by Shannon Caughey
The best coaches see clearly their athletes’ and their team’s potential. These coaches don’t sugarcoat current reality. They recognize the flaws and weaknesses in the team. Yet while they honestly address what is, these coaches also give their team a compelling vision of what could be. They paint a picture of a potential future for their athletes if they’re willing to do what’s necessary to improve. When coaches do this in a genuine way, it fills their team with hope and with motivation to go after that future.
This aligns with one of the images in the Bible that help us understand the Lord’s desire for who leaders are to be. God-honoring leaders are visionaries. A couple examples: In 1 Chronicles 29, David speaks compellingly about the future blessings God will bring if the people are willing to sacrificially participate with his son Solomon in the construction of the temple. In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah paints a picture of the potential for Jerusalem, the city of God, to be restored if the people are willing to do the hard work of rebuilding its walls.
In your leadership role as a coach, the Lord calls you to be a visionary. You have the chance to instill hope in your athletes, motivating them to go after a preferred future. Beyond a vision for team success, coaches who follow Jesus recognize the opportunity to share with their athletes a compelling picture of the life God desires for them: life in Christ. When you embrace this visionary role, your athletes can know true hope and be motivated to go after this life.
Consider how the psalmist acts as a visionary in Psalm 1:1-3 – “1 Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. 2 But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. 3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”
Following the model of the psalmist, here’s how you as a coach can be a visionary for what matters most:
1. Speak truthfully about current life realities.
In v. 1, the psalmist points out a reality of life: we all encounter the temptation to join with those who reject God like the “wicked/sinners/mockers” of v. 1. Later in Psalm 1, the psalmist describes what’s true of those who give into this temptation: “they are like worthless chaff” (v. 4), “they will be condemned at the time of judgment” (v. 5), and “the path of the wicked leads to destruction” (v. 6). Choosing to live apart from God always leads to emptiness and destruction. As a coach, you can speak truthfully about these same things. The best approach may be asking your players questions such as: Who or what is influencing you? Where will the current trajectory of your life take you: into something that’s ultimately empty and destructive, or into something that’s of true and lasting value?
2. Share a compelling picture of what life can be when lived by God’s design.
The psalmist lays out a vision of what happens when we live according to God’s instructions. We become like a flourishing tree that bears fruit and never withers (v. 3) – the kind of life each of us longs to experience! As a coach, you have an opportunity to help your players think beyond your sport to life more broadly. Like the psalmist, share a vision of what life at its best really looks like. While your setting may not allow you to refer directly to the Lord as you speak to your team, you can still paint a compelling picture of the life God intends: one filled with love, selflessness, joy, lasting purpose, deep security, etc. Lay out a vision for life that inspires hope.
3. Be ready to articulate how someone can experience the life God desires for them.
The psalmist articulates how someone can go after the “flourishing tree” experience of life. Rather than joining with those who reject God, “delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night” (v. 2). The life of true flourishing comes as we’re hungry to know the Lord and his ways, and we’re eager to live according to what he desires. Coach, when you consistently share with your players a vision for life based on God’s design, you open the door for them to approach you and ask, “How can I experience what you’re describing?” You then have a chance to point them to the God who loves them and makes himself known to them in Jesus. Pray for opportunities like this. Pray for a readiness to share about the One who says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
The best coaches see clearly their players’ potential – not only as an athlete, but more significantly as someone created in God’s image. They paint a picture of a potential future that motivates their players to go after that future. Coach, the Lord is calling you to be a visionary like this. Embrace your visionary role and point your players to the hope they can have in Christ.
For reflection: Take some time to thank Jesus for the life of true flourishing he gives as we trust and follow him. Ask the Lord to keep growing you as a visionary leader who is always ready to share the reason for the hope you have (1 Peter 3:15).