By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Scott Schulte knows basketball. He excelled as a player and continues that excellence as a coach. But, regardless of his success, there is one area of the sport that means more to this Webb City man than developing athletic skills on the hardwoods.
Basketball is Schulte’s ministry. He will be the first to tell you that, and the more you are around him the more you will be convinced of it.
Whether coaching girls and boys just starting out or advanced players on area high school teams, he is right at home when it comes to helping kids develop their basketball abilities and life skills, with an emphasis on Christian values.
Schulte, a 1979 graduate of Missouri Southern State University, where he held a starring role on the basketball team, decided to form the Skywalkers about 17 years ago with the idea of bringing youngsters together. He set out by training them to be good players, while emphasizing a strong team concept. But he soon found his organization needed something extra.
That’s when he turned to his strong Christian faith and principles that had guided him through life for the answer. He knew God could use him in a meaningful way to help many of his young protŽgŽs beyond the scope of basketball. As a result, he assumed the role of a Christian adviser to go along with his other duties as a motivator and counselor, as well as a big brother and father figure.
The Skywalker Academy has come to be recognized today as representing all those concepts and, at the same time, holds the distinction of being among the finest training grounds for young basketball players in the area.
“We teach life lessons,” said Schulte, who guided his Skywalker 17-and-under boys’ team to a second place finish at the 2000 national AAU tournament. “I love getting kids who people are giving up on or don’t think can make it or are having confidence problems. I get them in here and say, ‘Hey, man, let’s go to work.’ You would be surprised what can happen if you start doing the right things.”
Part of doing the right thing is to pray. Skywalker players pray before their practices and games, and devotions are not uncommon.
In some instances, when practices are not going so well, Schulte said he will bring activities to a halt and emphasize to the players that they should be giving everything they can, just as Christ gave everything for them.
“We stress that there are many life lessons that can be learned playing this game,” said Schulte, whose wife, Cherrie, helped him the first few years of the academy. “John Wooden (Hall of Fame coach from UCLA) said, ‘Sports don’t build character, they reveal character.’ That is what we are working on with our program. We think a personal relationship and commitment to Jesus Christ enhances your focus on playing this game correctly and giving Him glory for the abilities and lessons learned.”
Schulte -- whose son, Drew, and daughter, Cara, learned the game through Skywalkers -- was introduced to a basketball coaching environment at an early age.
“When I was in high school, I did a lot of basketball camps in St. Louis with Ed Macauley (college and pro standout who was named MVP of the first NBA All-Star Game),” he said.
That set the stage for the structured environment that has become identified with the Skywalkers.
You might say that the structured environment has become an end result of the Christian principles practiced by the Skywalkers on and off the court. Schulte cited a perfect example in one of his players with an attitude.
“We told him that if he was a Christian, he could not have that attitude,” he said. “Then, he turned around and really came on like gangbusters. We don’t belabor the point. We incorporate it. We want to live it. We want kids to understand that their strength is from the Lord.”
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.