You’ve likely witnessed this: A team is not playing well or a player is having a rough game – and it seems like the coach’s priority is to make sure everyone knows that it’s not his or her fault as the coach. They yell (loud enough to make sure the crowd hears) things like, “Why don’t you do what I told you to do in practice?!” Their body language communicates that they’ve been saddled with the burden of having to coach an incompetent or un-coachable team.
When this happens, the coach may think he or she is protecting their reputation (“I’m a good coach; my players just won’t listen to me.”) In reality, they’re actually undermining their effectiveness as a coach. Many years ago I heard this principle of good leadership: Good leaders are quick to credit others when there is success and quick to take personal responsibility when there is failure.
Why is this effective? Because it flows out of this biblical directive: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6)
Pride is at the root of our inclination to blame others when there is failure and promote ourselves when there is success. Pride’s perspective is, “It’s about me.” Pride dishonors God and undermines the transformational purpose he wants us to pursue in coaching.
Humility, on the other hand, says, “It’s not about me.” As Pastor Rick Warren puts it, humility is not thinking less of ourselves; it’s thinking of ourselves less. Humility is rooted in our confidence in God and our security in our identity in Christ. Humility enables us to promote others rather than ourselves because we trust God is with us and for our good. He will lift us up to where he wants us in his perfect way and perfect timing.
Coaching with genuine humility is transformational. When a coach has the humility to take personal responsibility for a team’s failure rather than pointing fingers at others, players and fellow coaches respond. And when a coach has the humility to be quick to credit others for a team’s success rather than looking for praise for themselves, players and fellow coaches respond. Coaching with genuine humility is far more effective over the long haul. Most importantly, when as a coach and in every area of life we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, he is honored and glorified.