Friday, August 12, 2022

Character Coach Training at University of Arkansas

On 1 and 2 August I was privileged to be hosted by Cortez McCraney and his team of FCA at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville for Character Coach training. This was an excellent, hungry, and motivated group of men and women. Cortez and his team are systematically serving every team on campus that opens the door to them. They are also serving the Razorbacks' sporting community well with a weekly huddle.

They have been shown tremendous favor by the athletic department and many of the coaches.

In addition, I spent a few hours discussing Character Coaching opportunities with Jeb Huckaba of NW Arkansas FCA and one of his key volunteers. He is contemplating new and exciting opportunities for serving area club teams, middle schools, and high schools. Jeb is a former U of A and NFL player with a tremendous understanding of ministry in sport.

It's a real privilege to continue to serve with FCA teammates and colleagues, even though I am now employed by Nations of Coaches. This speaks to the hunger in our FCA teammates and to the open-handed, generous nature of Nations of Coaches.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Points of Emphasis from Sport in Ministry Map

One of the most effective tools I have received for both the design and evaluation of ministry initiatives in sport is the McCown Sport in Ministry Map. It was developed by Lowrie McCown and is detailed in Focus on Sport in Ministry by Lowrie McCown and Valerie Gin.

Recently, I have been using a chart to simplify the ministry points of emphasis as a part of presentations in training character coaches and sports chaplains. The chart is shown below, along with a pie chart to illustrate the proportions of Spectators of sport, Novices to sport, Recreational sportspeople, Players of sport, Elite sporting competitors, and High Profile sportspeople in society. Each group's mindset and experience in sport is significantly different, thus requiring different approaches for effective ministry.

Many of us have ministry initiatives that include more than one of these groups, often at the same time. The important point to catch is that one size certainly does not fit all. One must carefully analyze who is the intended audience for each ministry initiative and design the ministry's components to be sure it appeals to the proper sporting mindset and experience. It is foolish and often counterproductive to appeal to elite level sportspeople in the same ways and one would a gathering of sports fans. The inverse would be equally ineffective.

Please consider these points of emphasis as you prepare ministry events, studies, discussions, groups, outreaches, and other initiatives. Let's be sure to make our appeals to people in ways that are most likely to have the desired effects in their hearts and minds.

Let's follow the Apostle Paul's instructions in II Corinthians 5:20 - "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."

Friday, May 27, 2022

Model. Inspire. Challenge. Encourage.

This article is quite good and is a solid model to encourage in your coaching friends.

First-year (Chicago) Bears head coach Matt Eberflus has had quite the road to lead his own NFL franchise.

He played for Nick Saban and then Gary Pinkel at Toledo before starting his coaching career with Pinkel at Toledo and Missouri before breaking into the NFL ranks with the Browns, Cowboys and Colts.

In Indianapolis, he had joined Josh McDaniels’ staff in 2018 and was in Indy when McDaniels backed out of his deal to become the team's head coach. Thankfully, Eberflus had developed a solid relationship with Colts GM Chris Ballard, who told him he had a spot on the staff, and then Eberflus really hit it off with new head coach Frank Reich and became his defensive coordinator.

After a few seasons doing impressive work with the Colts defense, Eberflus earned his head coaching opportunity in Chicago and recently joined the Rich Eisen show to talk about his coaching journey and overall philosophy.

One of the more interesting parts of the interview was when Eberflus had the opportunity to talk about how important the coach-player relationship is and how cultivating that really comes down to four key areas.

Those four areas? Model. Inspire. Challenge. Encourage.

"I believe in this. I believe in the coach and player relationship. I think that's very important to get the best out of players, you really have to have that."

"Well how do you do that? There's really four different ways."

"You model the behavior that you want to see as a coach. You do that with the player, and then the player does that for everyone else. In that, when you model, you also inspire guys. You inspire them to act and do right and work extremely hard.

The next thing is that you challenge. You have to challenge them, and how you do that is you do that in a respectful way.

"So you model, you inspire, you challenge, and at the end of the day, football is hard and it's difficult and the last thing you've got to do is you have to encourage. Encourage yourself to keep going, and encourage others around you."

"That's really my coaching philosophy and the product that you'll see on the field," he ends the interview sharing.


Here’s a link to more in a video clip -

Friday, May 13, 2022

The Chaos of Collegiate Sport in 2022

In the rapidly changing, chaotic climate of collegiate sport in the USA, we are privileged to be agents of Christ’s peace, perspective, and comforting presence. Let's lean into this situation.

Here's a excerpt from an article recently posted in describing the NCAA and all of college sport's dilemma. The entire article is available at the link below.

"Some measure of chaos has reigned since then, and the NCAA is now scrambling to settle things down with a new rule that, in its view, isn’t really a new rule. The association fought tooth-and-nail for years to keep athletes from getting paid by third parties, and as it scrapped its way to a long-inevitable defeat on that front, it declined to do any planning for what would happen once a new world arrived. Years of living in denial have caught up with the NCAA in a big way. Third-party payments to players have, in the absence of clear rules, given rise to the thing the NCAA really abhorred from the start: players getting paid to play for specific teams. By going all-out against athlete pay of any kind and declining to engage with even a relative half-measure like name, image, and likeness payments, the NCAA played itself."

The world of sport needs us. Let's serve its people wisely and well.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Pandora's Box is Wide Open

 In collegiate sport in the USA, a couple of relatively new situations are causing tremendous upheaval in the way competitors and coaches interact with their institutions. The NCAA Transfer Portal is a mechanism where players who presently attend a college or university and represent that institution in a sport, can make themselves available to other institutions to offer them an opportunity to join their team/institution, without penalty, once in their college sporting careers. Formerly, a player could leave his or her college and move down a level (e.g. Division I to Division II) and would be eligible to play immediately. However, if one moved up a level or made a lateral move, he or she would have to sit out a year before competing. This was ostensibly to keep the more powerful institutions from poaching players from those less fortunate. Now, all bets are off. Free agency, like in professional sport, has been handed to those in collegiate sport.

 The other factor reshaping the collegiate sporting landscape is Name Image, and Likeness (NIL) money. Formerly, collegiate players were forbidden to profit financially from their name, image, or likeness in product endorsement deals, or in any other way. Amateurism was strictly guarded, though it was generally acknowledged that many players or their families and handlers were paid “under the table” in the process of recruiting. Now NIL has been embraced, Pandora’s box has been opened, and no one knows the breadth of the unintended consequences that will now unfold. Amateurism has been kicked to the curb, and college sport is essentially a developmental level of professional sport.

 Both of these factors are stressing coaches and administrations in many ways. Most have no idea how to handle either, and many are choosing to leave their sport, throwing up their hands in frustration or disgust. Both of these factors have tremendous potential for good and for harm. They both present powerful challenges to matters like team cohesion, coach-player relationships, and relationships between coaches and players’ families. It also presents new challenges to character coaches and sports chaplains.

 Below is a set of questions I have crafted for character coaches and sports chaplains to use in discussing either of these matters with players considering entering the transfer portal or being offered NIL money. Outside the USA, these could also be applicable to players in developmental levels of sport in similar situations. I hope they are of value to you. Please reply with your suggestions for edits, deletions, or additional questions. Thank you.

 Have  you thought about how this decision will affect your development as a player?

  • Have you considered how this will affect your academic progress toward a university degree?
  • Let’s suppose you enter the transfer portal but no one signs you to join their team, what will you do then?
  • Have you thought about how this decision will affect your teammates and coaches?
  • What or who are the strongest factors in leading you to make this decision? Are you sure they are really in your best interest?


Friday, April 15, 2022

Ministry at the Final Four and Moldova / Ukraine

During the recent NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four and its accompanying NABC Convention in New Orleans, three sports ministries serving the basketball coaching community each had a booth in the exhibition hall and they collaborated to host several ministry events. Athletes in Action, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Nations of Coaches worked together on the events which included a meeting for coaches’ wives on Thursday evening, a Coaches Edge event on Friday afternoon, a Sunday morning worship service, and then a Coaches and Spouses marriage luncheon on Sunday afternoon.

One of our colleagues, Coach Terry Murphy of FCA Ukraine, was hoping to be in attendance, but was in Moldova. His changes were all abruptly changed on Thursday 24 February when Russia began shelling Ukraine and then invaded the nation. Coach Terry sent me a message one day saying, “We’re headed to the bomb shelter right now. I’ll talk with you tomorrow.” I was just hoping there would be a tomorrow. In a couple of days he, his wife, and mother were on the way to the Ukraine/Moldova border. He sent me a message as they were into their 25th hour at the border, a process that eventually took 30 hours to complete.

As I have been sending Psalms to my Ukrainian friends daily by WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Coach Terry and I were in touch daily. Along the way we discussed the possibility of his coming to New Orleans for the Final Four. This is the place to look for coaching jobs, and as he’s planning to return to the USA to find a job, it would be perfect timing. However…war.

Coach Terry said he had decided to stay in Moldova to help relief supplies get into Ukraine and to help Ukrainians get out. I was stunned by his selfless attitude, sacrificial love for these people, and his courage to stay and serve. He and others load up vans with relief materials, drive them hours to the Ukrainian border, meet Ukrainians with their vans, transfer the materials, then the Ukrainians drive double digit hours to embattled and largely destroyed Ukrainian cities. I am very proud to know Coach Terry Murphy.

During the Final Four weekend in New Orleans, I was pleased to have Coach Terry join us via Zoom. At the Coaches Edge (4:00 pm New Orleans time, 1:00 am Moldova time) Terry joined us to hear the speakers, and he participated in a discussion at my table with four young basketball coaches. On Sunday morning, Terry and his wife Ruth joined us for worship with my phone propped up against a hand sanitizer dispenser at the rear of the room. They persisted through my repeated and frequent loss of internet connection. I am very proud to know Coach Terry and Ruth Murphy. Ruth has been a part of this season’s Nations of Coaches Wives Bible Studies. She joined each meeting via Zoom from Kyiv, Ukraine.

The persistence through internet issues, the early morning Coaches Edge attendance, and the regular participation in Coaches’ Wives Bible studies speaks to their devotion to Christ, their hunger for fellowship, and their dedication to coaching as a life calling. I pray that Coach Terry and Ruth Murphy serve as a challenge to us, in our relative safety and security. May we each and all strive to serve as selflessly and to love as extravagantly as they do.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Register soon and Call for Papers - 3rd Global Congress on Sport and Christianity

Registration is open for the Third Global Congress on Sport and Christianity in Cambridge, England. It will be held 18-21 August. This will be an outstanding event as it is the only global intersection of the academic and practitioner communities of ministry in sport. Below is a link for registration (booking).

 Book now for The Third Global Congress on Sport and Christianity (3GCSC) at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, Thu 18 Aug 2022 6:00 PM - Sun 21 Aug 2022 1:30 PM (

 In addition, you may be someone who has a paper or presentation to offer at the congress. The event’s leadership is really keen for people to speak about their ministries - and especially the challenges of leadership from a practitioner viewpoint - and to find out how academics can better serve the needs of those on the ground. The link below opens to information on how to submit an abstract for submission of a paper or presentation.

 Call for papers: Global Congress on Sport and Christianity - Ridley Hall (

 Thanks. I hope to see you in Cambridge.