Saturday, December 31, 2011

Prayers for 2012

It’s New Year’s Eve in the USA. I don’t do resolutions, but I would like to offer some items for prayer for the coming year related to our roles of service with the men and women of sport.

• I pray that you are enfolded by God’s grace to love the unlovely and the ones who simply ignore you.

• I pray that you have a daily infusion of the Lord’s thoughts in your mind and heart through prayer and study.

• I pray that you experience remarkable favor with everyone in your sporting world and that once closed doors open to you.

• I pray that you are fully equipped with God’s wisdom for every moment of crisis, doubt, fear, illness and injury that occurs this year.

• I pray that you can sense the Lord’s presence as you ride on buses, sit on airplanes, stand in changing rooms and lie in hotel beds.

• I pray that you can hear the Lord Jesus’ affirming voice as you stroll along the sideline at practice, walk through the locker room, kneel in prayer with a player, sit with a coach whose marriage is crumbling, hold the hand of a dying colleague or simply stand while basking in the Lord’s gracious pleasure as you fulfill your role of ministry with the people of sport.

• I pray that your relationship with the Lord Jesus and relationships with everyone you encounter flourishes and thrives in 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jesus = Messiah. Joseph and Mary = parents. Shepherds = fans. Angels = sports media.

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:13-20

Every year we hear this scripture read and I imagine that most of us don’t really see it work in the context of our everyday world. This morning while reading this again, I suddenly saw it in the sporting world.

Jesus is the Messiah and his arrival is heralded by a great company of the heavenly host. We see players come to our teams like they were messiah’s arriving to deliver the team, the program and the community into a new era. These messianic players are usually welcomed by the heralding of a great company of sportswriters and electronic media members.

Joseph and Mary wisely and dutifully care for the baby Jesus and were amazed at what the shepherds were saying. Mary, in particular, is thoughtful about all this, pondering all these things and keeping them as treasure in her heart. We see scores of parents each year who wisely and dutifully care for their young players and they’re often amazed at what the shepherds and angels (sports fans and sports media) are saying about them. The wisest among them both treasure these comments and ponder them in their hearts. They’re wise enough to not buy all the writers are selling, but hopeful enough to think some of it could be true.

The shepherds were informed by angels and personally witnessed Jesus’ first days. They spread the word about both the angels’ words and their first hand experiences with the Lord. They even went home glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. The angels had not overstated the case at all. We are all surrounded by sports fans who read the blogs, the message boards, the scouting services, sport periodicals and some even see the games of the blue chip prospects they hope will play for their teams. They repeat the reports from scouts and the media and when they see the player first-hand, their lips flow with praise for the player, his coaches, parents and everyone else associated with him or her. Sometimes the media has not overhyped the player and he is exactly as reported. Sometimes….

Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, the angels and certainly Jesus lived in a real world. We live in the sporting world. It’s a real world with real people, real parents, real media, real angels, real fans and a real Messiah. Let’s see the media, fans, players, parents, coaches and our colleagues in ministry as significantly as we do the characters in the Christmas story. Let’s help each other to see the significance of each life, each one’s role in the story and how each one relates to the Messiah. Ponder your own role in this story and treasure the wonder of Jesus’ presence in your life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Response as an Olympic Athlete and now Sports Chaplain: The Worship Factor

I think about the days when the Romans felt they ruled the earth. They were big on sports and viewed sportsmen as gods. The gymnasiums and baths were for men only who seemingly developed the ability to become a god through sport. They competed against others to show prowess and domination in the sports arena. Today, we see athletes expressing the same type of attitude, using their athletic gifts to demonstrate their superiority over others, and desiring to be praised for their demonstration of athletic domination and showmanship. The problem begins when the athlete desires idol worship. Paul addressed the Christian Romans in his day by saying something so profound that it relates directly to our situation in today's sports. "...Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." Romans 10:3b

The problem and danger with 'the worship factor' happens when an athlete allows him/herself to be idolized, they stand in the place of the true and living God who deserves all glory and praise. God's command is clear on the god-ship thing, "You shall have no other gods before Me." Exodus 20:3 The field of competition is an awesome opportunity to honor and glorify God through the gift of sport on and off the field. When recognition, accolades, acknowledgement of your athletic gift is received, instead of getting puffed up and prideful over that which God has gifted you, it is an appropriate time to give praise and adoration to our God who truly deserves all our praise.

I personally praise God for Tim Tebow, and all the other athletes in sport, who are not ashamed to turn the arena of idol worship to an altar of public praise. When done out of a heart of love and thankfulness, God accepts it as a pleasing spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:3b The spectator who does not know God, or care to know Him, can witness our true devotion through our lifestyle of praise. What an opportunity athletes have to lift Jesus higher, and allow Him to draw all men to Himself.

To God be the Glory,
Madeline Manning Mims
4 Time Olympian, Gold & Silver Medalist in Track
Olympic and WNBA Sports Chaplain

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Biblical View of Participation in Sport

Sport has been alternately lionized and vilified by leaders in the Christian Church for hundreds of years. Most of those who comment on sport and its value are approaching it from a spectator’s viewpoint. I would like to approach it from a participant’s point of view and seek to understand biblical values which can shape one’s life in sport. Rather than to simply draw conclusions from the Bible’s references to sport (mainly used to illustrate spiritual truth), I would propose using a more analytical process to gather the values which can be applied directly to the lives of sportspeople.

While I will concede that the Bible does not speak directly about sport, but simply references it, I will strongly assert that it powerfully addresses matters of which sport is comprised. I would like to have you consider that sport is:

• A rich environment for engaging the Gospel of Christ.

• A lifestyle of noble work.

• An expression of worship.

• An experience of community.

Let’s now consider each of these ideas more deeply.

Sport is a rich environment for engaging the Gospel of Christ.

In the experience of sport one is deeply engaged in all the elements of the Gospel. On the field, pitch, court or track the sportsperson is surrounded by the beauty of Creation and often feels a genuine connection with the Creator through it. Through the inevitable pain, frustration, loss and grief which accompany a life in sport the competitor is confronted the brokenness brought on by sin, strained relationships and a tainted Creation. Those who engage in a sporting life experience grace for the restoration of broken relationships with teammates and hope for recovering the brokenness they feel through loss and failure. In a life of sport the participants encounter a level of community and fraternal love that is seldom known by people outside the Church of Christ and frankly, by many in the Church. The camaraderie shared by a sports team is a powerful and dynamic force in the lives of everyone associated with the team.

Even those who have yet to commit their lives to Jesus can experience these elements of the Gospel and can have their hearts stirred by them. Those of us who are followers of Christ and live in this environment are constantly reminded of the power of the Gospel and its implications for every facet of our lives. Sport, like any other human endeavor, if left to its own will naturally become utterly debased. It is horribly broken by sin, but it can be transformed by the presence of Christ Jesus in the lives of Christian sportspeople. Sport is a rich environment for engaging the Gospel of Christ.

Sport is a lifestyle of noble work.

Those who are engaged in a life of sport are intimately familiar with the work which is required for any level of success. There are countless hours of training, evaluation, skill development, strategizing, collaboration with teammates and coaches and ultimately the competition itself. Sport requires intensity of will and depth of commitment to endure the work that results in victories. The Bible is full of commentary on the nobility and the God-honoring value of such work. Among the simplest and most direct expressions of this ethic is in Colossians 3:22-25.

22 Slaves, obey your human masters in everything; don't work only while being watched, in order to please men, but [work] wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.

23 Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord—you serve the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism.

The scripture makes no excuses for the slave, but challenges him to do his work, whatever it is, as if he was serving Christ Jesus and not his earthly master. Sportspeople are similarly serving both earthly masters (coaches, club managers, team owners, and such) as well as the Lord Christ. The Christ-following sportsperson is challenged to serve wholeheartedly, respectfully and enthusiastically, knowing that he is ultimately serving the Lord in his work.

Sport, like other avenues of work, is noble in itself and a worthy lifestyle for the follower of Christ. The Christian sportsperson is informed by the Scripture and energized by the Holy Spirit. He will experience the frustration, pain and loss which are inevitable consequences of the Fall, but he will also experience the transformation which comes from the power of Christ as demonstrated in his relationships with teammates, opponents, coaches and the sport itself. Sport is a lifestyle of noble work.

Sport is an expression of worship.

Throughout the Holy Scriptures there is a wide variety of expressions of worship. Men and women throughout the ages have employed a myriad of methods to declare their love for, their devotion to and the greatness of their God. Musicians play, sculptors sculpt, preachers speak, painters paint, writers compose, dancers perform and athletes compete. In each of the aforementioned expressions of worship there are physical, intellectual, social and spiritual dimensions.

The Bible contains countless such expressions and a broad list of methods. Witness Psalm 150 and its listing of numerous instruments as well as dance as expressions of worship.

1 Hallelujah!

Praise God in His sanctuary.

Praise Him in His mighty heavens.

2 Praise Him for His powerful acts;

praise Him for His abundant greatness.

3 Praise Him with trumpet blast;

praise Him with harp and lyre.

4 Praise Him with tambourine and dance;

praise Him with flute and strings.

5 Praise Him with resounding cymbals;

praise Him with clashing cymbals.

6 Let everything that breathes praise the LORD.


Once again, the Bible does not directly reference sport as an expression of worship, however Romans 12:1-2 does seem to broaden the definition of what the Lord sees as God-honoring worship.

1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

No human enterprise more requires the presentation of one’s body as a living sacrifice as does sport. The daily process of training, practice and competition is certainly sacrificial and I would submit, holy and pleasing to God. Thus it is our spiritual worship. It is such because it is empowered by the sportsperson’s desire to declare his love for, devotion to and the greatness of his God; just like the musician, painter, dancer, preacher, writer or sculptor.

Sport, like other expressions of worship, is powerful and dynamic in the life of the follower of Christ. The Christian sportsperson is informed by the Scripture and energized by the Holy Spirit. Sport is an expression of worship.

Sport is an experience of community.

The people of sport live in a complex network of relationships and experience community in ways that are both wonderfully rich and uplifting as well as corrupt and demeaning. Sportspeople relate daily with their teammates, with opponents, with coaches, with officials, trainers, office staff, equipment managers and even with the elements of the sport itself.

Like any community, the sport world is either enriched or impoverished by the people who populate it. The media seem obsessed with reporting the stories of those in sport that have corrupted it by means of cheating, lying, abusing drugs or engaging in foolish sexual behavior. This is what the spectators see of the sport community. What those outside the sport world fail to see is the rich depth of relationships which are forged in the fires of intense competition, long hours spent together, in the exultation of winning and the grief of losing.

The Holy Scriptures eloquently describe the nature of true Christian community in both narrative passages like Acts chapter 2 and in didactic passages like Ephesians chapter 4. If one is actively engaged in sport, he or she can see the faces and hear the voices of teammates when reading the verses below from Ephesians 4:1-6.

I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds [us]. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope at your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

This dynamic exhortation from the Apostle Paul applies both to the Church as well as to any sport team. If a team were to exercise love, would diligently maintain unity with humility and gentleness, it would surely experience a profound sense of community. This would be true for those who have yet to commit themselves to Christ, but it would certainly be more likely to occur and more powerfully energized if they were filled with the Holy Spirit as believers are.

Sport, like other experiences of community, includes relationships with saints and sinners. It exists in a complicated web of relationships with teammates, opponents, officials, coaches and even the competitor’s relationship with the sport itself. Such community is a powerful experience in the life of the follower of Christ. The Christian sportsperson is informed by the Scripture and energized by the Holy Spirit. Sport is an experience of community.


Sportspeople are richly blessed to daily experience the Lord’s grace and mercy. They live in an environment which allows them to engage the Gospel of Christ, even if they’re unaware of it. They actively pursue a lifestyle of noble work which can truly honor the Lord Jesus. They have opportunities to present their bodies as living sacrifices as powerful expressions of worship. Sportspeople experience community daily in ways uncommon to most and even those yet to believe in the Lord get a foretaste of true communion.

When one is in a committed relationship with the Lord of Creation, has engaged the Gospel, finds fulfillment in his work in sport, expresses his love for and devotion to Christ through sport and experiences loving community with teammates and even opponents, he experiences sport at its best.

Sport is a rich environment for engaging the Gospel of Christ. Sport is a lifestyle of noble work. Sport is an expression of worship. Sport is an experience of community. Let’s compete in a Christ-honoring way and thereby experience the Lord’s presence and His pleasure in every moment.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Notes on Coaching Staff Transitions

At this time of year in college football, there are dozens of changes among head coaching positions, multiplied by their staff’s transitions. This displaces hundreds of coaches and their families each year. We can serve them by understanding the situation and positioning ourselves for effective ministry.

Related to the outgoing staff:

• If the staff was fired, understand that this feels like failure and a lot like death to them.

• Help the coaches to see this situation within the sovereignty of God. The Lord is not surprised by this.

• Understand that the transition is probably harder on the coach’s family than on the coach.

• Be available to them. They may not want much company, but if they welcome your presence, be there.

• Be prepared for the termination of some relationships. Some relationships will live beyond their tenure with your team, but others will cut off all ties to this place and you could be cut off as well.

• Communicate respect and thankfulness for their time with your team as well as hope for their future.

• Assure them of your prayers and availability to serve.

• Written communication is very good and can be an enduring encouragement to them. Send a card, an email and/or periodic text messages to stay in touch with them.

Related to the incoming staff:

• Pray for favor with the athletic administration and the new head coach.

• When a new head coach is announced, send a letter of congratulations immediately (keep it to one page).

• When the coach is settled into the office, get an appointment to welcome him/her and to offer your assistance.

• Bring a gift (a book) that is reflective of your desired relationship with the coaching staff and team.

• A wise attitude is reflected in offering to do, “as much or as little as the head coach believes appropriate.”

• When discussing a role with the team one can reference his/her role with past coaching staffs, but don’t lock into those methods or activities exclusively.

• Let the coach paint the parameters for your role and work to build trust and credibility from there.

• It is always wise to offer to serve with no strings attached. Guard your attitude from presumption.

• Come prepared to discern the coach’s perception of his/her, the staff and the team’s needs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Champions Persevere

This is another chapel talk outline from just last week. It was a disappointing season for Saluki Football. Coming into this week’s game we knew our record could end up either 4 and 7 or 3 and 8. Neither one was very appealing and neither was what we had anticipated on August 6 when we started pre-season practices. Seventeen of our players also knew that by day’s end, they would be former football players as their careers in the sport would likely be completed. To top it off, we were to play a team over which we held an eight game winning streak, but that has seen a remarkable resurgence this year. They are nationally ranked and could make the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs if they were to win this contest. It would seem that they have more to play for than do the Salukis. All these factors led to my choice of subject matter and Bible text.

“Champions Persevere”

My introduction was the dictionary definition of “persevere.” “To persist in a state, enterprise or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition or discouragement.”

• This season you have persevered in spite of counterinfluences, opposition and discouragement.

• This afternoon’s game will require similar perseverance of you in order to succeed.

• Our seventeen seniors in the room today have persevered for years and I’m confident will continue to do so.

I asked for a volunteer to open the chapel in prayer and senior safety Mike McElroy did so.

The quintessential Bible text about perseverance is James 1:12. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (I read it aloud.)

• The man who perseveres is blessed – he is contentedly happy.

• The man who perseveres is proven – the process itself makes us better.

• The man who perseveres receives a reward – in this case it’s a crown, promised by God for those who love Him.

For the Salukis to compete like champions on this day, we must persevere.

• We must persevere through counterinfluences – those outside our team like weather conditions and a playoff hungry crowd as well as those in our own hearts and minds. Persevere!

• We must persevere through opposition. We face a good team today. Persevere!

• We must persevere through discouragement. There will be momentum shifts in today’s game which can overtake even the strongest hearts. Persevere!

• As we persevere today – we are blessed.

• As we persevere today – we are proven.

• As we persevere today – we receive a reward.

Let’s each and all persevere to the final horn of this season and then move ahead strongly into the next as we compete like champions.

I prayed to finish the chapel. I prayed in thanks for:

• The opportunity for each of these young men to play college football.

• The coaching staff for teaching and leading the players in football and life in general.

• The support staff for being consistent and loyal.

• The senior players who have invested years of their lives in this program and in their teammates.

• The returning players. Their best days are still ahead of them.

• Let us persevere like champions.

After 18 seasons of doing this I can occasionally see things coming before they happen. The weather conditions were less than ideal. There was a constant strong wind which wrapped around the east end of the stadium and swirled around making passing the ball difficult. The Sycamores were a much more skilled team than in past years. There were strong momentum shifts in both directions from our 21-0 half time lead, only to be tied at 21 at the end of the third quarter. Momentum shifted with turnovers and big plays, culminating with an interception by Mike McElroy at the one yard line to preserve the 35-28 win.

The team persevered through counterinfluences, opposition and discouragement. They were blessed, proven and they received a reward. This season’s reward was not in the form of a championship ring. My reward came in the locker room as I hugged a couple of players and heard them pour out their hearts into my ear. Even in disappointing, painful seasons there are moments when I feel immeasurably blessed to be given the opportunity to speak the truth of Scriptures and God’s enduring love with coaches and players on game day. It’s a tremendous privilege which I do not take for granted.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Love Extravagantly. Serve Selflessly.

Over the last several days I participated in an international sports ministry conference which included hundreds of people from over 150 countries around the world. Most important to me in the conference were the hours I spent with Sports Chaplaincy leaders from the United Kingdom, Australia, The USA, New Zealand and Germany.

We discussed many of the issues which are shaping this ministry around the globe, both related to ongoing chaplaincy with clubs, schools, universities, etc. as well as related to major sporting events like the Olympic Games. These are men I both admire and trust. The discussions were always passionate and sometimes a little contentious. Such is the case when people care deeply that ministry be done wisely, well and in a way that honors Christ.

After a few days for gathering perspective, it seems there is growth in this movement. Several individuals and groups are working to formulate training programs to better serve people in sport. People are working to refine a set of values and principles which can guide faithful service in sport. Still others are aligning themselves to foster growth of sports chaplain ministry in new countries and regions.

As a part of my presentation one morning I wrote these two couplets as the simplest expression of my understanding of this role as a “Sports Chaplain,” “Sport Mentor” or “Character Coach.” Love Extravagantly. Serve Selflessly. These two ideas resonated with several and I hope they can be simple reminders to you of the values which lie at the core of our service of Christ Jesus in the lives of the men and women of sport all across the planet.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sports Theology (Playing Inside Out)

Below is an excellent review of a book by my friend and colleague, Stuart Weir of Verité Sport in the United Kingdom. Upon Stuart’s recommendation, I have ordered the book and can’t wait to read it.

Sports Theology (Playing Inside Out), Greg S. Smith, Indianapolis, Dog Ear Publishing, 2010. ISBN: 978-160844-3-338

This is an outstanding book – one of the best I have read for years. It makes a serious contribution to understanding sport from a Christian perspective. It has 176 pages in ten chapters.

An early quote sets the scene: “Christian athletes have personal value, not from their own accomplishments, but because God loves them so much that he sacrificed his only Son.” The result is that “The Christian athlete is free from the need of temporal approval or the accolades from individual performance. Spiritually, these athletes are satisfied by God’s love and have plenty to give to the team.”

The author states: “The premise of this book is that Christianity can help athletic performance.” Don’t react negatively to that statement. It is as far as it can be from any sense of “God made me win.” What he is saying is rather than a Christian athlete who understands that his significance is not based their performance in the game is free to compete without stress.

A good example of how he argues against any kind of performance driven identity is: “Athletes who allow their performance to ‘mean everything’ are setting themselves up to perform out of fear. Christian athletes, on the other hand, know that their value does not come from performance. They know that God loves them unconditionally and that their value is demonstrated by the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf. They perform to glorify their value, not earn it.” And again “Christian athletes are motivated to glorify God through performance; they are not forced (driven) to perform.”

In the UK there has been a concern among sports coaches that a player who becomes a Christian will lose his motivation. Smith nails that one too: “It would be a mistake to think that Christian athletes perform with less determination because they are pursuing spiritual fulfillment.”

He uses the example of a golfer standing over a three-foot putt, arguing that a three-foot putt is mechanically no more difficult if it is to win a tournament than in a practice round. It is rather that the pressure of what it means makes it seem harder. This is where the Christian has an extra dimension: “The Christian athlete plays with a sense of peace and contentment that does not rely on the outcome of a putt or any other play or shot. They are complete and fulfilled through God’s love no matter the outcome.”

We may be familiar with the concept of playing for an audience of one. Smith takes this a stage further as we are invited to understand that “Christian athletes do not just perform knowing that God is watching them; they perform with the Holy Spirit in them.”

To sum up the thesis of the book is that for the Christian athlete:

Winning is not about coming in first but rather is about competing as a representative of Christ:

Playing with the right sports theology allows athletes to see performance for what it really is and therefore allows them to play the game;

Sports theology enables athletes to understand that they are created in God’s image, which changes their view of themselves, performance and life.

This review does not do justice to the book. Get it and read it!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Champions are Powerful - chapel talk

Each week during the last 18 seasons of college football (American Football in the USA), I have delivered a talk of similar form to the one outlined below. This one fits within a series on characteristics of champions. Please contact me if you’d like some ideas on how to communicate with competitors most directly, briefly and impactfully.

“Champions are Powerful”
Introduction –

Today’s contest marks an important milestone on the way to being champions. Our mental approach, our attitude today will greatly shape how well we take advantage of our opportunity. I have some simple thoughts about these matters

Prayer –

A player or coach voices a prayer.

Scripture -

Today I’m reading from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to his protégé, Timothy, at chapter 1 and verse 7. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (The text is read aloud.)

Let’s think about this simple and direct statement.

1) For the man who loves God, he knows that God has not given him a spirit of fear or timidity – no he can be confident and assured in any situation.

2) Rather, God has transformed the man’s spirit to be full of these qualities:

a. Power – the capacity to do all that is required of him.

b. Love – the capacity to seek others’ best, even at my personal cost.

c. Self-control – the capacity to make wise choices in any circumstance.

For today’s competition –

1) Our spirits will not be timid nor fearful in any situation. We can be strong and confident.

2) Our spirits will be full of power – we will have the capacity to do all that is required of us.

3) Our spirits will be full of love – we will have the capacity to seek the team’s best and the best for each teammate, even at our personal cost.

4) Our spirits will be full of self-control – we will have the capacity to choose wisely at every moment, in any circumstance.

Repeat the quote of II Timothy 1:7 - “7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Champions are powerful.

Closing prayer –

Please stand, take the hands of those at your table and let’s say, “The Lord’s Prayer” together.

Friday, October 28, 2011

InSideOut Coaching

In December of 2006 a colleague gave me a copy of “Season of Life” by Jeffrey Marx. It told the story of Coach Joe Ehrmann from Baltimore, Maryland and his pilgrimage through an abusive childhood, college and professional football, drug and alcohol abuse, the crushing death of his brother and eventually to recovery, ministry and transformational coaching of a high school football team. I was deeply moved and recommended the book strongly to many of my friends in coaching with remarkable results. In the ensuing years I met Coach Ehrmann, spoke with him a few times and then had him come to my area for a coaching conference and to speak at my FCA banquet, just eighteen months ago.

In August of this year, Coach Ehrmann released a book of his own. “InSideOut Coaching – How Sports Can Transform Lives” is published by Simon and Schuster and is among the best reading and most applicable book on coaching I’ve ever read. Coach Ehrmann does a tremendous job of describing the difference between being a “Transactional Coach” and a “Transformational Coach” along with a process for making the change from one to the other.

Part I describes the InSideOut Process as experienced by Coach Ehrmann and which, if one has the courage, can lead to a transformed life and renewed coaching.

Chapter headings include:

• Stepping Inside

• My Heroes have always been coaches

• A Complex Transaction

• The Play’s the Thing

• The Why: The Way and The How

Part II describes the InSideOut Program as Coach Ehrmann has presented in countless talks, workshops and conversations with coaches across the USA.

Chapter headings include:

• Community: A Team Without Walls

• The Classroom After Class: Sports as Curricular

• Contact, Communicate, Connect

• “Just Win Baby”

• Ceremony

More often than not, coaching books are full of sport success stories, but applicable ideas for making changes in one’s coaching habits, practices and even core beliefs are sorely absent. This book provides incredibly candid self-revelation of the author’s painful childhood and its long lasting effects as well as a well-defined process for dealing with one’s own past, a way to define and shape his coaching as well as practical examples for how to live out one’s transformed life as a “transformational coach.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone coaching at any level of sport. It would also be of tremendous value to those who serve as Sport Chaplains, Sport Mentors and Character Coaches as we need to examine why and how we coach the hearts of sportspeople.

For more information, see these web sites:  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chapel Talk or Devotion Writing Process

Over the last weeks I have received several emails from sport chaplains who were looking for ideas related to preparing brief, direct talks with their teams. Below is an outline which describes the process I have used for several years in writing such talks and/or devotional thoughts on paper. I hope it’s helpful to you.

Devotion / Chapel Talk Writing Process Outline

1) Study and pray

a. Do your own devotional reading, (this is the source for most of my talks and writing)

b. Personal study of Scripture

c. Sport related books and periodicals (biographies, sports magazines, etc…)

d. See the sport related situations in Bible texts

i. Game-day situations in competition

ii. Player to player relationship dynamics

iii. Player / coach relationship dynamics

iv. Leadership issues

v. Pain / injury / loss / isolation

vi. Victory / passion / excitement / community

vii. Teamwork vs. individualism

viii. Work ethic / sacrifice

ix. Respect for coaches, teammates, opponents, officials

x. Personal development

e. Identify particular texts and their sport related “front doors.”

f. Simply outline scriptural applications of the scripture to the sport situations.

2) Write and pray

a. Develop a question or a series of questions related to the “front door” which will help the reader to recall an experience from his/her life in sport.

b. Within the opening paragraph, write a sentence which builds a bridge from the sport situation in the chosen text of scripture to the “front door” situation which it illustrates.

c. In a new paragraph, insert the Bible text in quotes and then paraphrase it in sport vernacular if it seems necessary or helpful.

d. In a new paragraph, insert the simple outline of application points directly to the sport situation.

e. Summarize in a final paragraph including a suggestion for prayer.

3) Points of emphasis

a. Write in light of your readers and their particular sport culture.

b. Write with a clear understanding of the mode of delivery. (Will this be read privately, read out loud or delivered by a speaker?)

c. Communicate respect and passion for the sport as well as for the scripture. Lead them to love God and to compete greatly.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Newspaper Article

This is a link to an article which describes the Team Chapel process and my work with Saluki Football at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.  I hope it's of value to you and your work.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Jesus as Good Luck Charm

The batter steps into the box with one foot, pulls the crucifix from within his jersey, presses it to his lips and then prepares to hit. The running back takes a knee on the sideline, removes his helmet and bows his head. He silently prays for God’s help in securing a win and then makes the sign of the cross at his chest. The sport chaplain paces the sideline with his lucky Bible securely nestled in his beltline asking God for a victory and a championship, oh yeah, so the Lord would be glorified and so on.

Each of these situations stand right on the edge, if not slightly over the edge, of treating Jesus as a good luck charm. I have personally witnessed these and more like them. I have found the same occasionally in my own heart and have been convicted of my own foolishness. The men and women of sport are certainly prone to superstitions and we who serve Christ in sport are not immune to the culture’s bent.

Let’s consider more expressions of “religion” in sport which can either be genuine devotion or may be superstition. Some may be both.

• Kissing one’s cross or crucifix necklace prior to a sport activity, like a plate appearance in baseball

• Saying the Lord’s prayer prior to games

• Carrying a Bible on the sideline

• Praying a particular prayer or uttering a “can’t fail” prayer cliché on the pitch

• Writing scripture references or entire verses on one’s shoes, wrist bands, eye black, tape or even in tattoos

• Pointing to the sky in celebration of a big play

• Attending pre-game chapel

• Asking the team chaplain to pray with me prior to a big game

• Wearing a WWJD bracelet

• Wearing one’s “lucky tee shirt” from a Christian sport camp under his team jersey or kit

• The list could go on for a good while…

The principle to consider is at what point does ritual overtake relationship? When does one substitute device over devotion? We must be mindful of the propensity of the human heart to seek advantage over one’s opponent and to use whatever means are necessary to win. Be careful to not let sincere expressions of faith and trust in Christ Jesus become perverted and reduced to mindless ritual or foolish superstition.

I really don’t think the Lord cares one way or another about who wins any particular sport contest. I do, however, sincerely believe that it very much matters to Him how we compete and how we express our devotion to Him by how we apply our faith in Christ in the sporting world. Let’s not reduce Jesus to being a good luck charm. Rather, let’s honor Him as the Lord God of creation and experience his life, love, presence and pleasure as we reflect His nature in sport.