In light of the now sixty-four Head Coaching changes in college football (American Football) in the USA, sixty-four to date with possibly more to come, below is a reprise of an article which I ran a couple of years ago in this space. I hope it informs our hearts as to the issues related to the scores of coaches who suddenly find themselves looking for jobs and the families whose security has been compromised.
I recently received a phone call from a coaching friend who had just been fired. Our lengthy conversation was full of pain, disappointment, frustration and feelings of betrayal. I was helpless to do anything except to listen, to care and to assure him that God knew and cared about his situation.
My friend felt the pain of loss. His team had won only four games on the season. He had invested hundreds of working hours and thousands of miles of driving to practices and games for a meager annual salary. He felt the pain of loss in his wallet and in his heart.
He had a sense of betrayal in that the administrators had earlier assured him that he was doing the right things to build the program and that he was on the right track. To now hear that they “want to go in another direction” left him feeling abandoned and betrayed. The fact that a couple of players had accused him of intimidating them, without ever expressing anything like that to him, led to further feelings of betrayal.
He felt deeply disappointed that he had failed to accomplish the turnaround in the program he had envisioned. He was disappointed that the values he had been building into the program were not valued as much as the winning percentage.
The coach felt shame because he was losing his job and had no immediate prospects for a new one. The administration also asked him to have no contact with the players and that led to a greater sense of shame because he values the relationships and investment of years in the players. The dismissal struck him directly in the heart.
He was indignant that the team’s accomplishments in academics, recruiting, and individual achievement were undervalued. He was angry with the cavalier attitudes of those in power over him, the program and the players. All of them seemed to be treated unjustly by the administration.
Lastly, he was shocked by the firing. He had no indications that anything like this was likely to occur. He had just done post-season interviews with each player and heard nothing to indicate their feelings of intimidation. The administrators had been positive and encouraging in their most recent conversations with the coach.
Feelings of shock, anger, shame, disappointment, betrayal and pain all mixed together made for a tough phone conversation. He said that he had been trying to pray about the situation, but felt paralyzed. He couldn’t even pray. He wondered if the Lord cared about any of these things. I assured him that these things did not happen behind the Lord’s back and that He surely cared deeply about him, his players and his work. We prayed together on the phone and we asked the Lord for His grace to deal with all this situation has brought about. We prayed for the future and for the Lord’s purposes to be accomplished in the coach’s life as well in the lives of the players he’s leaving as well as in the administrators who made the decision.
It is in moments like these that I most often feel terribly inadequate as a Sport Chaplain. Everything in me wants to fix the problem. I cannot. My inadequacy leads me to turn to the ever-listening ear of the Savior for comfort and counsel. Let’s take the risk to be woefully inadequate and carry our friends’ cares, pain and frustration to the One who cares for us. (I Peter 5:7)