What would it be like to be one of the top athletic coaches, like of all time? I mean, it must feel incredible to win championship after championship on some of the biggest stages. I have to admit, I am definitely intrigued by those coaches who consistently win over time, and are known for integrity and caring about their players. That brings up a really good set of questions: Who are some of the greatest coaches? What are they like? How might we see the character of God in them? And, how might you be called to adopt these qualities into your own life and leadership?
Three Great Coaches
When I think about great athletic coaches (and there are many), three readily come to mind: John Wooden, Herb Brooks, and Bob Ladouceur.
John Wooden was the head basketball coach at UCLA from 1948 to 1975. Among his nearly countless accomplishments during his career, he won 10 NCAA championships in a 12 year period, including a record seven in a row. That must have been incredible to accomplish. You have to be doing a lot of things right, to pull something like that off. He was also a devoted follower of Jesus. Interesting.
Next is Herb Brooks. Herb Brooks is famous for leading the 1980 Olympic hockey team to the gold medal, upsetting the juggernaut Soviet Union team along the way. Beating the heavily favored Soviets, and then winning a gold medal must have been unbelievably cool. He also pulled off winning 3 national championships at the University of Minnesota, which being a former hockey player as a kid from Minnesota, I can’t help but love. Herb is well known for building teams and bringing out the best in his players. He was a believer as well.
Bob Ladouceur is not nearly as well-known. Yet as a high school football coach in California, he led his teams to the longest winning streak in football history, winning 151 games over the span of 12 years. The book about him, his approach, and his teams is called “When the Game Stands Tall.” It is a good read, and underscores how exceptional Bob is. He has had an almost surreal run of success in helping players grow, gel, and succeed. His legacy is truly rich, and his levels of fulfillment must be almost off the charts. He is also very strong believer.
What might these men have in common that reflects the Lord? Or perhaps a better way to say it is, how might the character of God be portrayed through these men through how they coached? Surely there must some godly lessons we can learn here from these three men about how to lead, and help people grow.
While the particular emphases vary among them, taken together I believe we learn the following:
- They knew their sports very well
- They had very high standards
- They affirmed, but not excessively
- They did not let fear shape their decisions
- They masterfully challenged or confronted when needed
- They were very committed to the development of their players
- They were deeply committed to their players as people
- The players knew their coach cared about them
God and the Great Coaches
I believe it is absolutely fair to say that God embodies all those traits, especially as it applies to His commitment to us as His children. He knows the “game of life” super well since He put it together. He is somehow working everything out towards His end, which is amazing good and glory (Romans 8:28), while still somehow completely making room for our freedom. Amazing. He knows us remarkably well since after all He designed us. He clearly has very high standards, as evidenced by the 10 Commandments, and His holiness. He does praise and affirm, but not excessively. He does challenge and confront readily, though His Spirit and Word, for our own good. He does not coddle. He is unbelievably committed to our development and growth as his sons and daughters. He cares deeply, deeply for us, as evidenced by having the idea of giving up His Son, for 33 odd years, and then being willing to follow through on it, so that His kids who are so prone to foolishness and drama could eternally be with Him. That is remarkable commitment and yes, eternal love. The level of fulfillment and joy He experiences in seeing His plans for good come to fruition day after day after day, must be amazing.
What about You?
While there are certainly many more places to go here, (some will be followed up on in later posts), this all raises some really good questions: How much do you embody the characteristics listed above? Where are you the most like those coaches and the Lord? And, perhaps the most important is, in light of reflecting on the list, how might the Holy Spirit be prompting you to grow? And, what kind of deeper fulfillment and joy could you experience if you took big steps in developing those qualities? Please take a few minutes to noodle on this and pray about it.
I pray that as you engage with this short post, that the Holy Spirit will ultimately help you know greater fulfillment and happiness as you actively take steps to become more and more like the truly Greatest Coach Ever.
Blessings to you.