Atlanta, Georgia - The Athletes in Action Coaches Forum: Called to Coach was held at the NCAA men's basketball Final Four this year and featured Bethel College head coach Mike Lightfoot. Lightfoot was on a panel of coaches and celebrities that featured TNT and CBS analyst Ernie Johnson, former Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett, ESPN basketball analysts Chris Broussard and Christian rap artist LeCrae.
The panel discussed defining moments in their careers when they were called to their life-long mission.
Mike Lightfoot remembers that moment vividly in 1976.
"I felt a strong calling to coach during my junior year at Bethel College. I saw and felt the impact that Coach Homer Drew had on my life and the influence he had on my teammates. Before that moment it was just my personal desire to coach, but during that season it was God's direction and guidance for me to coach. I'm truly blessed to follow His call."
Next to Lightfoot on the panel was Coach Dick Bennett, who guided Wisconsin to the Final Four in 2000. Bennett, who has an overall coaching record of 489-307, at UW-Stevens Point, UW-Green Bay and Wisconsin, was awarded the 2013 John Wooden "Keys to Life" Award.
"Coach Bennett is an icon," said Lightfoot. "I have taken many of his coaching philosophies both on and off the court and applied them to what we do at Bethel. Being a recipient of the John Wooden Award speaks for itself as to what he's accomplished."
Ernie Johnson, who injected humor about working with NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, shared an impacting story about his adopted son Michael who has special needs.
In 2011 Johnson was in the heart of broadcasting Major League Baseball games until he received an urgent phone call regarding Michael's health. He had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.
"That," he said, "was a trust-God year."
The Johnsons have six children, four adopted. Michael came in 1991 when wife Cheryl traveled to Romania on an adoption trip.
"He was the first child they brought out of the orphanage," Johnson said. "It was obvious he couldn't speak and he had a lot of developmental delays and he couldn't walk.
"My wife's a gem and called saying, 'I saw a child today, and he's so much more than we can handle. But I can't go through the rest of my life wondering whatever happened to that kid.'" She brought the little boy home. A year later, Michael was then diagnosed with MS. He has been in a wheelchair for 13 years, but Johnson calls every moment "a blessing."
"The heart that Ernie has is amazing," Lightfoot said. "He has such a great platform being on TNT and CBS on a nightly basis to share his faith and just listening to him speak about his family shows how dedicated of a father and husband he is to his wife and children."
In addition, Christian rap artist LeCrae shared his defining moment when he found his purpose in life.
"In the midst of all the negative things discussed and heard in the media, this generation desperately needed a positive voice," stated the 2013 Grammy award winner. "I feel like I represent a voice for people that do not necessarily get heard. I'm glad to give people a different picture of Christianity."
"LeCrae is a great young man with a lot of wisdom," continued Lightfoot "He has a tremendous impact on our culture today as many of our students listen to his message."
Lightfoot looks back on his experience at the Final Four with a positive mindset.
"It was such a great honor and experience to share my thoughts and feelings with so many amazing people and coaches. It was neat to see so many coaches wanting to improve their skills not only on the court, but how they can impact young men and help them grow spiritually outside of basketball."
"Coaching is an amazing profession and a huge responsibility. If any of my experiences can help just one person than it will be rewarding."
Mike Lightfoot pictured with LeCrae