Kay Yow was the head women’s basketball coach for the North Carolina State Wolfpack from 1975-2009. During that time, she led her teams to more than 700 victories and 20 trips to the NCAA tournament. She was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2002.
Her journey to faith in Christ began when a young lady named Lori Moore from Campus Crusade for Christ asked to come speak to Yow’s basketball team after a practice. Moore presented the gospel to the team, and one person trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior that day – Coach Kay Yow. Soon after, Yow got connected to a local Bible-teaching church, was baptized, and began living for Christ.
Yow coached the USA Women’s Basketball team to a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics, even though she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. She battled cancer more than 20 years. She was presented with the inaugural FCA Kay Yow Heart of a Coach Award in 2008 by Fellowship of Christian Athletes for a lifetime of living for Christ as a person and a coach. She died in January 2009.
During her career, Yow rarely kept track of her accomplishments, and she didn’t let cancer keep her from living a life that glorified God. She was determined to make every moment count. She always keyed in on the word “attitude,” believing that to be the secret to being successful.
She said, “I love to study Jesus’ attitude in all of the situations that He faced and how He responded and how He dealt with things. That’s the exciting part for me – to not just try to understand excellence in the field of sports, but in a life guided by Jesus’ example. He was an example for what it takes to have excellence. And to me, excellence is all about glorifying God.”
Two of the questions that she would ask herself were:
- “What am I doing today?”
- “What mark am I making today?”
She wanted to make a mark on other people’s lives, to inspire them to be their best and encourage them to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There are many verses that guided her as a person and as a coach. We can learn much from these verses.
Read Titus 2:6-8 (HCSB)
6 In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled 7 in everything. Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. 8 Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us.
- How can a lifestyle of excellence set an example for others?
- Describe a time when someone taught you about excellence by their actions.
- Describe a time when you were able to teach others about excellence through your actions.
Read Proverbs 3:12 (HCSB)
12 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in.
Read Revelation 3:19 (HCSB)
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.
- How important do you think good character and integrity are in leading others to excellence?
- How easy or difficult is it for you to receive correction, whether it’s from a coach, a parent, an employer, or a friend?
Read Luke 6:39-40 (HCSB)
39 He also told them a parable: “Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
- Have you ever been under the leadership of someone who didn’t seem to know what he or she was doing?
- What challenges did that scenario create?
Read Luke 6:43-45 (HCSB)
43 “A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs aren’t gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.
- What do we learn from the parable of the tree and its fruit?
- Can you give an example of how a person speaks “from the overflow of the heart”?
- In what ways can you make sure that the words you speak and your actions bring forth good and not evil?
Prayer: “Lord, help me to realize that I am making a mark on people’s lives every day. Help me to live a godly example before them. Help me to make a mark on their lives that is greater than sport. Help me to influence them for eternity.”
Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 10, “Making a Mark,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes