Coach, Rethink Yourself

Coach, Rethink Yourself

Jason Cooper January 17, 2019

You are a coach. You have a flat tire, so you are going to be late. Your washer is leaking, and the warranty just expired. An uncle you loved passed away unexpectedly last week.

The fragility of life makes you feel like you don’t have enough safety.

You have relational challenges every direction you look. You don’t feel like you can live up to them. If you finish last in the conference again, you imagine losing your job, and you don’t think you could handle that.

There is tension between you and another coach at the university. You don’t feel like you are enough for your spouse. You are busy and out of touch with your deeper you.

You have struggles no person knows about, so you don’t feel known.

Last night you woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep. You might not get two recruits you wanted. You worry your team won’t have enough talent.

As you lie in bed, you envision your greatest fears and hurts. They seem insurmountable, like walls you can’t climb.

You feel like a bad example of a Christ-follower since you feel anxious and fearful when you're supposed to believe Jesus is enough for your every need. This compounds your shame.

But you think you need to be tough and not let your issues get in the way. You are in a leadership position and can’t show weakness.

Now it’s time to get out of bed and go to work.

But you feel wounded, and “hurt people hurt people.” You feel shame, and “shamed people shame people.”

That’s part of the reason coaches neglect, belittle, disappoint, short, seduce and mistreat their players.

How will you reverse the cycle?

How will you reach out to others, given your state? How can you encourage others when you are the one who needs encouragement? How can you be in a leadership position that requires you to be confident and strong when inside you are neither?

One thing you can do is ponder the implications of your identity as a wounded healer.

Henri Nouwen borrowed psychologist Carl Jung’s phrase for the title of his book, The Wounded Healer. Nouwen says if we embrace our woundedness, shame and vulnerability, they can be used for redemption, community and empathy instead of destruction, isolation and judgment.

As wounded healers, our wounds and shame can be more than cycle-starters; they can be the impetus to turn wounds and shame on their heads and bring life. We see that pattern often in the Bible.

Jesus, instead of growing callous and wounding those around Him because He was wounded, rewrote the script. He set an example and teaches us and empowers us to adopt His way.

As wounded healers, our hurt — instead of being a desert with heat that stifles others — can be a conduit of grace.

As wounded healers, our shame — instead of being a vortex shaming those around us — can be a spacious place for others to rest.

Anybody can be a desert or a vortex. That’s easy; that’s not being tough. If we are tough, we will be wounded healers. That’s the difficult, strong thing.

And we won’t be wounded healers unless we acknowledge and embrace our pervasive and ongoing brokenness, because that’s what helps us relate to and empathize with others. Just like Jesus’ suffering makes Him the perfect candidate to identity with the afflicted, our afflictions certify us to help the wounded.

The wounded healer idea is applicable to you as a coach because you impact so many people by virtue of your position.

There are eyes on you.

In practice, players fix their eyes on you. They see your body language, hear your tone of voice and notice your choice of words. They notice, perhaps unbeknownst to you and them, when you are living by fear compared to when you are living with hope, faith and love.

They notice when you feel isolated and unknown compared to when you are connected and known. They notice when you are hypercritical and impatient compared to when you are empathetic and understanding. (You may never get feedback from anybody about these things, but it’s apparent to them.)

You are a different coach when you coach wounded compared to when you coach as a wounded healer.

Being a different coach matters in the lives of malleable and hungry people who look to you to influence their identities and feed them.

Question to consider: Do you believe that embracing your vulnerability and weaknesses is crucial to being strong? Are you willing to do this?

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