Why do I coach the way I do?

By Shannon Caughey

It’s not unusual for college coaches to videotape practices so they can then review the way their players performed during each dimension of that practice. Recently I heard about a head college coach who not only videotaped his players but also his coaches during practices. He wanted each of his coaches to consider the way they coached during practice: Why did they take that approach to coaching in that situation? What could they do differently to be even more effective?

Have you considered why you coach the way you coach, whether during practices or competition? In InsideOut Coaching, Joe Ehrmann identifies this question – “Why do I coach the way I do?” – as the second of four critical questions that every coach must reflect on and answer if they want to truly make a difference. We looked at the first question, “Why do I coach?”, in last week’s devotional blog.

Most of us coach the way we do simply because that’s the way we were coached. It’s what we know – for better or for worse – and so it’s what we do. Or perhaps we’ve adopted an approach because we’ve observed other successful coaches using it and so we try to imitate them.

But have we done the reflective work needed to evaluate whether the way we coach gives us the best chance to accomplish the most important purpose we desire to pursue through our coaching (the “Why do I coach?” question)? In last week’s devotion, we saw that our ultimate purpose in coaching and in every other area of our lives is to honor our Lord Jesus Christ through living as his representative. It’s possible that we have a pretty clear sense of this purpose and yet the way we’re coaching actually works against this purpose. That’s why it’s so critical to think through our approach rather than merely defaulting to coaching the way we do because that’s how we were coached.

The Apostle Paul makes a bold statement in 1 Corinthians 11:1 – “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” This isn’t Paul saying, “Hey, I’m perfect just like Jesus was so you should be like me.” It’s more along the lines of Paul saying, “I’m committed not only to following Christ myself but also helping others follow him. As imperfect as I am, I want to model living as Jesus did so that you have a flesh-and-blood example of what this looks like.”

What if this same desire drove the way we approach coaching? What if we could say, “What you see in me as your coach gives you a model of what it means to live for Christ”? This means that we’d intentionally approach coaching – how we treat players and fellow coaches, how we speak in every situation, how we challenge, how we encourage, how we discipline, how we respond to players’ failures, how we love – in ways that imitate the life and teaching of Jesus. And we do this because our purpose in coaching is to honor Christ and be a channel through whom he can transform the lives of those we coach.

Why do you coach the way you do? What an incredible thing to be able to describe your coaching style in this way: “I coach the way I do because I love Christ and I want to give my players a model of Christlikeness that could potentially transform their lives.” By Jesus’ power and grace, you can keep growing in coaching this way!

For reflection: Take a few moments to prayerfully reflect on why you coach the way you do. Does the way you coach give those around you a flesh-and-blood model of what following Christ looks like? Ask the Lord for his power and grace to keep growing in coaching in ways that point people to him.