These days, the Rev. Stan Toler's conversation quickly turns to basketball — no surprise with the Oklahoma City Thunder headed to the NBA Finals.
Toler, former longtime pastor of Trinity Church of the Nazarene, said his high school hoops coach had a few simple words for him at the beginning of each game.
“I was certainly no James Harden and my coach always told me two things when he put me in the game: Find the leading scorer and foul him until you foul out, and don't shoot,” Toler said, laughing.
The minister shared the memory during a recent interview about his latest book, “Minute Motivators for Athletes” (Dust Jacket Press, www.dustjacket.com; $6.99). Toler, 61, wrote the book, released earlier this year, with Oklahoma native and NFL tight end Billy Bajema, who grew up attending Trinity in south Oklahoma City.
Toler now serves as a general superintendent on the International Church of the Nazarene's Board of Superintendents. He said the book is part of his popular “Minute Motivators” series, which has sold more than 300,000 copies, with installments focused on men, women, teens, teachers, dieters and other groups.
The concept of the series is to offer short essays that provide inspirational reading for the targeted audience, Toler said. In addition to the essays, the book includes motivational quotes from a variety of sports stars and coaches like Larry Bird, Vince Lombardi, Jesse Owens, Nolan Ryan, Steve Prefontaine and Jack Nicklaus. Scriptures also are interwoven throughout the book.
He said the collaboration with Bajema is only the second book of the series that he has written with someone else. Bajema, he said, was great to work with because of his own background as an athlete in high school (Westmoore), college (Oklahoma State University) and the NFL.
Toler said athletes are challenged in several aspects; they must show discipline and endurance regardless of the sport or activity. He said they must maintain a positive outlook on their respective sport and look forward to the next game, and the short essays in the new book are designed to help them do just that.
Bajema, 29, who lives in Edmond with his wife and three children, said he read several of Toler's “Minute Motivators” and gleaned wisdom from them.
He said he sees it as a “playbook” of sorts for athletes seeking motivational reading for their quiet time.
“As an athlete, you have to constantly strive to stay at the top of your game, and there's a lot of character qualities that go into being at your best,” Bajema said.
“Athletes can sit down at the start of the day and build themselves up not only physically but mentally and spiritually” with the book, he said.
Meanwhile, Toler said, “Minute Motivators for Athletes” has been adopted by several groups. He said Southern Nazarene University recently gave the book to athletes attending one of the school's athletic events.