by Shannon Caughey
Several high school head football coaches were seated around the table for our Coaches Huddle. Bryan, the FCA staff person who was leading us this particular evening, posed a question: “Who won the state championship in your football class 20 years ago?” None of the coaches were sure. Bryan went on: “Can you name the state football champion in your class from 10 years ago? How about 5 years ago?” A few of the coaches ventured answers, but most couldn’t remember. Bryan said, “There’s nothing wrong with going after trophies on the field, but keep this in perspective. Even state champs are soon forgotten. Coach and live for a purpose that lasts.”
How do you coach in a way that is truly transformational in the lives of your athletes? A key component is the purpose you pursue and you lead your team to pursue. Go after competitive success – but don’t leave it at that. Choose to be driven by a far more lasting purpose. What is this purpose and how do you pursue it?
In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus challenges some fishermen to be part of something that goes beyond their vocation: “18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!’ 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him. 21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.”
There’s nothing wrong with fishing for a living. However, Jesus offers these guys a chance to utilize all they know about fishing to go after an even bigger purpose. He invites them to “fish for people”: to be part of bringing people to Jesus so they can experience the rescue from sin and restoration to God that only he can provide. These fishermen trust Christ, leaving behind lesser pursuits in order to join Team Jesus and live for this bigger purpose.
Jesus issues the same challenge and invitation to each of us: “Come, follow me. Trust me and I will show you how to coach and live for what truly matters.” There’s nothing wrong with going after competitive success and trophies in your sport. But make this secondary to coaching and living for the mission of Jesus. The most life-transforming thing you can do for your athletes is not leading them to a championship. It’s pointing them to Jesus.
How do you do this? First, it requires genuinely trusting Jesus: surrendering your life in faith to him. Second, it involves desiring to follow Jesus in every area of your life. Third, it’s about truly believing that the very best thing you can offer those you coach is the chance to know Jesus and the rescue from sin and eternal life he alone can give. You then make it your daily goal that everything you do as a coach – how you speak, how you act, the way you relate to athletes and fellow coaches, the learning opportunities you offer, etc. – gives those in your sphere of influence a chance to see and experience Christ through you.
Coach and live for this bigger purpose: Jesus and his mission of rescuing us from our separation from God because of our sin, bringing us into a relationship with the God who loves us, and giving us new and eternal life. Great athletic achievements and state championships will one day be forgotten. What Jesus accomplishes through us as we live for his mission will last forever.
For reflection: Consider again the invitation of Jesus: “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” What is the next step for you in responding to his invitation and coaching for this bigger purpose?