‘Straight shooter’ coach invests in players

Matthew Knight
February 8, 2013: Matthew Knight of the Wildcats lays up against the 36ers

Assistant coach of the Perth Wildcats, Andy Stewart thrives on the rush of adrenaline in a close game, the immense pressure of grand finals and the highs and lows of game results, yet, surprisingly, making a successful team is not his driving ambition.

From celebrating with his team over their Championship win in the 2009/2010 NBL season to sharing in their disappointment at losing the Grand Final in both 2012 and 2013, Andy says it is easy to get consumed by the scoreboard.

"Coaching is pretty tough because most coaches, especially at the higher levels of the semi-pro and the pro, are judged a lot on their win/loss record," he says.

“I’ve always been a pretty straight shooter and so sometimes I’ve even had guys come back who want someone to help cut through all the rubbish in their lives”The temptation to measure his success against game results is strong in the industry, but Andy says there is one thing he learnt from a young age that has given him a better perspective.

"I believe that God has allowed me to be more focused than I probably would have been, on people rather than the end result," he says.

"He has also allowed me to temper my competitive spirit and has helped me with my conduct towards game officials in certain situations that unfold in games."

It was through his love for basketball that Andy first learnt about God when he joined a basketball competition run by a local Christian youth group in Bassendean.

Andy Stewart
People focus is the secret, says Andy Stewart

"I really hadn't thought about God at all to any level and Christianity or any form of religion in our house was not discussed much," he says.

"Then I met a guy who was a solid role model for me at that time.

"He was well into sport and he was twenty years my senior yet he had a profound influence on me and basically introduced me to Jesus."

It was this godly man who explained to Andy how God loved him and wanted to have a personal relationship with him through His son Jesus Christ.

Getting to the point of allowing Jesus to be Lord in his life became easier because the people around Andy showed him the character of Jesus through the way they lived their lives, rather than just preaching at him.

"There was definitely something different about the people I was mixing with," he says.

"They were open, less selfish and genuinely interested in me."

As a young athletic Australian male, Andy says he faced many challenges in his faith after committing his life to God.

"I often wish I had been a better example," he says. "I'd love to have a glossy resume but my faith journey has happened little by little, as I've gotten closer to God I've gotten rid of some of those rough edges."

Wildcats
MARCH 12, 2010: The victorious Wildcats pose with the 2009-10 NBL trophy.
Andy Stewart is fourth from the left.

Through these challenges Andy says knowing God's impact on his life is a big asset in dealing with whatever comes his way and, like those who invested in him as a young person, his ambition is to be a positive influence in the lives of others.

From his own basketball career pursuits in the District Basketball League to taking up coaching positions with the Stirling Senators, the Athletes in Action program and as Head Coach of WA State league team Lakeside Lightning, Andy has loved opportunities to mentor young athletes facing similar challenges to him.

"I really enjoy it and feel privileged when a player comes back and wants to discuss what are often important issues in their lives," he says.

"I've always been a pretty straight shooter and so sometimes I've even had guys come back who want someone to help cut through all the rubbish in their lives."

Although he admits to the fact that he used to view playing and coaching as more about the win/loss column, as the years have gone Andy says he cannot even remember some of the wins.

"So many of the sporting achievements fade but seeing a life change; well you don't forget that," he says.

"If I have the opportunity to move someone in a direction," says Andy, "where they might get started on a journey to knowing Jesus; well that's fantastic. I was introduced to Jesus through such a person and if I can emulate that, in some small way, it would be great.

"The Scriptures talk about how God is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. I have a great family and have experienced a lot more than certainly I could have ever hoped, and I really do feel privileged."

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