By Shannon Caughey
As a coach, do you really need to worry about your players’ feelings? Can’t you just focus on helping them get better and trying to win more games?
Consider this perspective from Joe Ehrmann as he coached high school football: “I wanted to create an atmosphere in which I could connect with and transform my players. I thought about all the pressure young people battle every day. They get up early in the morning, grab something to eat, commute to school, endure full days of academic learning, competitive grading, SAT prep, parental pressures, and homework. Between classes they walk the halls dealing with peer pressure, social pressure, sexual pressure, and all the difficulties negotiating the uncertainty of adolescent development. At the end of the day they walk out on the athletic field and are coached by me. How does that feel to them? What feelings do my words, actions, and interactions create within my players?”
In InsideOut Coaching, Ehrmann identifies this as the third of four critical questions for coaches: What does it feel like to be coached by me? We previously looked at the first two questions: “Why do I coach?” and “Why do I coach the way I do?” This third question is just as important – and here’s why:
You share Ehrmann’s desire to create an atmosphere in which you can connect with and transform your players. The feelings your words, actions, and interactions create in them – in the midst of the swirl of everything else they’re encountering in daily life – can reinforce the connection and transformation you’re hoping for. Or those feelings created by you will work against your ultimate purpose as a coach.
In describing how he carried out his ministry, the Apostle Paul says this in 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 – “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”
Paul wasn’t just about trying to make those he led/coached “feel good.” Urging someone to live worthy of God can sometimes require correction or rebuke, things that don’t feel good in the moment to those who receive them. But Paul’s goal was that they would always feel loved and valued by him as he urged them to live fully for the Lord, including when correction was needed. He wanted them to feel like he treated them as if they were his very own children – and he wanted nothing less than God’s best for them.
You can make that your same pursuit as a coach: Whether you’re affirming or correcting or merely “shooting the breeze” with them, may your words, actions, and interactions with your players leave them feeling loved, valued, and convinced you desire nothing less than God’s best for them. This is at the heart of creating an atmosphere in which you can connect with and impact your players. And this is critical to being a transformational coach who glorifies Christ.
For reflection: Take a few moments to prayerfully reflect on what it feels like to be coached by you. Do your players feel loved and valued by you? Do they experience Christ through you? Ask the Lord to continue growing you in sharing his heart for those you coach.