Friday, August 28, 2015

2015 Team Building Sessions

For the last thirteen seasons or so, I have been doing team building sessions with the (American) football team at Southern Illinois University. The Salukis have enjoyed some tremendous success and some rather middling results in those years. The team building does not find its value in the results, as in wins or losses, rather in the results as measured in relationships and leadership development. I also did an abbreviated form of this process with a local high school girls volleyball program with similar outcomes.

This year’s team building took a significantly different style than past years, but I am pleased with the results so far. An outline of the process is below and the outcome of the process is at the bottom. Please give it a look and let me know if you have questions about it or if you’d like to tailor something for your team.

Saluki Football Team Building – 2015

Session 1 – Saturday 8 August – 6:30 pm (one hour)
  • Welcome and introductory comments by Roger. (15 minutes)
  • Bart Scott’s challenge in April – “What defines a Saluki Football Player?”
  • Some thoughts from Saluki Football Alumni (handout)
  • What shall we say is the mission of Saluki Football 2015? (handout)
  • Throughout the preseason, we will discuss this, develop a definition of a Saluki Football player and write a mission statement for 2015 SIU Football. 
  • This handout is for you to write down your thoughts. Deliver your thoughts to me at any time. We will discuss and develop this together.
  • Players are grouped by Alpha Dawg teams to interview and introduce the new players.
  • Alpha Dawg Captains interview the new players with these questions: (15 minutes)
    • What is your name, your uniform number, and your position?
    • Tell us a little about your home town.
    • Why did you come to SIU to play football?
    • How much are you willing to sacrifice to be a Saluki Football player?
  • Each Alpha Dawg Captain introduces his new teammate(s) to the team at large – 90 players. (30 minutes)
Session 2 – Monday 10 August – 7:30 pm (30 minutes)
  • Review “What defines a Saluki Football Player?” ideas to date.
  • Review 2015 Saluki Football mission statement ideas to date.
  • Discussion of ideal characteristics:
    • Whose name comes to mind when you hear, “Saluki Football Player”?
    • How would you describe that player? What made him special?
    • Let’s use these next two sessions to nail down our list of the characteristics that make a Saluki Football Player.
Session 3 – Wednesday 12 August – 2:30 pm (one hour)
  • Review “What defines a Saluki Football Player?” ideas to date.
  • Review 2015 Saluki Football mission statement ideas to date.
  • What are the important factors in the daily process of being a Saluki Football team?
  • What are the values that shape how you go about the daily process?
  • Who are the people for whom you go through the process of playing Saluki Football?
  • Narrow the list of defining characteristics of a Saluki Football Player. (Aim for 4-8)
  • Write a first draft of the 2015 Saluki Football Mission statement.
Session 4 – Saturday August 15 – 6:30 pm (60 minutes)
  • Finalize – What defines a Saluki Football Player?
  • A Saluki Football Player is:
    • Relentless
    • Passionate
    • Selfless
    • Resilient
  • Finalize – Saluki Football Mission statement
    • “Saluki Football will build a legacy through relentless effort, passionate play, selfless character, and resilience… The time is now!”
Upon completion of these sessions and the team’s completion of their definition of a Saluki Football player, as well as their mission statement, I submitted the ideas to the head coach and made a couple of edits. He then reviewed the players’ work with the coaching staff and they were all enthusiastic about the results. The head coach has incorporated these ideas in his daily remarks, we are preparing banners for the inside of our locker room and another one to take on the road to be in the locker rooms for road games.

My aim in this and all team building sessions is always twofold: to build the community of the team by establishing identity, trust, and commitment among the players and to build the culture of the program through discussion of its values. I hope this discussion is of value to you and to those you serve.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Kingdom-Minded Coaches

Occasionally, we are able to observe directly the fruits of our labor in serving the men and women of sport. One such occasion has been mine recently as I have watched the growth and development of a young man whom I first met as a college baseball player. Nathan Emrick has grown tremendously as a man, competitor, husband, father, and as a coach over the ten years I have known him. The blog post inserted below and linked at the bottom of this page detail much of his pilgrimage and his presently tremendous influence as a coach and teacher at Cobden High School in Southern Illinois.

I hope Nathan’s story is an encouragement to you to continue to serve and to joyfully watch for God to grow your investments.

Kingdom-Minded Coaches Part 2: From Wins First to Hearts First: How Jesus Changed My Coaching Mission

Posted: August 17, 2015 in 

The following is a post from Cobden High School volleyball coach, Nathan Emrick. Nathan has been extremely instrumental in shaping countless coaches’ philosophies through his leadership and captain selection programs. More importantly, however, is that he is a man with a heart for seeing the Kingdom expand! 

I can remember my first year as a head coach pretty vividly. It was 2009 and I was the Head Coach of the reigning 1A Softball Champion Cobden Appleknockers. We had almost everyone back from the previous year, including our entire pitching staff and infield, as well as some new players coming in that would make us even better than the previous year. Needless to say, I was feeling an immense amount of pressure. I felt so much pressure that I was making the season that should have been so much fun and exciting miserable for my players, my coaches, and especially me. At the time, I was a very new Christian and really wasn’t sure how to deal with all this outside pressure I was feeling.

See, at the time, I was completely focused on wins, championships, and awards. As a former athlete, this is what had been ingrained in me, as it is ingrained in most athletes. You are only as good as the points you score, the batting average you have, the wins you get, and the trophies you collect. As I matured as a Christian and as a coach, I realized all those things were nice, but had no bearing on my life as a disciple of Jesus.

I realized that Jesus did not care if I won a State Championship or went 0-35 on the year. Jesus loved me and died for me because He chose to, not because He had to. I learned through scripture, teaching, prayer, and worship, that Jesus was a man of great authority, yet selfless, loving and a man of great character. He was the only person to walk the Earth without sin, yet chose to seek out those who were considered the worst sinners of his day.

As my walk with Jesus continued to grow, I began to assess myself as a coach. I looked at those I had coached with, against, or just admired what they were doing in their sport. I assessed those that had led me in my short time as a coach and as a Christian. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

I looked at guys that I had strong relationships with like Josh Franklin, Roger Lipe, Shane Garner, but also guys like Joe Ehrmann, John Wooden and Tony Dungy. I found that there is so much more in coaching the heart of your players, than just the physical bodies. I found that by coaching and focusing on the person more than just the player, both my teams and I were becoming closer by building trust, vulnerability, and love.

From this came a shift in my philosophy as a coach. I would no longer base my success on wins and losses. I would base it on the character of my players and how they selflessly respect and care for those around them including themselves. I would begin using Christian principles and values such as “love, serve, and care” as part of who our teams would be. I began focusing on simply planting seeds, knowing that I have no power to save, but I can show my players the Gospel through my actions as well as in individual conversations. I want my players to understand, as Joshua Medcalf, puts it, “their identity is not in what they do, but in who they are.”

Through this culture change, I have seen short term growth in so many of my players. I have seen girls go from being players who were self-seeking, entitled, blame shifters, and lacked all joy in life to girls who are selfless, team first, leaders, who truly love their teammates. I have had the privilege of walking along side of some of them over the last few years, praying for them both intercessory and hands-on prayer. I have been able to speak wisdom into their lives and point them to Jesus as the one who heals, saves, protects and restores.

I do not believe that I can speak to the overall success of this new culture. I feel that I will not be able to see real success in this until these young ladies that I coach are wives, mothers, and professionals in the work force. I will not know success until I see if those seeds that were planted when they were 15 or 16 years old have as Jesus says in Matthew 13:8, “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundred fold, some sixty, and some thirty.” I can only hope and pray that the seeds I plant will help lead them to Jesus one day and he will save them. Until then, I will continue to run the race, putting my players’ hearts first by leading them, praying for them and pointing them to Jesus when the opportunity arises.

Nathan Emrick is currently entering his fourth year as the Head Volleyball Coach at Cobden High School. He was also the Head Softball Coach for five years prior to coaching volleyball.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Some thoughts on speaking winsomely as a Christian regarding sexuality

A few years ago one of my female colleagues from the United States made a presentation about matters of sexuality related to sportspeople at the annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes Sports Chaplains Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. Since that time I have been reading and ruminating over the text of her presentation. She was gracious enough to send it to me and to allow me to publish it here. 

After some minor editing, I have included it below. I have also decided to withhold her name for the moment, as she is no longer in FCA’s employ, but is serving well in another capacity with her newlywed husband. I have immense respect and love for this young lady and I believe she has contributed very well to this discussion in the sports chaplaincy community. I pray that my friend’s notes below are of value to you and your service of men and women in sport.

Some thoughts on speaking winsomely as a Christian regarding sexuality

As a Christian, I have been on a long road to learning the true fulfillment and satisfaction that can only be found in Jesus. I still have much to learn. I do not pretend to understand everything about one of the most complex aspects of humanity: sexuality. I have, however, had the opportunity to have countless conversations about sexuality, homosexuality, abuse, pornography, masturbation, etc. over the past 6 years. Many of these conversations have been with people I serve through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and with dear friends. 

This document is written to Christians and is not intended to be a complete theological discourse, nor even be representative of all of my thoughts. The following are simply some principles that I have learned, both as a woman after God’s heart and as a sister walking alongside all manner of people. I hope that they will help you love and speak well regarding homosexuality and other sexual topics-

1. Let the Gospel continually transform your life. But for the grace of God, any of us fall captive to anything. Let us speak proverbially as “one beggar telling another where to get bread”. 

2. Grow in humility. Let this become one of your highest guiding values. It is Christ’s incredible humility that bought our salvation. It is our humility that will be the hope of the world.

3. As such, we are to speak with grace and truth. Let it not be 50% grace and 50% truth- but 100% grace and 100% truth. Most people tend to naturally lean one way or the other. We must speak winsomely (and not stubbornly). Paul’s goal was to “win people”. I challenge you- whatever direction you lean, can you speak with 100% of the other and stay winsome? 

4. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Be kind.

5. There are so many layers to sexuality. Consider your own sexuality and that of your spouse, if you are married. You could spend a lifetime trying to understand the nuances of both parties and still not grasp it all. Likewise, approach the person who claims a homosexual orientation the same way. Blanket statements and cookie cutter explanations do NOT help. Hear his or her story. Listen without assuming or reading your story into his or hers

6. In doing so, you will be able to hear the “root” of things in their life rather than fixating on what you may be seeing as “fruit”.

7. It is not an “if-then” relationship, but we must understand that there are a ton of people who have faced homosexuality and/or other sexual topics who were sexually abused. Statistically, 1 in 3-4 women and 1 in 5-6 men have been sexually abused. And these are just the cases that have been reported. Familiarize yourself with the stories of sexual abuse survivors who are walking in freedom. If this is a part of your story, seek out someone who can help you. There is an excellent resource at the bottom of this document for both! Have some grace and see Jesus’ compassionate pursuit of people.

8. Familiarize yourself with current socially accepted definitions of differentiations between terms like: homosexuality, orientation, same-sex attraction, etc. People are beginning to make a distinction between terms at times. This is part of why it is important to listen to a person’s story, it will help you not make assumptions.

9. Homosexuality is not limited to only women in the athletic arena and pornography/masturbation is not only a man’s issue. Please be sensitive to the fact that male athletes and coaches around you may deal with same-sex attraction. Please be sensitive to the fact that female use of pornography and self-gratification is not uncommon.

10. It would be best to get rid of the statement “Love the sinner and hate the sin”. Though we understand that we are indeed to fight sin, particularly in our own lives, we must remember how our audience will hear what we say. The term “hate” carries a volatile connotation in our culture, particularly surrounding this topic. Many will only hear the word hate and will not remember love. As my mama always said, “Well, you may not have said that, but your tone of voice sure did!” Alternatively, I have recently heard a friend recently say, “You need Jesus, and I need Jesus.” This is a much more Gospel-centered and Jesus-centered statement.

11. It is important to speak winsomely to Christians who have never identified with any homosexuality or same-sex attraction as well. I often do this by speaking in generalities to which all of us can relate. As a woman speaking to women, I often speak of “the sexuality of women in general”. All women are generally after stability, security, and emotional intimacy. No matter the fruit (expressions) of our sexuality, that is what we are after. In my experience, speaking in such a way has helped many. It has helped the married male coach understand better how to relate to his homosexual identified players (and really the heterosexual ones as well). This has also helped the female athlete love her teammates who are in a relationship even though she has no frame of reference for how to interact with them regarding this topic. Though specifics may need to be discussed at some point, speaking in generalities can help bypass the physical issues (fruit) and begin to raise questions of the heart (root). Every person, regardless of his or her gender or the nature of the relationship, will fail us at some point. When speaking in this generalized way, we get to point to Jesus as the solution to our longing (rather than sex because it is only a shadow of our actual longing).

12. It’s not just “them out there,” but it is “us in here”. I have lost track of the number of young Christian women raised in the church who have had this topic cross their life to varying degrees. It is wise to never assume that the one you are speaking to has not dealt with this. If you make this assumption, you may inadvertently marginalize someone who needs to either hear the love of Jesus or have a safe place in which to speak. I tend to use the 1st person plural (we/us) when talking about any topic. It changes how you are perceived to the listener. 

13. If you listen to a person’s story, then you will know “where they are” with this and have a little more guidance on what to say (or not say). In what manner are you to speak with the person you’re engaging? There were pretty much three different populations with which Jesus engaged and He spoke to each of them differently. To those who were religious on the outside only, He spoke harshly. To those who desired to follow Him, He spoke challengingly. To those who were far from Him, He spoke graciously. Let us do the same.

14. A woman once told me she was afraid to talk about this because “people would judge her.” This woman desires to follow God. She desires acceptance and knows that I love her. One day, I said to her, “What we’re after really isn’t acceptance. You and I both want to learn to walk through life as wholly as possible and we don’t want to do it alone. We need healthy, intimate relationships with people of both genders. What we’re really after is learning how to have good relationships, period. Relational wholeness is the foundation on which sexual relationships, family relationships, friend relationships are based.” She agreed and I am getting to be part of demonstrating half of that equation, as well as bring her into community where some guys can demonstrate the other half. 

15. This woman and I also discussed identity. How we identify ourselves, the labels we place on ourselves, are the lenses through which we see our world. Each of us carries many identities: being a man/woman, our ethnicity, as a coach/athlete, friend, brother/sister, line of work, as one who has previously struggled or currently identifies as LGQBT, is heterosexual, is a son/daughter of The King, etc. The question is: which identifier is going to be most important to you? That identifier is the one that will become your lens and impact how you see the world and all of your relationships. Let your every word and action communicate to others that your primary identity is a grateful and humble son/daughter of a gracious God. May you experience the joy of gaining a brother or sister who primarily identifies the same way, even as they learn how to let all other identifiers fade into the background. May His grace and redemption be the lens through which you both see the world.

16. The end goal is not heterosexuality. The end goal is an intimate relationship with Jesus. Sometimes our words and actions would seem to convey that heterosexuality, or even marriage, would be our salvation. Consider how this demeans brothers and sisters who have formerly identified with homosexuality or same-sex attraction who are living celibate lives or who have just not yet married. Consider the discouragement that mindset could heap on a person who wants to follow God and feels conflict over their same-sex attraction. Consider how that belittles any future spouse to the status of a diploma. The end goal is the holiness of God reigning over our lives. The end result is His love becomes our salvation. He is not after our habits, but rather our hearts. In winning our hearts, He will prove to be better than any habit any of us may have: pride, unforgiveness, sexual immorality, etc. As we grow in relational wholeness with God, we grow in our relational wholeness with others. As such, we must know that being with Jesus is better than whatever we give up. We must remember His promise to give back to us 100 times over whatever we give up for his sake. Where else can one find motivation to leave anything- habit, comfort, or relationship? That is the only message that is full of HOPE- which should be the foundation of the Gospel (good news)! Don’t aim at the wrong target. 

17. The process of sanctification has taken different forms, journeys and timeframes for each of us. Our Lord may have put His finger on things in my life in the order of A, B, C – but in your life, He may do it in the order of B, C, A. Be patient.

18. Some resources for you to consider - 

For men: anything by Sy Rogers. He has perhaps been the greatest speaker I have ever listened to regarding this topic, and he speaks as one who knows.

For women: The Friendships of Women, by Dee Brestin. It is not necessarily about homosexuality, but does address the subject. The book looks more holistically at emotional dependency as well.

For people of either gender: Emotional Dependency, by Lori Rentzel - a booklet that is available through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

On the Threshold of Hope, Diane Langberg, PhD – this is the bests book I have ever read regarding sexual abuse. Though not about homosexuality, this book will assist anyone with any sexual issue, whether it is something done to or done by them. You will never look at the passion of Christ the same way.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ministry with British Athletics

Over the years that I have been serving in sports ministry, I have gathered a great number of valued friends, colleagues, and mentors. Among the most valued and respected is my friend, Stuart Weir of Verité Sport in the UK. Stuart serves uniquely with the men and women of British Athletics at their competitions across the globe. He uses his ability as a writer and his experience at these sorts of events to both serve well as a writer and as a chaplain to these athletes. 

Below is a brief note from Stuart as he was recently in Stockholm, Sweden for competitions. The remarkable favor he is being shown is a direct result of his faithfulness and God’s gifting. I pray Stuart’s service, faithfulness, and excellence in ministry is inspiring and instructive for you. 

Friday in Stockholm

Usually on the last morning I am stressing as to whether the transport to the airport will work. Sometimes it doesn’t. Stockholm is perfect. My hotel is 50 metres from the station from where the direct train to the airport (20 minute journey) leaves every 10 minutes and they have given me a free ticket. Bliss!

Yesterday involved a lot of sitting around in the hotel and then watching the event. The venue was the 1912 Olympic Stadium, an impressive old but impractical building. The media seats were in a temporary stand built on scaffolding. It was so unstable that you worried that your coffee would fly anywhere every time someone stood up.

The good news was that the mixed zone was perfect, affording a brilliant view of everything (see pictures, so I based myself there. I watched and chatted to athletes and recorded a few bits which I will offer to Athletics Weekly.

As I reflect on the way the ministry has developed over the past year – and even the past 3 weeks – I am amazed and humbled – honoured to be part of it. There is a rumour that I am home for 3 weekends before heading to Beijing for the World Championships.

Yesterday I had an email from British Athletics saying that they would seek to facilitate my entry to the team hotel both Sunday mornings to do church. (We expect the hotels to be like Fort Knox). I mentioned this months ago but had not followed it up. Another example of the favour I am receiving.

J Stuart Weir
19 The Glebe