As fans await the ensuing chaos that college football brings during Championship Saturday, high drama has already commenced for the folks who wear the headsets on the sidelines.
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The holiday season signals the start of the coaching carousel. Fueled by either standout seasons or uninspired ones, coaches are hired and fired all over the college football landscape.
Kevin Sumlin was given the boot at Texas A&M, Arkansas didn’t waste any time giving a pink slip to Bret Bielema, Chip Kelly is back in the CFB mix with the announcement of his arrival at UCLA, Dan Mullen is headed back “The Swamp” to lead the Florida Gators, and the search for a new head coach after Butch Jones’ departure at Tennessee is off to a rocky start.
There’s a lot of deal making and deal breaking during the last few weeks of the season as a result of a coach’s ability or inability to meet sky-high expectations set by athletic departments and school officials. These decisions not only affect coaches and their families, but they largely affect the ones who seem to have less say in the matter than disgruntled fans—the athletes.
Here’s some action steps for players who may feel helpless after experiencing what can seem like a seismic shift on their team.
Check in with your teammates
This may be an emotionally raw time for all the folks in your locker room. You’ve heard the whispers and maybe your speculations were confirmed. Your coach won’t be your coach for much longer.
News of a head coach being forced out or accepting another job may come as a shock, a welcomed change or perhaps an inevitable reality you and your teammates were bracing for months in advance. Either way, it’s still a loss to reckon with.
Maybe it’s time to have a players only meeting where thoughts can be voiced, and concerns or memories can be shared. Be someone others feel free to be vulnerable around. It doesn’t matter if the announcement of one coach going out and another coming in is met with jubilant relief or hopelessness, be concerned about your other teammates. Ask how your training buddies are doing.
Use this time as an opportunity to be a better listener. And if it seems really overwhelming, encourage people to seek out trusted ministry staff and the professional help they need.
Self-assessment can be helpful during a significant shake up. Get in your feelings. Take inventory of how you’ve absorbed this news and the questions swirling in your mind. Evaluate how you will lead yourself during this time.
The outgoing coach may have been the one who recruited you, so you may be wondering if the next one will value your talent or see the potential of your skills in the same way. Maybe a different look at your skills is something you’re looking forward to, but use this time to check your motivations.
Is your commitment to the work your craft requires contingent upon taking instructions from a certain coach or are you committed to working to the best of your ability no matter who’s at the helm? (Colossians 3:23)
Even if the coaching switch doesn't change your hustle, use this time to be refined and matured. Try to verbally and internally process how God is using this time to encourage you to rely on Him to provide the peace, patience, courage and self-control (Colossians 1:29).
Pray about it
Philippians 4:6 reminds us to be anxious about nothing but to pray in every circumstance and to make our requests known in a spirit of thankfulness. Don’t neglect taking some time to talk it out with God.
Thank God for your outgoing coaches. Thank Him for the time they spent leading your team. They made an effort to draw out the God-given potential you and your teammates possess.
Pray for your new coach. You may not know who he is yet, but your new coach will come with a new philosophy and help usher in a new culture that will have an impact well beyond the field of play.
Pray for your teammates. Some may be dealing with a range of emotions with the trajectory of their athletic careers on their minds 24/7. Ask for a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Pray that this experience would be used to fortify your faith. Shoot straight with God about your concerns, insecurities and frustrations. Ask for His strength to carry you through.
Lift up the team your new coach is leaving. Chances are those players are going through some of the same challenges.
Pray for incoming and outgoing coaching staffs and their families. All the coaches and their families are affected by the coaching carousel—even the ones staying. Taking a new coaching gig isn’t only about Xs and Os. It’s a family decision, too. Uprooting the lives of loved ones can be taxing and quite consequential.
It’s tough when things aren’t as they once were, but the words of an old hymn sum up how one can manage life’s shake-ups:
Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand.
Build your hope on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.
Here’s to holding on when the coaching carousel takes you and your team for a spin.