Careers in athletics, ministry fuel Spencer coach Walter Jackson's competitive nature

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 16, 2014 

Spencer head basketball coach Walter Jackson talks to his team during halftime of Tuesday nights game against Kendrick.

JOE PAULL — jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com

Spencer basketball coach Walter Jackson has a competitive spirit.

Just watch him during the fourth quarter of a tight game, and you’ll see how competitive. The players hear his voice. The officials certainly hear his voice. Fans in the back row of the gym can probably hear his voice too.

That mentality, the one that tells him to give everything he has in an attempt to win, comes from nearly 20 years of coaching at the high school level. But it also comes from years in another profession, one often perceived to be at odds with the win-at-all-costs spirit of athletics.

Jackson is a preacher at the Church of Christ on Forrest Road in Columbus, a position he’s had for nearly 15 years. Before that, he was a youth minister at the Church of Christ in Manchester.

The coach, who will lead his 6-8 Greenwave in a matchup at Jordan at 7:30 p.m. Friday, said that athletics, to him, was a ministry and his competitive nature fits in both worlds.

“Sometimes, people expect someone as a Christian to be mild mannered,” he said, a note of amusement in his voice. “But I am competitive. We are competitive. On and off the court, in Christianity and leading kids, we need a competitive attitude.”

With sports, with how individuals approach the daily grind, with sin.

“We face evil every day,” Jackson said, “and we have to have a competitive spirit to fight evil.”

Jackson admits his competitive nature occasionally gets the better of him. In the Shaw tournament finale, a game Spencer lost to Central, Jackson was given a technical foul for arguing calls with an official.

He laughs that off, noting how surprised people are when they see him on the sideline.

“That’s what happens with the kids,” he said with a laugh. “When they first see me, they’re shocked. Like, that’s not the same person in the pulpit on Sunday.”

But it is the same person, Jackson said.

“I’m the same person,” he said. “No matter what I’m doing. … The way I live my life is, my priorities are God comes first, family second and then everything else is under that. When we understand that, we’ll all be happier people.”

Fiery game-day personality aside, Jackson stresses that his No. 1 duty as a head basketball coach is to be a role model for his players. He wants to show them how to approach life with vigor and deal with the successes and the failures.

“A Bible verse I always tell them is Philippians 4:13,” he said. “‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.’ I let them know that I get my strength from above, no matter what happens. I feel victorious even when I lose a ballgame because I know I gave all that I had.

“There’s a lesson in everything that you do. There’s a big message in losing. Just take it and use it.”

Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ledgerenquirersports.

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