Kindness in Coaching

What role does kindness have in sports?  We’re more used to thinking in terms of toughness and gaining a competitive edge.  As we continue this series of devotions on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” – it might feel challenging to see how “kindness” fits with what you’re trying to accomplish as a coach.

It’s helpful first to be clear on what kindness is and why kindness is so important.  Here’s a simple definition of kindness: out of compassion for someone, speaking and acting for their benefit.  What’s amazing is that God does this for us when we clearly don’t deserve it.  Titus 3:3-5 says, “Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient.  We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures.  Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.  But—‘When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.’”

Without God’s kindness toward us in Jesus Christ, we’d be in deep trouble as we faced the eternal consequences we deserve for our foolish disobedience and evil sin.  But when we respond in faith to Jesus and what he’s done for us through his life, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead, we experience God’s love and kindness.  In Christ, God compassionately takes action for our eternal benefit!

Kindness is so important because we’re recipients of kindness at its very best.  Our kindness to others comes out of our genuine gratitude for God’s kindness to us.  Demonstrating kindness shows that we are responding to the Spirit’s work in us to mature us.  As a coach, what might this look like?  Here are a couple of examples to stimulate your thinking about how you can coach with kindness.

You can demonstrate kindness in the way you treat the opposing team.  You want to coach your team to victory – and that’s what you should strive to do.  But that doesn’t warrant treating your opponent as “the enemy” or eschewing respect and kindness in the name of “gaining a competitive advantage.”  I know of a high school AD who organizes a post-game meal for the visiting team when they’ve had to travel a long distance so that they’re well fed before making the trip home.  I know of coaches who generously share resources like practice plans or defensive schemes with other coaches – even coaches from rival schools – as a way to help those coaches develop individually and improve their programs.  These are acts of kindness.

Another example of kindness is your willingness to go the extra mile to help your players – including those players that can be the most difficult.  Maybe it’s working behind the scenes to get a player some academic help he or she needs, even though this individual isn’t ever going to be a key player on your team.  Or maybe it’s choosing to stay an extra hour after practice –when you’re tired and just ready to veg on the couch at home – in order to make yourself available to a player who just needs a listening ear as they open up about their struggles.  These are acts of kindness.

You can coach toughness and excellence in competition, and still also coach with kindness.  The examples above merely scratch the surface of what this can look like.  As a recipient of God’s incredible kindness in Christ, look for ways you can compassionately speak and act for the benefit of others – whether or not they seem to deserve it.  Be a channel through which those around you experience God’s kindness.

For reflection:  Take a moment to thank God for his kindness to you.  Ask him to grow your compassion for others and to give you open eyes to see how you can demonstrate kindness as a coach.