A few years ago I read an article about former St. John’s University football coach John Gagliardi and in the article the author noted that upon his hire the monks who run the school requested he coach the team like he thought Jesus would. I couldn’t find the original article I had read but I did find this one which basically suggests the same idea about coaching like Jesus. I study other coaches, especially coaches that are successful, and Gagliardi is one of those coaches I have read quite a bit about. From where I sit he seem to have been successful in terms of building and sustaining a winning football program, and in impacting the lives of young men in a positive way.
As we think about what it means to coach like Jesus, I believe it is necessary to really consider how our faith in Christ connects with all areas of our lives, including coaching and interacting with young people. One of those characteristics Christ embodied was humility, as He came to earth, taking the form of man, and putting it all on the line for the sake of humankind. I want go in to defining humility at this point, and I’m not going to reference Scripture, but would encourage you to take the time to do some homework in those two areas.
As coaches I think we need to exercise humility, as we seek to be the best coaches we can be for the athletes on our teams. Part of practicing humility for me as a coach is that I have to be aware that I don’t know everything and out of that truth am constantly learning and growing. Another aspect of this means that when I am wrong I have to admit that I am wrong, not always easy to do but a necessary step when practicing humility.
One of the ways in which I learn and grow is by asking other coaches for help. I know what my strengths are as a coach, and I am aware of my weaknesses as well, and sometimes in order to grow in my weaknesses I have to lean on other coaches. Sometimes, it just helps to get another person’s input because, I know for me, it helps to see the bigger picture. I know that in game situations I don’t always see everything, and I like having other coaches around me so they can offer input and what we need to change or try differently. Sometimes it is as simple as asking, “Hey, what do you see?”
I will also go to other coaches and ask them how they attack a certain defense, or defend a certain offense. If my team needs help on a certain skill, I will seek input from other coaches as to what drills we might be able to run in order to help develop the team in that area. The bottom line, as we practice humility as coaches is that there is nothing wrong with asking for help, especially (and most importantly) when the help we receive will help our team and make us better coaches.