Coaching with Upside-down Values

By Brian Roper (Head Lynden High Boy’s Basketball Coach)

I was recently listening to a message by Tim Keller about how the values of the New Testament Gospel run counter to the traditional values of our culture. It got me thinking about how I might relate the Beatitudes to my own coaching. In our profession success, recognition and power are prized and for me these can be tempting goals. The following thoughts are my attempt to be more faithful in my coaching according to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5.

v. 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. We realize our entire need before God. We have the self-emptying conviction that coaching is a gift and any success we obtain is by his grace. We are humble and open to be led by God in the ways he wants us to go in our careers.

v. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. We are sensitive to our own brokenness before God and we are also sensitive and empathetic to the needs of our players, fellow coaches and families as we try to improve teams and win games.

v. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. We demonstrate quiet strength under control. We forgive as a way of doing business. We are non-defensive when people question us, and we are patient and cool when others get hot in competition.

v. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Our deepest longings are for godly character and eternal significance, not success in the arena. Our busy schedules do not keep us from spending time with God. We show integrity and honor in our personal lives and this is reflected in our interaction with players, parents, other coaches and yes, even referees.

v. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. We have compassion for our opponents and try not to humiliate them or show them up. We are sensitive to the needs of the players at the end of the bench and are on the lookout for people in our program that may be hurting, especially those who can do nothing to further our own agenda or careers. We look for ways to lift them up.

v. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. We have honest hearts that aim well. We seek to do the right thing despite the potential consequences. We don’t compromise our values for the star player or take the easy way. We don’t attempt to manipulate situations or people for personal glory. And we keep our families as a priority during the season.

v. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. We seek to bring people together, not only on our team, but also in our community and in the coaching fraternity. We attempt to be reconciled with others (this may include rival coaches, parents or former players) with whom our relationships may be strained. We are willing to give up things like gym space, practice time and publicity for the sake of other programs.

v. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. When seemingly unfair criticism comes we endure it graciously. We don’t shift blame or get defensive when things become difficult. We never stop trying to do what is right to avoid negative words or actions from others, because we know that success in our business does not define us and that we are deeply loved and accepted by God.

Matthew 5:3-10