Recently, I came across a blog that grabbed my attention.
The title alone drew me in and I knew would speak to a deep issue in sports: “The Coach That Killed My Passion: An Open Letter To The Coach That Made Me Hate A Sport I Once Loved.”
To date, this blog has been shared on social media over 597,000 times and of the over 750 comments, almost all of them resonated with the author.
The author cites coaches that “focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team,” coaches that “no matter how hard I worked it would never be good enough for them,” and coaches that “would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.”
The comment section after the post is full of commentary on bad experiences that soured players on the game they once loved. As expected, some of these come across as a whiney athletes who don’t understand what it means to be appropriately pushed.
But far too many—indeed, the majority—come from athletes who encountered coaches whose perspective and approach to the privilege of coaching left them cold toward the game and scarred in ways that seem inappropriate in the context of playing a game.
I work with college athletes and unfortunately, much of what the author communicates is a too common story. I’ve had many athletes say that their passion was taken from them and how it wasn’t their choice.
It breaks my heart to know so many athletes probably carry this burden everyday, every practice and every game, to the point where they feel like they would be better off without their sport. That's not the way it’s supposed to be.
In the midst of this pain, there is hope. If we don’t realize this hope then the expectations for athletes will continue to get heavier and heavier and the passion to keep playing will continue to die.
A Few Thoughts for the Athlete Whose Passion Has Died
First, I want you to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you are loved.
Not just by the close people in your life, but by God himself. He is madly in love with you.
There is nothing you could do to make Him love you more and there is nothing you could do to make Him love you less. He proved His love for you on the cross, dying so that you could have life. With that one act of sacrifice by Jesus, he said "You are worth it."
Let that sink in.
The God that made the universe thinks YOU are worth it. And it's not because of anything you did or didn't do to earn it. It's because His love is that scandalous.
Second, bad coaches—or even just one bad coach—can affect an athlete for a lifetime.
Their words, and sometimes their lack of words, can stick with us and beat us down. Competition slowly transforms from doing it because you're good at it and it's fun, into a battle of just wanting some sort of approval and acceptance from your coach.
But I think if we put the focus on the coach, we are missing it.
I think the issue is deeper.
I think the issue is sin.
When God created everything, he also created sport. He made sport beautiful. And He made people who would be able to play their sport so that every time they played, it would point them to how awesome He is.
He made it so that coaches would love their athletes, value them, and speak life into them in the midst of teaching plays, technique, psychology, etc. A good and loving coach is a reminder of our good and loving God.
But when sin entered into the world, it infected everything that God created.
Now sport is still beautiful, but it's broken. All of God's creation, including you and I, is beautiful, but broken—and coaches are included in that mess. And all of it needs to be rescued, redeemed and restored back to how it's supposed to be.
This brokenness is now a reminder that we need a Savior to fix all of this. A bad coach is a reminder that Jesus is the only one we can put our hope in, because unfortunately even a good coach is broken and can negatively affect us even with one action.
My hope for you is not that you would be able to keep playing your sport, but that you would be FREE. To see a day where you could play your sport if you want and not have your experiences with a coach dictate how you feel about yourself.
But not only with your sport, but with all of life.
That you would let the truth of what God says about you be your only truth and identity, so that you could work a job, be a wife, a mother, a friend, etc., and do it all in the way God made you to do them.
That your life can be one that points the people around you towards that freedom. And I've learned the only way you'll find that freedom is in Jesus. "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). That's a promise. Believe it.
I’m sorry your passion died. But I believe in the One who defeated death and says your passion can be more alive than ever before. I pray this is encouraging for you. I know that other athletes are also struggling with what you have experienced and I think there is a potential for God to use you to help redeem sport now and for the next generation.