Well coaches, it's the first week in March, the un-official kick-off for the 2011 season. I guess this is where “the rubber meets the road” in respect to all the work you put into your fall and winter workouts. So as we head into the season, I would like to share just a few things from my heart in effort to encourage you, to help keep you focused on the vision of using your influence to impact your teams for Jesus Christ, and to strengthen you as you seek to be a coach who looks to define your wins through a set of lenses that is counter cultural.
Our culture…the world we live in….tells us that our worth is determined by our accomplishments and encourages us to pursue significance and meaning through the things we do. The world of competitive sports (in our case baseball) magnifies this “performance based” system and drives home the lie that “acceptance” is conditional….that it’s based on performance. In turn, this thought process instills a false sense of self worth into young men and leads them into a belief system that tells them their self worth and their identity is based upon what they do and how they perform. As they begin to fail at things in life (and we all do), this false sense of self worth causes them to start making decisions which are rooted in an attempt to meet a desperate need for approval and appreciation. This is an EXHUASTING existence. I know, because I lived that lie for 47 years of my life.
Here’s the truth. Our worth is determined by what Christ was willing to do for us, and in Him, we have an unlimited and unchanging source of meaning and purpose. Who we are in Christ is not shaped by what we do, but by what He did for us on the cross and what He continues to do in us and through us each and every day of our life. As Christian coaches, we have been called to embrace that perspective and share that message with our players, their parents and “all whom you influence” by living it out in our words, our actions and our RE-actions. The reflection of Christ in us may be the first, the last or the ONLY image of Christ that will be seen by those who come across our paths. Romans 12:2 is a wonderful example of how we as followers of Christ are called to live and to coach. I love Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message:
“Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you and develops well-formed maturity in you”.
In order to live that out, we must first be secure in our OWN identity and our OWN self worth. You’ve all heard of “identity theft”. There’s a thief who wants to steal our identity by trying to convince us that the worlds performance based system is what life is all about. I believe that as coaches, we are most vulnerable to the enemies attack while we are on the baseball field and in the midst of competition. It is during competition that we are tempted to play the “comparison game” as we look at our opposing coaches and their players. Comparison is the death of contentment. It causes us to take on attitudes of pride and it causes us to fall back into the worlds view of performance based self worth as we begin to feel threatened. Then, in the blink of an eye, our definition of a “win” is changed. It quickly becomes about the numbers on the score board, our character is compromised and the enemy has won.
Where am I going with this? I remember reading the book “Season of Life” about four years ago. In the book, the main character, Joe Ehrman, a High School football coach would ask his team before each practice “What’s my job?”, and the team would yell back at him “To love us”. Coach would then ask them “And what’s YOUR job?”, to which they would answer “To love each other”. Reading those words in that book was a defining point in my life. That was the “AH-HA” moment for me that not only caused me to realize the impact of a coach, but it also kicked off the spiritual journey that I have been on ever since. I have come to know now that the words of Joe Ehrman were in actuality the words of Jesus as He gave His disciples a new commandment. A commandment that was RADICALLY different than anything they had heard from any Rabbi or religious teacher before. He said:
“I give you a new commandment; love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also have love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34
That’s how we determine our wins in this life….and that’s how we determine our wins on the baseball field. It begins by loving God and totally embracing His love for us as we recognize the true security and significance that we have in our relationship with Him. The only way to love those “hard to love” people that He brings into our path is through an overflow of the love that we have for the one who makes us who we are. And that comes by putting Him first….by spending time….quality time….with Him. By trusting in the fact that He will honor the time we take away from other areas of our busy days to spend with Him in prayer and thanksgiving.
The simple discipline of readjusting your daily priorities to spend more time getting to know God on a much deeper level through prayer will be the one thing that will radically change your life and the lives of all those He has entrusted you with. And it will cause you to NEVER sway from the foundation of how you define a “win”. Thank you so much for answering Gods call on your life to “Shepherd a flock” for Him. I hope to be able to share time with each of you on a baseball field soon.