Tracey trusted Christian more than any coach he has ever had. He listened to Christian. Oh, he would disagree but he would hear him out. It was a special thing to watch develop over the course of those months. I can remember Christian explaining to Tracey and I that the questions at the tournaments were rewarding the quick and the jumpy but that Nationals questions would punish those who were really quick on the draw. I kinda rolled my eyes and asked Tracey what he thought thinking he would say it was a bunch of excuse making and he said, “It makes sense to me.”
Some of my favorite quotes from Tracey this year:
“I’ve never had a player who had your buzzing percentage.” To Jake after he went 0 for 4 on specialty buzzes during the Double Elimination at Nationals.
“Don’t feel obligated to eat all those.” To Jake while he was stuffing fistfuls of potato chips into his mouth.
“If Christian buzzes on a three part specialty, I GUARANTEE he’s going to get one of them!” Poking fun at Christian’s propensity to buzz way too early on two and three part questions.
It was also such blessing this year to have him around our family – and not just from a Bible Bowl standpoint. He was so grandfatherly to the children – nothing was cuter than Micah pulling on his pant leg and yelling at him, “Tracey, Tracey!” to get his attention. Tracey would yell back at Micah, “WHAT!?!?” And then laugh – so sweet to see their interaction. What we were able to experience this year playing as a family, having Tracey as our coach – is something that is very difficult to find in bigger programs. Tracey spent nearly two straight months with our boys – coaching them, not just in the game per se but in life. It wasn’t about ‘the program’ – it was about the team as a family. We will be forever grateful for what Tracey did this year. He invested so much time, energy and money into our boys – I still can’t believe the sacrifices he would make driving down here every month, taking the boys to the tournaments and Nationals, hobbling on sore knees and countless other untold things he would do. Tracey is the consummate Bible Bowl sponsor – working tirelessly, unnoticed by most but doing what he has done for the past 30 years, that is giving his heart to kids in a program that makes the memorization of the Bible the top priority. So Tracey, from the bottom of all of our hearts – thank you for what you have given to our family this past year. We love and appreciate you.