Missed Shots | Get Back In The Game

Disappointment to Destiny

It’s March Madness in Indiana.  Basketball is huge here in the Boilermaker State!  High school basketball teams are in the midst of tournament time.  Our college teams are hoping for a good run on the Road to the Final Four.  Purdue has had a phenomenal year.  Purdue lives and dies on the shooting and scoring of Carson Edwards.  If he is on, you can’t stop Purdue.  I don’t want to be skeptical, but Purdue has never gone far in the big tournament.  Please change my mind this year!  On the other hand, IU has the championship banners, but hasn’t done much the last few years either.

I’ve enjoyed watching a number of players and teams this past season.  It is awesome when a team is on a winning streak and the players are at their peak.  Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well.  Bad coaching. Losing. Injury. Sub par performance. Shooting slumps.  Been there, done that! 

I grew up playing basketball as a quick point guard handling the ball and providing good pressure defense. I played ball at Tecumseh middle school and then junior varsity my freshmen and sophomore years at Lafayette Jefferson.  I will never forget hitting a last second half court shot to win a game my sophomore year!

I transferred to Northwestern High School for my junior and senior years.  It was an exciting time for me during my junior year as I was the starting point guard for a new team.  I had write ups in the local paper spotlighting this new kid to the Tiger roster.  I had high hopes for the season.  We won our first game and I was the second leading scorer.  Then something totally unexpected happened.  I broke my wrist, had surgery, and had to wear a soft cast the remaining part of the season.  Our season did not go well.  We ended up with a 1-19 record.  Yes, you read that correct.  We lost the rest of our games that year.  Extremely difficult.  Humiliating!

My senior year was different.  I came back healthy and healed up.  As a team, we turned things around.  We won our conference championship and ended the season 10-10.  It was definitely a turn-around season.  However, there was the sectional tournament.  Let’s just say it didn’t end well.  To make a long story short, I attempted and missed a last second shot that would allow us to advance.  I collapsed to the floor in disappointment and our local newspaper photographer snapped a shot capturing the moment.  Not only did several thousand people see me miss the shot, but the next day that picture of me collapsed on the ground was displayed on the front top portion of the sports page for the entire community to see.  This was not the way I wanted to end my high school basketball career.  Every kid practices in their driveway or at the park their final shot.  It usually goes something like this… 3. 2. 1. Heave up a shot hoping it goes in.  When it clanks off the rim, you say foul and proceed to the foul line to sink the winning free throw.  For me, I had just missed the final shot. Game over. Done. Disappointed. Discouraged.

Missed Final Shot

The rest of the story… my biggest disappointment propelled me to something bigger and better.  I don’t think anyone cared one way or another if I made or missed that shot.  I don’t think God particularly cares if a player makes or misses a shot or a team wins or loses a game.  However, I do believe in God’s providence and destiny for an individual’s life.  


Divinely ordained events and outcomes.


The events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.

Even though basketball consumed an incredible amount of my time and energy, I was also involved in many other things including academics, school clubs, church youth group, and family activities.  I was the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes my senior year at Northwestern. I was extremely involved in my church, youth group, and small group.  My parents are ministers and at that point they were traveling across Indiana speaking in various churches every weekend.  That particular weekend, I missed my final shot on a Friday night and my youth pastor called me after the game inviting me to a youth conference the next morning.  After the conference on Saturday, my parents picked me up to travel with them to their speaking engagement on Sunday.  During this season, my parents and I were making ourselves available for whatever God wanted to do in our lives.  That weekend was a turning point in all of our lives.  Within a week, my parents and I were asked to consider a three month to one year ministry assignment to pastor an international church in downtown Moscow, Russia!  We were approved, raised a significant budget, and were prepared to leave within three short months!

In those three final months of my senior year, God turned my disappointment to divinely ordered events and outcomes.  In the next month of April, my athletic director asked if I would attend the FCA Night of Champions banquet at Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University in Indianapolis.  Unbeknownst to me, my athletic director nominated me for the Indiana FCA Male Athlete of the Year.  I was nominated in the Top 10 Christian Athletes for FCA that year and I was ushered up to the front to receive acknowledgement from the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts that year, Jim Harbaugh. Wow! On the night I missed my final shot, I felt humiliated.  On Tuesday night, April 16, 1996, in front of nearly three thousand attendees, I felt honored.

A month later, in May of 1996, I participated in a church drama “Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames” for three nights in front of hundreds of people.  Our local newspaper, the Kokomo Tribune heard about my parents and I preparing for a one year assignment to Russia.  I was interviewed over the phone and a photographer showed up to take some pictures of my involvement in the drama production.  Instead of a picture of me collapsed to the floor, I am pictured participating in the drama with an article entitled “Teens commence to new challenges.”  The opening paragraph stated it well.

“Unlike his fellow classmates from Northwestern, Mike Dubbels will not be going to college, getting married, joining the military or looking for a job after graduation.  He, too, had planned on going to college. But now, he has different plans. Or, more accurately, God has a different plan for his life.”

Kokomo Tribune
Teens Commence to New Challenges

My one year experience in Moscow, Russia from the summer 1996 to the summer of 1997 was one of the best seasons in my life.  It all started on March 1, 1996, when I missed that shot.  That’s March Madness!

1996 Red Square in Moscow, Russia

Failure and setbacks are only final if we fail to get back on our feet and try again. You may need to make adjustments along the way, and you may need to realign yourself or go in a different direction.

Turn your setbacks into comebacks!

Wrapping up, one lesson that I learned is that failure and setbacks are only final if we fail to get back on our feet and try again.  Today, you may need a fresh reminder to get back in the game where you belong. Sometimes we need encouragement to take another shot, especially if you have ever failed to reach a goal or dream the first time around.  You will never lose if you get back up. You may need to make adjustments along the way, and you may need to realign yourself or go in a different direction. But you must constantly turn your setbacks into comebacks. Very often success is not achieved on the first attempt. You must always take another shot. Do you need to get back into the championship game of life?