As an athlete you probably spend a significant amount of time reflecting on your personal goals and on the relationships you share with the people that God has placed in your life. In order to steward your unique athletic platform well, you must consider how you can glorify God through the relationship you have with your coach.
It is easy to neglect the athlete-coach relationship, and how God can use you in that relationship. Here are a few suggestions to deepen your relationship with your coach:
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Respect the authority of your coach
The Bible gives clear guidelines on the structure of authority in our lives and how Christ followers are called to respond to it. 1 Peter 2:13 says “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” Your athletic team is no exception. God has set up a structure of authority with coaches over athletes for your own development and protection. At times, it may seem that your coach is on a power trip or being unreasonable. But even when your coach doesn’t seem to be making the best decision, as an athlete the call to humbly submit to your coach remains the same.
In your own sinful, independent spirit, it is easy for you to fall into the lie that you know better than your coach. This attitude will greatly inhibit your relationship with them. A coach is a valuable resource for you. Coaches have more experience and knowledge than their athletes, so take advantage of that, soak up as much instruction as you can and leave the coaching to them.
A coachable athlete listens to the instruction of their coach and actively strives to apply it to their performance. Even if you disagree with your coach’s methods, instruction, or advice, give it a try. Your coaches will see your coachability and appreciate your effort.
Ask your coach how you can do better
Whether you are a benchwarmer or a starter there is always room for improvement. An athlete who has a good relationship with their coach regularly asks questions like, “How can I be doing better?” or “What is an area that I should strive to develop?” Questions like these show coachability and a desire for improvement. Your humility when asking your coach these questions is honoring to your coach and ultimately honoring to God as well.
Reign in the complaining
Complaining is toxic on any athletic team. In Ephesians 4:29 the apostle Paul exhorts: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Complaining and gossip are corrupting for a team. One negative voice during a practice or game can affect the attitude of the group as a whole. Consequently the next time your coach yells, asks for an extra lap, or more reps, rather than complaining, consider how your attitude and words can be used for building up your teammates rather than complaining.
Own your shortcomings
Blame shifting is an easy out when you fall short of your coaches expectations. Most coaches (especially ones that have been coaching for awhile) can see right through blame shifting because they have seen it before. You are not their first athlete to slack off during practice, show up late, make a mistake during a game, or get into trouble on the weekend. Your relationship with your coach will be strengthened when you are repentant for your mistakes.
To be repentant you need to:
1) Admit your shortcoming fully and truthfully. Own it.
2) Humbly apologize and ask for forgiveness.
3) Change the behavior pattern. Figure out what needs to change so this shortcoming is not repeated. It might be helpful to bring your coach into this process.
Get to know them
Everyone longs to be known and accepted—this is part of what makes us human. We desire to experience “knownness” in our relationships with others. Your coaches are not exempt from this desire. Many coaches spend more time with their athletes than they do with their own families.
Coaches, especially in a collegiate setting, have recruited you. This means they have taken time to get to know you. They know where you are from, what your strengths and weaknesses are, the hobbies you enjoy, and your aspirations as an athlete. They may have even met your family. Not many athletes can say they know as much about their coach as their coach knows about them.
Remember, your coach has passions, a family, heartaches and triumphs that you may never know about unless you ask. Knowing your coach’s story will help build a relationship of trust between you and your coach. They will feel respected, connected, and loved when you take the time to get to know them.
Show appreciation for what they do
Coaching is a challenging job. Long hours, weekends away from families, having a job that is conditional on the performance of a team is very stressful. When I was coaching gymnastics I did not often feel my sacrifices, hard work, and dedication were appreciated by my athletes.
Take the time to thank your coach for what they do. Drop by their office with a coffee, bring them a muffin to an early morning lift, remember their birthday or simply say “thanks coach for what you do for the team.” Everyone likes to feel appreciated by the people they serve, how can you show appreciation to your coach this week?
Pray for your coach
Praying for your coach is not just a friendly recommendation, it is a Biblical command! 1 Timothy 2:1-2 states: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions.” So pray for your coach. Pray that the Lord would give them wisdom in leading your team. Pray that they will succeed and flourish in their role as your coach. Pray that your relationship with them would grow. And most of all pray that through your relationship with them they will see Jesus and know Him as their personal Savior.