Recently, I had the opportunity to interview a member of our church who is also actively involved in coaching. I interviewed Darryl Speer, an elementary school basketball coach and a tee ball coach. We discussed the integration of Christianity in coaching. You can access that interview by clicking here. As I reflect back upon our interview, I also find myself reflecting on Christian coaching in general. Coaching, especially when performed by a Christian male, can have a profound influence on a young person if the following five principles are kept.
The Importance of Positive Male Role-Models
One thing that Darryl addressed, which is something that deserves more attention at a later date, is the impact of positive male role-models. Let’s face it. We live in a land of single mothers and dead-beat dads. This is not always the case, but is to a great degree. The real victims in this ordeal are the children involved.
Formerly, I worked in the school system. I saw first-hand the impact upon a child who grows up with no father. Mothers and fathers are vitally important to a child. If you take one of the elements away from a child, it can be detrimental to a child. Some children latched onto me because they needed a positive male role-model.
However, it must be said that if a male role-model is to be a role-model, he must be positive. Children do not need negative influences. Many children who have absentee fathers only know their fathers from violent encounters, from behind a jail-cell, or from negligence. This certainly is not the case with all single-parent homes. For some, it is the mother who was a negligent, negative influence. Nonetheless, male coaches need not to be remembered for yelling, screaming, cursing, and snorting. Rather, the male coach, if desiring to be a role-model worthy of praise, needs to encourage, drive, and compliment the children so that they feel better about themselves.
The Importance of Integrating Good Sportsmanship
Sports are competitive by nature. Almost every coach desires to lead one’s team to victory. Winning is fun but losing is not. However, sportsmanship is becoming a lost art. The coach cannot demand character from his/her players if he/she does not display genuine character as a coach. This demands integrity.
Ultimately, Christian principles bring forth integrity which leads to character. Many times character does not come from winning, but from losing. As a popular sermon illustration goes, “Fruit does not grow on the mountaintop, it grows in the valley.” The illustration shows that it is during the difficult times of life that character is grown. Take the words of Paul who wrote, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3–5, NASB). Character must be exhibited both in winning and in losing in order to achieve a maximum impact as a positive male role-model.
The Importance of Equality
Darryl Speer, the coach we interviewed, said something of great importance when he said, “We have learned to be impartial. I have to treat my girl…the same as anyone else on the team” (Darryl Speer, Episode 36 “Christianity in Coaching,” Redeeming Truth Radio). This is important. Many of the great problems in sports have come from partiality. The Bible says that the Pharisees and Herodians said of Jesus (although they were trying to trap Him), “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth” (Mark 12:14, NASB). We are not to show partiality. Coaches, especially Christian coaches, should not show partiality to any child regardless of race, gender, or even creed. You will not show a person of another faith the love of Christ by being impartial to them. Politics should absolutely play no role in this kind of equality.
The Importance of Evangelism
It is difficult to have a full-impact unless you have great faith. In some areas and in some places, this may be difficult. The coach cannot bluntly say, “You gonna accept Christ? Huh, huh, huh???” Especially in this hyper-sensitive culture in which we live, the Christian coach must be careful in how he or she evangelizes. However, the Christian can still show forth the message of the gospel in the way he/she lives, by the way he/she prays, and by the way he/she treats others. The Christian coach may not be allowed to lead a team prayer. But, the Christian coach has every bit of right to pray on his/her own time. Do the children witness the coach praying at mealtime? Do the children see the coach reading his/her Bible during spare time? These are powerful ways to be a witness. Rest assured; people may try to stop Christianity, but God has a way of leading the wayward heart to Him. Isn’t it about glorifying God in the first place?
The Importance of Prioritization
Finally, the element of prioritization exists. Although I appreciate various sports leagues, I will be the first to admit that I am adamantly against leagues scheduling games on Sunday mornings. There is, quite frankly, no excuse in my eyes that exists for planners of these leagues to schedule games during this time. If there are scheduling conflicts, that lies on the planners of the leagues. Many parents are put into a paradox on Sunday mornings due to these scheduling conflicts Every parent must make their own decision. However, I will go on record to say that my child will not be allowed to play in any league that schedules games on Sunday mornings…period. He will be able to play in any sport that he chooses, if he chooses to play. He will be allowed to play as much as he wants to play, but not on Sunday mornings. If he chooses to play the guitar instead, that will be fine, too. If he chooses to paint and become an artist, that will be fine, too. If he chooses to hit the books and become a scholar, that will be fine, too. Be that as it may; I have to answer for what I do and others will have to answer for what they do. So, I say this not to judge, but to bring out an important question, what holds the greatest priority in your life? If you want to be a positive Christian influence, then Christ must be on center stage.
If a parent chooses to allow one’s child to play on Sunday mornings, spiritual disciplines cannot be ignored. When one does not engage in spiritual disciplines (daily prayer, Bible study, regular church attendance, and so on), the person will find oneself slipping into a backslidden condition. Can a person worship God on the ballfield? Possibly. But, it is not likely. Nothing takes the place of the preaching, teaching, and study of the Word of God. If one allows their child to play on Sunday morning, it is vitally important for the parent and the child to be in church on Sunday night, Wednesday night, or both. If your church does not have services at these times, find a Bible-believing church that does hold services at these times until the league is over and then are able to go back to your home church. Also, don’t forget to send in your tithes if you are going to be gone for an extended period of time. If too many Christians stay gone for too long, there won’t be a church in which to return. Remember, if parents do not place Christ at the epicenter of their lives, what makes them think that their children will???
You don’t think church attendance and spiritual disciplines matter? Well, you are reading from a writer who backslid from God for seven years. It did not happen overnight. The process of backsliding is a slow, meticulous process that ends in disaster. The most important decision is to have Christ as the Lord of one’s life. Some hope that his or her child will go pro. Remember, many professional athletes have made millions only to lose it all due to unChristlike behaviors.
Why do I mention this? Well, if there is one thing that I have learned from working with children, it is that children know when someone is legit and when someone is simply blowing smoke. If you are desiring to be a positive Christian coach, parent or leader; you MUST be a Christian and you MUST have your service to Christ as your chief priority. The children will not take the coach seriously about the coach’s faith unless the coach is serious about his own faith. That goes not only for coaches, but also for parents and any person of influence.
When put in proper perspective, sports can be a wonderful way for children to have fun and learn life principles. The coach can be a great catalyst to bring forth positive Christian values to a child. There exists a HUGE demand for positive, Christian, male coaches in our day in time. But what must be stressed is the importance of character in the coach. This is something that is missing in many men in our day and time. Oh, that God would bring up Christian men of integrity that will make a positive impact in the world for Christ!