Episode 3 of season 2 on our podcast, explores some current observations and my response to them. I don’t know if I would call this podcast a rant, but these words are definitely reactionary as I continue to try and navigate this earth with Christ as my foundation. I’m not an expert. I don’t have all the answers. But, I guess I do have something to say.
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
For the sake of this blog all of my posts will relate to coaching sports teams, even though this passage of Scripture (and all Scripture) is useful in all areas of life. Just because I write with a certain audience in mind, doesn’t mean you can’t take this Scripture and let the Holy Spirit transform another area of you or your life.
I think the Holy Spirit is a good member of the Trinity to remember when we read and study Scripture. I’m going to share my opinion and thoughts, but ultimately the Holy Spirit is our guide and our Present Teacher. When we study Scripture let’s make sure we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to come and teach us and help us to relate what we read to our lives.
There are two things from today’s passage that I want to mention.
As someone who needs his quiet and space, I appreciate that Jesus needed his space as well. In verse 12 we read that when Jesus heard about John he withdrew. Elsewhere in Scripture we see Jesus either withdrawing, or going off by himself (or with his disciples) to pray and spend time with God. In today’s Scripture we see that Jesus withdrew to Galilee.
We aren’t told what Jesus did there, but we do know of the different places he lived and visited. Part of the reason for his withdrawing was to fulfill a prophecy, and I have to believe that another reason was to just get away and rest. As coaches I think modeling rest to our athletes is a good idea. Of course you have to be under the belief and understanding that athletes, no matter their age, can’t train year round without taking breaks. As coaches we can model rest in our own lives by how we scheduled periods of rest into a balanced routine, and we can also schedule rest for our athletes during and out of the season. If we don’t our bodies and their bodies will break down and we won’t be able to “perform” at a high level.
I think that Jesus’ withdrawing also shows that He knew Himself well enough to know what He needed to do to recharge. I know in my life there needs to be a good balance of activity and rest. Even in busy seasons of life this is possible, and we constantly need to be reminded that it is okay to take care of ourselves and slow down every once and awhile. Or slowing down might just be for a moment, but sometimes a moment is all we need.
In verse 17 we read that Jesus began to preach “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Another thing I like about Jesus is that His message never changed, from the beginning to the end of His earthly ministry. Jesus knew His mission, He knew what the task at hand was, and He set out to do it. I can appreciate Jesus’ unwavering pursuit of His mission, as He desired to reach people with the grace, hope, and love that we experience through our salvation in Him.
A couple of things here. 1) As Christian coaches we have the same message to share as we point the people in our spheres of influence to the hope and truth of Jesus Christ. This is pretty simple and everything in our life, including our words and actions, can point others to Jesus. 2) Jesus never wavered in his message. I wonder how this relates to us as coaches? I think this might mean that when we have a philosophy that we believe in, stick to it. I also think this means we are consistent in what we teach, how we discipline, how we encourage, how we interact with players, how we treat the officials, and more. Consistency is important as we work with and seek to have a positive influence on the lives of young people.
I know here in Idaho that fall sports seasons are getting started in our public and private schools around the state. My prayer is for there to be opportunity for young people to experience the greatness of sport and sportsmanship, while learning and having fun, building relationships with their teammates, and learning about Jesus or growing in their commitment and relationship with Him. My prayer is similar for coaches.
Thanks for reading. Have a great day.
Here is the link to my newest Coaching Like Jesus podcast “Sphere of Influence.”
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Because of a job change giving me less flexibility and time in my schedule my availability for coaching youth sports has decreased. I’m still the pastor of my church on a ¼ time basis while I also work full-time as the manager of two local organizations. Because of these changes I am having to say no to some of the opportunities I have had as a paid coach, and will do what I can in a limited role and on a volunteer basis.
In all of this, and in a creative way to continue to be involved in coaching basketball and track and field I have spent some time reflecting on the state of youth sports and culture in the United States of America and around the globe, and my own coaching philosophy and desire as a coach.
My goal is to post a written blog twice a month, and a podcast twice a month to share these reflections as I process the part of my story which involves coaching. Given my track record with both of these mediums we won’t celebrate until we see consistency.
I was at a track meet a couple of weeks ago to watch my youngest son and track enthusiast run. A friend of mine was picking up hurdles towards the end of the meet and I passed him as I was on the way to see my youngest get his medal for the race he had just completed. As my friend and I engaged in conversation he asked me if I wanted to help him pick up the hurdles.
After my lack of a favorable response he asked, “What would Coaching Like Jesus do?”
“Probably go take a picture of his kid receiving a medal,” I replied, feeling a little like a jerk, but not enough to make me help with the hurdles.
I was glad moments later when I saw that the hurdles had been picked up.
“What would Coaching Like Jesus do?” is the question that I would like to try and answer in my written blog posts and in my blog. But the answer goes beyond sports as well as I have already mentioned in previous unread blog posts. How does this question apply to other areas of life? As a parent? As an employee? As an employer? As a spouse? As a friend? As a …. whatever it is you are and do. “What Would Jesus Do?” was a popular question from the book “In His Steps” by Charles M. Sheldon, and the question is still relevant to us today as we seek to follow Jesus the best we can.
This is what I am going to reflect on and explore. We will see where the journey takes us.
2 months ago I started writing a weekly devotional for this blog, and then after a few weeks I abruptly stopped. I’m hoping to pick this routine up again, although I can’t promise anything. Now that I’m in the off season I should have some more “free” time to write.
On Wednesday mornings I participate in what we call Wednesday Worship. We gather at 6:00 am with a cup of coffee in our hands to study the Bible and to pray. This time is a blessing during the week for me. This morning we were in Colossians 3.
Here is some of what we read.
Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
As coaches working with young people we are to take these virtues with us and live them out as we interact with players, coaches, referees, and parents. Our identity comes from being holy and beloved children of God. Out of this relationship we are to know and practice compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Colossians 3:14 “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
While this statement is not unique to me, I will continue to share that our number one job as coaches is to love our players. We need to “put on love” every day. If we are able to “put on love” all of the other virtues from Colossians 3:14 (and others) have opportunity to shine.
Colossians 3:20-21 “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged.”
As I read this I changed the words to allow them to emulate the relationship between athletes and coaches.
It would then read something like this … “Athletes,obey your coaches in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Coaches, do not embitter (provoke) your athletes or they will become discouraged.”
Just like in the relationship between parents and children, I believe the greatest responsibility here relies on the coaches to live lives worthy of respect and being obeyed. Young people see right through phony, and won’t obey (nor should they) or follow people they don’t deem worthy of their respect or obedience. So, coaches let’s live, act, and talk in such a way that our athletes will respect us and want to follow our lead. Perhaps, even seeing us as mentors and role models in their lives. Let’s make sure we encourage, support, and love the athletes entrusted to our care.
After I finished sharing my reflections yesterday I knew I still had a few lingering in the archives of my mind waiting to be processed. So, today I will add them to the list. Most of the reflections are from track, but I will also add a few from basketball. I shared reflections after coaching the 7th grade girls team in the fall, but because of busyness and a day off before track started I never shared reflections from the 8th grade boys basketball season.
Once again I offer these reflections from coaching very humbly, recognizing that they are my thoughts and reactions and not necessarily anybody else’s. I also recognize that I think about and take a different approach to youth sports than many other people. I don’t always share the thoughts behind my reasoning, and maybe through the course of this blog I will some day, but don’t always feel the need to express myself. Perhaps, in these lists you will get a glimpse of where I am coming from.
- From the Head Coach: Heidi, my wife and Head Track and Field Coach at Homedale High School, shared this with me this morning. “You have me thinking about more reflections this morning … one I’m stuck on is when there is respect, encouragement, and a positive environment, you get more out of kids … harder work, better results, more leadership.
- Judas Didn’t Get It: Perhaps this reflection is a bit broader than just my thoughts and observations from sports. Okay, I know it is. I’ve been thinking about Judas as I interact and work with people. Judas spent significant time with Jesus, and in the end he still decided that he didn’t buy in and opted for a different path. I’m convinced that this will happen every once in awhile in our work with people. Sometimes we can agree to disagree, sometimes we can’t. I wonder what Jesus’ thoughts were about Judas? Did he weep? Did he run through conversations and interactions in his head? Did he think “Father, forgive him”? Sometimes on our teams with players and parents there is total buy in, and sometimes there is not. There are a variety of reasons … some of them valid. I think as coaches we have to humbly examine those reasons, and know when we need to stick to our guns (thoughts, philosophy, approach) and when we need to rethink. I don’t think Jesus needed to rethink what He was doing, Jesus knew the mission, and was steadfast. But since we are fallible humans we have to be open to God’s guidance and the leading of the Holy Spirit as we coach.
- A Better Coach: I’m a better coach because of the young people I get to work with. I’ve learned to better listener, to have empathy for the athletes, and to really try and hear where they are coming from. Three years ago one of the girls I coach shared with me how she responds when coaches yell excessively for no apparent reason. She just tuned them out. I started watching other coaches and athletes, and noticed that most young people tune out when their coaches use yelling as coaching tactic on a regular basis. I wasn’t much of a yeller before, and I am even less of one know. I’ve learned other things from shutting my mouth and listening to my athletes, and I am grateful to them for the things I have taught me.
- Saying Goodbye Is Hard: We have our end of season team awards banquet tomorrow night, and I will probably cry like a baby at it. When I’m sharing with people my thoughts about how awesome they are I can get emotional. Last year I cried when I talked about a sophomore, and didn’t even say anything about a junior except “I can’t do this two years in a row, I will say something next year.” Now, it’s next year and she is a senior, and there are several other seniors … saying goodbye is hard. This happens when you invest so much in the lives of the young people you work with and coach. You grow to love them, and develop amazing relationships with them and it is hard to not work with them in the same capacity anymore. The cool thing is that the relationship continues and changes. I love it when they swing by the house to say hi when they are home from college, or they just need to stop and visit. Tomorrow night will be hard, I’m already preparing myself because it will be good too.
- PR’s: One of the reasons I like coaching track is because if athletes work hard and focus on being their best selves, competing against themselves daily to bring out their best, they can see results. I don’t care about places, but I am passionate about young people working hard, and doing their best. In track and field everything is easily measured, and athletes can see the result of their hard work and effort. They get times, distances, and marks for every event they do and we keep track of those things. The goal is to progress throughout the year and peak at the end of the season. We measure their distance, times, and marks and celebrate Personal Records or PR’s. PR’s allow the athletes to see the result of their efforts … pushing themselves to be their best.
- There’s Always Been Basketball: I’m contemplating a book by this same title. This year I was able to coach my son’s 8th grade basketball team, and I now know this is exactly what I needed to do this year. We were having trouble finding an assistant coach for the B team, and so before Christmas I asked my dad (a retired teacher and coach) if he would like to help. I also had one of my former players volunteer to help. So, this season I got to coach my son, and coach with my dad. How awesome is that? (The answer is very awesome.) In January we found out that my dad’s cancer came back and all I kept thinking was that I was glad he had basketball practice and games to give him something else to think about. My dad and I have shared a lot of experiences on the basketball court, and I am grateful we could share this past season together as well.
- Hand Shake: I always teach my basketball teams how to properly shake hands. I don’t know why I started doing this but I do think being able to shake hands properly is a valuable life skill. One of the fun things for me is when I get to shake former player’s hands. Every time I show up at the middle school one of the young men who played for me this year comes up with his hand out ready to shake hands. (I told them to always be prepared when they see me.) Lately, some of the guys I’ve coached in the past have been coming home from college for the summer … lot’s of proper handshakes. Good stuff. I just think you can tell a lot about a person from how they shake hands and I want to make sure my players represent themselves well. Plus they will use the art of shaking hands more than they will use their cross over dribble.
- A Space to Belong: One of the goals of our track program is to create a space for young people to have a since of belonging. Within this environment they are free to be themselves and connect with their friends and coaches as they see fit. Positiveness, encouragement, and support are on display and being a great teammate is of the upmost importance.
- Being a Good Teammate: One of the things I saw on display often was how great of a job our track and field athletes did of being good teammates. They loved each other. They supported each other. They encouraged each other. They cheered for each other. They talked to each other. They joked with each other. They mentored each other. They helped each other. They coached each other. They looked out for each other. They were good teammates.
- In The Grand Scheme of Life: In the grand scheme of life high school athletics are a small blip on the radar, but they can have great impact. I think it is good to keep this in perspective as we work with young people, and understand that high school athletics are extra-curricular activities that are one part of their training and education. Let’s make sure we don’t put undue pressure on our young people while encouraging them to do their best and have fun.
- Rest: I think rest is important and I think one of the reasons we had such a successful season is the way we included rest within our training schedule. Our message the last few weeks during training as been “go fast, and full recover.” Proper rest allows student athletes to shine when they need to shine, and reduces injury and burnout. Sabbath rest is an important topic in the Bible, and I believe is one that needs to be encourage in youth sports for the best results to be obtained.