The terms, “coach” and “coaching,” have been in vogue for some time now in almost every realm of life, not just in sports but business, church, politics, and almost every profession. There are people who coach other people and folks who look to the coach for help. Through the years they’ve been called mentors and managers, leaders and instructors, but for the present moment coaching seems to be the hot button emphasis in a lot of areas.
Coaching in whatever area, but especially in sports, is not an easy task. You must have a winning strategy for the game and inspire the people who are going to be playing — but then, especially in high school, the level of athletic ability may range from very little to top notch some years and that is what you have with which to work.
Recently I was talking with a man who had been a high school coach for over a decade. We happened to be sitting in the stands watching a game as he began to talk about his days as a coach. He was neither bragging nor complaining, but he was talking about how difficult it was as he dealt with his own players, the players on the other team, the calls, the missed calls of a referee, even the folks in the stands, and sometimes the folks who hired you to coach.
Two things about which he talked that really captured my attention regarding the difficulties of being a coach: First, he said there are a lot of times during a game where there is a big rush of blood to your head. That’s pretty clear and often seen in many athletic coaches. Secondly, in a thoughtful, meditative way he said, “A lot of times it’s hard to be a Christian and be in that profession.” He wasn’t just talking about the language that sometimes is used by a coach, but even more the attitude shown by the coach to everyone around him.
As you begin to think things that are not who you really are and express things that you wish you had not, it is tough being a coach. He was in coaching for several years and he’s now been out for several years and I don’t think that he will be going back. I think that every area of life — every profession, every calling, whether you’re coaching or being coached — has its challenges and even more so has its good days and its bad days. There are days when all of us have the blood-rushes-to-your-head moments, and for most of us there are those experiences that test our Christian commitment to speech, attitude,
Our conversation then drifted into the challenge which leaders, coaches, mentors, and encouragers frequently encounter, and that is how you get people motivated, inspired, encouraged, and challenged to do their best. Not everyone is a self-starter. That’s a fact. Not everyone aspires to have initiative and not only achieve excellence, but go beyond. They may not be loafers in life but they don’t want to overdo it, either. They kind of drift along and all the coaches around them, whether they be called parents or preachers or teachers or athletic encouragers, they know that they could do better and should do better and would do better if they would just listen to the coach and catch a spark of inspiration and somehow move on and move up. It may happen for a moment and the encourager turns his/her back and it’s over. I think that is the most discouraging moment of all for the coach, wherever they fit into life.
Jesus was never referred to as a coach but this master teacher, miracle worker, challenger of men and encourager of women, must have looked at those who responded to Him for a moment or a day or a week and then drifted away and felt the frustration of, “How can I help them be all they can be?” Can you imagine that group in which he invested the most time and the most instruction and the most example-setting — his disciples — when they faltered and failed and were faithless and frustrated, and when just those twelve trying to help them as a Kingdom team be game changers? At times, they let Him down.
Pastors or shepherds in the middle of God’s flock come to moments like that more often than anyone would know. It may be after repeated counseling sessions or a series of sermons or encouraging some group in the church or the body together to move forward in the things of God to do great things for God and they look with a questioning stare and choose not to do anything. They probably at times think, “Well, if the coach would give us a rousing speech — a good sermon — then everybody would get on board.” The problem is like the football team on Friday night in the middle of the season. Some of the players have a serious letdown and people wonder what is wrong with the coach. Well, in truth, he may have a letdown too but he is in a position where everyone thinks he is the mastermind, the clear thinker, the person with the right word of motivation, the one who has the strategy, and the one who because of his training and his skillfulness will bring a word that will bring success to all. Occasionally it happens. Often it doesn’t.
Now, you and I need to understand that every one of us in the economy in the work of God are both coaches and those being coached. It’s true. There are people who look to you, and you need to encourage and bless and help them to focus on all that God would have them to be. There are moments when you need to listen and look and let your heart be opened and your life be ready to respond and work hard and do your job regardless of what anybody else is doing or playing or saying. When it comes to serving the Lord, commit your life to be coached by the Master and in turn you be a coach and encourager to those around you.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.