Monday, May 9, 2011
Mormons and Their Basketball
If you were to walk into any LDS church building and head for the center you'd find a large full size, hardwood floor, basketball court complete with two hoops. A lot of non-members when they see this comment that our church is the only church they've ever seen this in. Some wonder, as I'm sure some members do, if this is necessary and I'm here to tell you there is a reason to everything our church does.
I believe there are three main reasons to why the church has both pick up and league style basketball. The first reason being to have fun. 2 Nephi 2:25 says that Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. Now I know that basketball and joy don't necessarily go together for every member of the church but for the majority of the male LDS population playing basketball at the church is a great time to step away from the stresses of life, get some much needed exercise, and have FUN! Growing up in the Young Men's program of the church I participated in Scouts. The majority of the time if we were doing a Scout requirement that wasn't the most fun our leaders would bribe us with basketball if we'd pay attention and pass off our requirements. As an Eagle Scout I am grateful to my leaders who not only taught me valuable life lessons but helped us have some physical fun while doing it.
Later in my life of Young Men's, and beyond, pick up basketball on a Tuesday or Wednesday night at the church was the thing to do. In Arizona there were four church buildings with courts within five miles of each other. You could show up at any of those buildings and find yourself some basketball with members and non-members alike. This is another reason I believe the church has basketball courts. It's a great missionary tool.
Basketball as a missionary tool may seem odd to you but there is a lot of truth to it. It really does help people learn more about the church. When you invite someone to church they may be frightened because they've never attended one of our church services let alone even stepped into a building. But when you invite them to come play basketball it is a good ice breaker. It allows them to come into the church to see what it's like and helps them feel more comfortable to the point that they may attend a church service someday. A member once told me that his first learning experience about the church was when he came to play basketball. After being with members and in the building he was comfortable enough to ask to meet with the missionaries and was later baptized. And to think that it all started with a simple game of basketball.
The final reason I believe church basketball is an important part of who we are is the brotherhood that is built while playing basketball. As a young Deacon of 12 years old I played on my wards organized basketball team. Though the league was intended for young men 14-18 our ward didn't have enough boys in that age group to fill a team. So they called upon and invited us younger boys to participate. I will never forget little 12 year old me guarding a giant of a junior or senior in high school. And though our team struggled on the score board we grew closer and closer together as friends and priesthood holders. This pushed us to be the under dogs that upset the big dogs and soon enough we accomplished our goal by winning a few games towards the end of the season. It was never about the wins or the losses though. Looking back all I can remember is the life long friends I made and the good times we had.