How do we know what we really care about?
I once sat with a coach and the head of the sports ministry where he coached. We were discussing his handling of two lopsided games, when he stated rather emphatically – “I don’t really care about winning”.
His comment caught me off guard. In the time together, the coach made it clear that he took the gospel and his coaching seriously. He stated and restated that he was after the character development of his players. I heard the sincerity of his comments and tried to weigh how he had handled these two lopsided games – where his behavior seemed to show a different set of values. This is where I got confused. I just couldn’t seem to connect the dots.
Had I known the coach better, I think I would have probed into what appeared as a lack of continuity in his comments and his behavior. Had I known him better, I might have even challenged him more pointedly on his comments about winning. Since I didn’t, I chose to speak about the subtle nature of the idol of winning, the challenge for all of us to keep this desire to win in the proper place.
Later I wished I had asked him something like, “How do you know when your desire to win is out of balance?” or “What indicators do you look for that your concern for winning is starting to outweigh your concern for your players character development?” At the moment, I just accepted his reasoning – his behavior in those lopsided games was more out of a lack of preparedness or ignorance than out of a desire to win.
We need community
As the Sports Minister and I unpacked the meeting and the needs of this coach, I was struck by how important a community is for developing gospel-centered coaches. The idol of winning is lodged deep within our hearts, not easily broken down. We need relationships with others who we are confident are for us to help us deal with that idol. We need others who can look us in the eye and ask the hard questions about our behavior and winning. We need other coaches who will call us out – challenging us to acknowledge the struggle within us and to confess that struggle. We need others to help us see the wrong behavior and beliefs that drive it. We need people with whom we can repent deeply and then celebrate the power of the gospel to forgive and transform.
This kind of community can’t happen if all you have for your coaches is a once a season coaches training. At the same time, it doesn’t happen just with more frequent meetings.
This kind of community happens when sports ministry leaders live in this community and then invite coaches to become a part. It happens when Sports Ministers live in the light of the gospel in their own struggles as leaders and then cast the vision of a gospel-centered coaches community to their coaches. It happens when those Sports Ministers then give that vision flesh and bones with specific expressions for the coaches to join such a life-giving place.
I believe in our hearts we all care a great deal about winning and the only way to keep that desire in the right perspective is to live in this kind of gospel-centered community.