Coaches Bring Out the Best
Growing up playing many sports but especially soccer, I always had coaches in my life. My coaches have mostly challenged me to do my best, pushed me to try harder, encouraged me when I failed, and celebrated with me my successes. When a coach has seventeen players on a soccer team, one of his primary jobs is to slot the players in the positions that best suit them. Each player’s suitability is a combination of their strengths of particular skills in the game, and also their genetic makeup, disposition, size, speed, and natural interest. Though most soccer players love the idea of the glory of scoring goals, many find defense much more suitable and effective for their own progression in the sport as well as the team’s success.
My high school soccer coach is still a friend to this day, though a rather distant one. We have stayed in touch all these years. I am so thankful for him because he was able to see in me what I could not see in myself at the time, both my strengths and my limitations. He moved me from midfield to defense in my senior year which turned out to be such a success I wondered if I would have gone further in the sport if another coach had seen that in me earlier.
I have since gone on to coach many people myself, primary in ministry leadership and staff positions. I have never been one to function in ministry as a supervisor without also being a coach. It’s the only way that has been modeled for me. My first year in my senior pastor role I benefited from having a professional coach, Tod Bolsinger, help me to determine my strengths, choose to the fight the wise battles, live into my limitations, and emphasize what I do best and what I am drawn to the most in terms of a sense of call.
During this five year season of leading a multi-staff congregation, I also coached my middle daughter’s soccer team for those five years. I started right away and we had six little girls in first grade. We kept those girls together, added a few along the way, and developed a team that won the league every year with no more than one loss, and a deep love and affection for one another as teammates and friends. I loved these girls and I loved being their coach and watching them, through formation, discipline, encouragement, and care, flourish in soccer with such joy and passion and success.
It is interesting to me that I may know a little about soccer, but I don’t have any formal soccer coaching training. My success with this team, the Flyers, had so much more to do with my training in human relationships and my theological anthropology. I knew inherently that my job was to form a team out of a group of girls and to make the team its best and to do that I needed to invest individually in the players.
There was one girl, Veta, who was such a train wreck from day one. She couldn’t even kick the ball, let alone pass it or shoot it or dribble it. She couldn’t run in the right direction. She was terrible and a huge liability. The first year I stuck her in the back corner, but I encouraged her and helped her to finally discover that she can have a successful soccer career if the team utilizes her ability to throw the ball in, which turned out to be her greatest strength. She could throw the ball from the sideline to the center of the field, setting the midfield and strikers up for goal-scoring opportunities. She always loved soccer, but as she found success by being in the right position for her, she was able to develop a self-confidence that she did not have when she began with us. You could see her pride in her eyes when she would stop an attacker or get a throw-in. Life opened up for her, and I think that is what vocational or leadership coaching is meant to do for us—open up new experiences of joy and self-discovery.
Camacho’s concept of matching our time with our design is so valuable and seems to be a daily challenge. One of the biggest challenges in my adult life has been to accept my limitations. As an only child with “helicopter” and “snowplow” parents, and a 7 on the Enneagram, I always had the false sense that through hard, I could so many things well and with joy. My adult life has been like a gradual chipping away of this concept, usually through burnout or anxiety. I say “yes” to nearly everything, which makes me not be able to do much of anything well.
“Your gifts don’t make you any more important or more loved by God. Your gifts were given to you by the grace of God. Your role is to steward those gifts. Like the parable of the talents in Scripture, God asks you to bring a return with the talents you have. You are called to invest those talents into the work of His kingdom. In reality, they are not your gifts, but His. He placed gifts inside of us and knows how to bring them to their highest expression” (103)
I love these questions that Camacho suggests we both use in coaching others, but perhaps first for ourselves for the sake of greater clarity:
- How clear do you feel you are about your God-given design?
- What assessments have you taken or material have you read to help you understand how God created you? If yes, what have you learned about how you are wired?
- How much of your working time is spent cooperating with your design? Identify a percentage.
- If you could do any type of work or ministry that cooperated with your design, what would it be?
- If money were no obstacle, what type of work would you love to do full time for the rest of your life?
4 responses to “Coaches Bring Out the Best”
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Loved the story of Veta.
Apply this to your current situation, find your new Veta, and incrementally work with her, coaching and loving her ahead.
Your new foundation is your new soccer field.
Let’s talk soccer! Seeing how it is Women’s World Cup season, I figure futbol is fair game for our blogs…
What position did you play? I bet you were quick. I am guessing sweeper or somewhere else in the middle of the field. I love hearing about your past coaches.
I played midfielder and striker in College. What a grand experience. I refereed for several decades and stayed connected to the game, plus it was a great outreach into my community. Did you referee, too?
First, congrats for finishing well after 2 years with GFU and LGP8. Well done!
Thanks for sharing your experiences as the giver and taker of the coaching vocation. You sound like a lifelong coach and from what I know and have seen about you that seems to “fit” who you are. Embrace it, you are a good one my friend.
I read your list of questions from Tom Camacho. I have peace with all of them right now. I have the benefit of several more years on most of you, except maybe Mark. So I have had time for God to shape me, over and over, to the point where I just surrender most of the time, and He does His amazing and miraculous work. Every now and then He gives me a micro-glimpse of what He did, which is the maximum amount of glory I am ready to handle. No wonder people were struck dead in the Old Testament if they intentionally or accidently came face to face with God or His glory.
So, I pray all your mentees say, “put me in the game Coach wherever and whenever you want or need me.”
I’m so happy that you a have been able to embrace self-awareness and learn that pastoring wasn’t necessarily your sweet spot. But even in that experience you learned much and can apply it to your new role. You have so much to offer in any arena God leads you to….and your family is one of the most important arenas. I am so grateful for your tender heart and desire to be obedient to God’s plan for your life. I am a better person for having gone through this DMin journey with you! 🙂