It’s a sure sign of summer when moms and dads across the country put on their hats and drape whistles around their necks as they head out the door for the baseball, softball, and soccer fields.
It’s the season when thousands of nurses, realtors, construction workers, machinists, CEOs, financial advisors, plumbers, stay-at-home moms, managers, and administrators become coaches.
As a varsity coach of both boys and girls sports at a local high school for nearly 12 seasons, I see how important coaches are to kids of all ages.
There is a tremendous opportunity to speak into the lives young people when you’re a coach. In many cases you are not only their coach but also their teacher, counselor…and in some instances, you may even be their parent-figure.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about coaching that you should keep in mind:
1. You’re More Influential Than You Realize – Don’t underestimate your impact. If you think you are there just to teach a sport, you are missing the boat. You have a tremendous amount of influence in the lives of every single member of your team. Use it wisely.
2. Sports = Community – As adults, we desire fellowship and community. Kids are no different, and sports are one of the most common ways kids seek community. If you think of your team as a community, I guarantee it will change how you speak to your kids, what you allow kids to say to each other, and how you approach teaching the sport.
3. It’s Mostly NOT About the Sport – I love the sport I coach (tennis). By the time my kids graduate, most of them love the sport, too. In my experience, tennis is just the platform that enables me to build relationships. In the four years I have with them, the amount of time I’ll spend talking about something other than tennis outweighs the time I’ll spend talking about tennis.
So how can our faith play a role?
Each circumstance is going to be different. In some circumstances, coaches can not only share their faith but also encourage their kids to do the same by way of team prayer or team devotionals.
If you’re like me and work for a public school, there are boundaries that must be respected. But don’t let that discourage you!
Here are three simple ways your faith can play a role in coaching:
1. Allow Student-led Prayer
You may be prohibited from organizing prayer as a coach, but the students may do so at their discretion. Create an environment that welcomes students to step out in their faith to lead activities such as prayer before or after games.
2. Let Your Team Know About Faith-based Athletic Groups
Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) or another similar group is likely in your area. Make sure your team knows about this opportunity to gather with other athletes to share and grow in their faith. If there are no Christian groups for athletes in your area, look into starting one.
3. Share Your Faith
This generation is very open about their faith. More so than my generation ever was. There have been numerous times on long van rides when I’ve been asked what I believe about God, creation, or another topic of faith. If you’re asked what or why you believe, take the opportunity to share! The key to not crossing the line is to make sure you don’t proselytize, but there is no law against sharing your viewpoint when asked.
If you enjoy working with kids, coaching can be a wonderful opportunity to influence young lives. Just remember that you don’t have to hang up your faith when you grab your whistle on the way out the door.