Have you ever heard a coach tell his or her players, “I’m completely fine with you giving me less than your best. Let’s strive for mediocrity!”? Me neither. Instead, coaches are constantly promoting a different goal: excellence.
Excellence is not only a worthy goal – it’s a value that ought to characterize us as coaches. Excellence is the fourth of the four biblical values (along with integrity, serving, and teamwork) that FCA desires to be defined by, and that we believe are foundational to being the most effective, Christ-honoring coach you can be.
Here’s the challenge: excellence is about more than what happens on the field or court. As FCA puts it, “To pursue excellence means to honor and glorify God in everything you do. True champions pursue greatness in all areas of life.” Sadly, many coaches who strive for excellence in their sport settle for something far short of excellence in other areas: their home life, their private world, their relationships, their pursuit of spiritual growth. Mediocrity in these areas undermines the chance to be truly great according to what God says matters.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 offers us insight for pursuing excellence: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
We see in this passage three dimensions of a game plan for excellence that honors God in everything we do:
1. Find motivation in our ultimate goal.
In comparing what motivates committed athletes to what motivates us when we are committed to living for Christ, the Apostle Paul says, “They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” There’s nothing wrong with going after wins and championships, but we need to recognize that these things have a limited shelf-life in God’s economy. Our goal is the eternal crown of a life that glorifies God and points others to him. When we’re clear about this ultimate goal, we’re motivated to pursue excellence in every area of life: in our coaching, in our family life, in our relationships, in our work, etc.
2. Be purposeful in how we order our life.
As Paul puts it, “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” No one “accidentally” becomes a world-class athlete. They order their lives around the pursuit of this goal. To “run in such a way as to get the prize” of honoring Christ requires that we purposefully and thoughtfully order our lives toward this goal. We build practices into daily life that help us grow closer to Christ and develop the character qualities that reflect the excellence of who he is: things like reading God’s Word, prayer, intentionally giving quality time to our spouse if we’re married and our family if we have children, and loving and serving those around us.
3. Exercise self-discipline in training for true excellence.
Paul speaks of the “strict training” that’s required for champion-level athletes, pointing to how this is just as necessary for us whose goal is glorifying Christ. It takes little effort to merely “go with the flow” of what most people around us are doing. To live with excellence that honors Christ, you must exercise the discipline needed to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim. 4:7). It takes self-discipline to pursue the habits that are part of purposefully growing in our relationship with Jesus, honoring him as a spouse or parent, glorifying him with our work, etc. It takes self-discipline to respond with Christ-like words and actions in stressful moments, whether in coaching or other areas. As pastor and author John Ortberg writes, “A disciplined person is someone who can do the right thing at the right time in the right way with the right spirit.”
True champions pursue greatness in all areas of life. Coach, live with excellence. Run in such a way as to get the prize. May God be glorified through you!