Guest Post by William Higley
The best sports stories are always about real people and real teams (e.g.: Chariots of Fire, Remember the Titans, Miracle on Ice, Hoosiers, Rudy, etc.). Remember Why You Play may never reach the legendary status of the stories mentioned above, but I think many readers will find it a compelling account with a powerful message.
The author, David Thomas—a sports writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram—tells the story from preseason camp to the state championship game of the Grapevine (TX) Faith Christian School 2007 football season. In doing so, Thomas, by his own admission, discovers far more about this team and their Head Coach (Kris Hogan) than he ever anticipated. The fact that this team is good, very good, and that they set a season goal of nothing less than a State Championship, adds an element of drama that keeps the reader interested as the season unfolds. And the narrative climaxes with the retelling of a life changing game against Gainesville State in the following season. That game gained national attention through ESPN and the NFL. It is a game that epitomizes all that Thomas wants his readers to know about the Faith football program and it’s Head Coach, Kris Hogan.
In the end, however, this is a story about Coach Kris Hogan. He is a man of deep Christian convictions. He is a motivator, teacher, friend, and role model to his players. He has high standards and expectations that are never compromised. And in a state where winning high school football games means everything, his example becomes one that coaches, athletes, parents of athletes, and sports ministers, can learn valuable lessons.
As you can tell from the tone of my writing, I like the book and I recommend it to anyone who likes a good story with interesting people. And I especially recommend it to those of you with a desire to use sports as a tool for ministry. Hogan, and the Faith football program, gives us a powerful example of how sports can be a ministry tool: to ourselves, and to a watching world.
Let me suggest a few ways that I believe Remember Why You Play could be used in a sports ministry context: First, I would recommend this book to coaches of any sport. Kris Hogan’s example will challenge us to carefully consider how our faith, and the resulting biblical worldview of our faith, should influence our approach to coaching. Along that same line, I think this could also be a useful gift of a coach you may be trying to share the Gospel with, it is not lost in the excitement of the story.
Second, I could also see this book being used as a discipleship tool for a team, a small group, fathers to sons, or in a one-on-one discipleship situation. With a little work, a creative Sports Ministry Leader could develop a study guide to go along with events and lesson of the book. Although not written solely for a Christian audience, there is enough spiritual and ministry juice to the story to make this a very useable discipleship tool.
My one critique is that the writing can occasionally be predictable and clichéd. And while Thomas tries to be honest, at times the characters—many of whom are High School students—seem almost too good to be true. As a result, I suspect serious literary critics and religious skeptics will not find the book quite as interesting. Nonetheless, these flaws are overcome by the compelling nature of the story; I think a forgiving reader will still find it interesting, and sport ministry leaders will see its potential as a valuable tool for ministry.