Problems or Opportunities?

During my days of playing high school football, some Friday nights were cold, rainy, windy, and generally miserable – to the average person, at least.  But not to our coach.  As we went through pregame warm-ups, Coach Thomas would repeatedly say with great conviction, “This is Redbird weather!  Our opponent is over there worrying about how bad the weather is, but we’re the Redbirds.  When the weather gets worse, we get even tougher!”  He had us as players believing we now had a distinct advantage over the other team, all because of the miserable conditions.  Soon we were shouting it as well: “This is Redbird weather!  Let’s go!”

It’s a given we’ll face adverse situations, both in coaching and in life.  It could be argued that 2020 has been the equivalent of one long cold, rainy, windy, and generally miserable Friday night.  The sports world has certainly been impacted in challenging ways.  As a coach, how you choose to respond when problems come – and how you lead your team to respond – makes a huge difference.

James 1:2-3 says this: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”  When troubles come your way, you as a coach lead through your response.  Here are three choices you can make in the face of adversity:

1. Choose to see this as an opportunity rather than a problem.  When James tells us to “consider,” he’s instructing us to take an intentional perspective on the situation.  Rather than seeing the troubles as a problem (the “miserable weather” perspective), we’re to “consider it an opportunity” (the “Redbird weather” perspective).  More specifically, choose to see it as an opportunity from God to experience more of his good work – an opportunity you may not have had if you hadn’t encountered these particular troubles.  When you choose to embrace this perspective, you can lead your team in embracing this perspective as well.

2. Choose joy rather than complaining.  According to James, troubles are “an opportunity for great joy.”  Joy is a deep, consistent delight based not on favorable circumstances but rather on the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord.  The discomfort of troubles can remind us of our dependence upon God and give us an opportunity to experience his goodness and faithfulness in fresh ways.  This reinforces in us the joy we have in him.  As we choose joy in a world is filled with negative, complaining people, the effectiveness and attractiveness of our coaching and life will increase.

3. Choose to grow rather than retreating.  The tendency for many people is look for an escape from problems and to spend their energy wishing for better circumstances.  James points out that “when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”  God uses troubles to grow us in Christ-like qualities like endurance.  But to experience this growth, we must choose to be open to God’s work (as stretching as it may be!) rather than retreating from problems.  As you make this choice, you can also coach your players to recognize difficult situations as opportunities to grow in needed ways.

Coach, you may be feeling like there’s no shortage of adversity these days.  This means there’s also no shortage of leadership opportunities as you make the James 1:2-3 choices!  Embrace these opportunities God is bringing your way, choose the joy you have in him day by day, and look for how God is at work to grow you.  Then coach your players to do the same.

For reflection:  Reflect on specific adversity you’re currently facing.  Ask God to lead you in living out James 1:2-3 in response to this adversity.