One of the keys to sustained success as a team is solid communication.
How do we best communicate? How do we best work together? How do we best do our jobs, focus on our individual role, yet still effectively spur on the rest of the team?
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Think of the NBA Finals. Think of the recent NCAA baseball, softball, and lacrosse championships. Think of the Little Leaguers gathered in the yard next door. As a coach and a player, we need to connect and communicate with those around us.
The Challenge of Communication
Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt recently found himself being interviewed. He was asked about the future of the Philadelphia Phillies, a subject upon which the twelve-time All Star obviously possesses a unique perspective. He was asked if the team could build around current outfielder Odubel Herrera.
Schmidt’s answer, calmly articulated, was as follows:
"My honest answer to that would be ‘no’ because of a couple of things. First of all, it's a language barrier. Because of that, I think he can't be a guy that would sort of sit in a circle with four, five American players and talk about the game—or try and learn about the game or discuss the inner workings of the game—or come over to a guy and say, 'Man, you gotta run that ball out.’ [He] just can't be—because of the language barrier—that kind of a player.”
Only a few hours later the former third baseman found himself apologizing for the perceived disrespect of Herrera and Latin players in general.
“I’m very sorry that this misrepresentation of my answer occurred and may have offended someone,” Schmidt said.
Later that same night, Boston Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy took his turn before the mic.
During the game versus their New York rivals, when the Yankees pitching coach made a visit to the mound in the middle of the fourth, he was accompanied by a Japanese translator. They came to calm the momentary errancy of Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka, also Japanese.
As play resumed, Remy gave his opinion about the use of a translator:
"I don't think that should be legal. I really don’t. Learn baseball language. You know, learn; it's pretty simple. You break it down pretty easy between pitching coach and pitcher after a long period of time.”
Like Schmidt, Remy calmly offered his opinion. Also, like Schmidt, Remy’s comments were met with immediate criticism on social media. The next morning, his employer said in a statement that it "does not agree with any such views expressed by Jerry Remy and we know from talking to Jerry that he regrets making them. The network sincerely apologizes to anyone who was offended by Jerry's comments.”
An apology was made for Remy’s seemingly sincere opinion that speaking the same language was a necessary part of the game.
Question: Is it Necessary to Speak the Same Language?
Great question. Is it necessary to speak the same language? Is it necessary to speak the same language in order to play the same game or in order to lead your team well?
Is it necessary to speak the same language in order to spur on your teammates?
I wish there was a concise, easy answer. In our current, sensitive societal state, I often wonder if the intensity-of-offense-and-immediate-apology strategy at times impedes our ability to wrestle with the real underlying issues.
The issue here isn’t language—the issue is communication. Above all, it’s important to communicate well.
We don’t have to speak and write the same formal, linguistic structure. But we do need to communicate. Communicating is far different than language.
We communicate and connect via example and engagement.
We communicate and connect via eye contact and touch.
We communicate and connect via unspoken kindness and courtesy.
As Christians, it’s important that we communicate—not just talk or use words—with those around us. This kind of communication begins with and depends on a certain attitude.
How Does A Biblical Worldview Affect Communication?
We communicate positively and lead effectively—both on and off the diamond, hardwood, soccer field, etc.—when others know via some connection that we expect nothing more of our teammates than we do of our self.
We thus follow Christ’s example laid out in the beginning of Philippians 2. Christ calls us to lead through humility.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” Paul writes. “In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Hence, we communicate with our teammates, coaches, and kids via imitating the humility of Jesus Christ. Paul articulates the point further: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” The key and often missing component lies not in the utilization of the same written language—it lies instead in the imitation of Jesus Christ.
Let’s face it—most of us aren’t very good at this.
The reality is that imitating Jesus Christ can be incredibly difficult. He is, as we know, the only perfect person who has ever walked this planet. We live 2000 years later in a culture where fans in the stands often cheer more for hubris than humility.
It’s always challenging to choose the humbler, God-honoring route.
That choice—regardless of role—demands we learn to lean into the Holy Spirit. That choice means being still long enough to focus on him—and silent long enough to hear his voice.
We can boldly take hold of the promise of John 14:26: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
The Spirit will teach and remind us of Christ’s humble example in Philippians 2. The Spirit will teach us how to communicate. This is the kind of communication that spurs others on. It’s the kind of communication that’s powerful and effective.
And it’s a kind of attitude in communication that not only limits offense and the need for apology, but also makes it possible to respond properly when asked for one, regardless of language spoken.