It is often challenging to obey our coaches. We know how good their intentions are since they are like our parents while on training or during competitions. But we just do not obey them all the time. I understand this because I have disobeyed my coaches a couple of times too when I was an athlete. From not going to training on time to not going to training at all because of my laziness, personal issues or inability to manage my time. I also remember contributing to relational conflicts in the team when my coach already told me not to. And eating meals against the diet that our coach suggested to follow. And even prioritising other things that are not helpful to the goals I have as a student-athlete.
I knew back then that disobeying my coaches was wrong, but the selfishness in me thought that I can just shrug it off by pretending I am still right or assuming that I am always entitled for my coaches’ patience and understanding. My disobedience radiated a lot of my character problems.
I had to face the results of my disobedience the hard way. I lost a crucial match in my last playing season because I thought I can just rely on myself. I did not only put my coaches down, I also put the team down. Instead of defending a championship title for the third time and getting a back-to-back title with our men’s team, we did not because I lost. I lost because I was not prepared. I lost because I disobeyed.
Today, as I relate to college student-athletes through ministry and discipleship, I would often hear complaints on their struggles in dealing with coaches. Complaints on favoritism, struggles on keeping up with expectations, “he’s too strict”, etc. And I would often tell them that these complaints and struggles boil down to one heart issue: their lack of willingness to submit to their authority.
Romans 13:2 says that “Consequently, whoever rebels against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” Verse 4 continues with “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.” And verse 5 ends with “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to their authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”
Coaches are the authorities set by God for athletes – by no accident but by God’s plan. They were given because athletes need them. Therefore, athletes are called to respect their leadership regardless of their coaching style or personal background. As mentioned in Romans 13, disobeying our coaches is also a way of disobeying God because we are called to submit to the authorities God has given us. If we disobey them, we will face the consequences and guilt of our actions. But if our coaches disobey the Lord by leading their athletes to sin or by not honoring the Lord with their roles, we let God deal with them. We also give value to our coaches by praying for them, and then focusing on how God will justly deal with us in our obedience and disobedience to their leadership.
“But it is so hard to obey.”
Yes, it is true. This is because obeying is not natural for the human flesh. Therefore, we cannot honor our coaches (or think of others as more important than ourselves) based on our own understanding and efforts; we can only honour them if we understand (and practice) the selfless and radical love of Jesus who “… being found in the appearance as a man, (He) humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8).
I appreciate obedience especially now that I coach. Coaching becomes less stressful when students obey. Seeing kids show-up on time for training (with a delightful attitude), and finish training (with an appreciative attitude) bring delight. They encourage us and they make lessons more manageable. Their submissive response to our instructions shows that they value the opportunity of improving or being trained more than they value themselves.
I remember telling one of our students how much we love them right after a training session. She asked me in her adorable nine-year-old tone, “Coach, you make us so tired. How could you say you love us?” I told her that the way we show our love to them is by making sure they learn and work on something every session in order for them to improve. We assured them that whatever we instruct them is always for their good.
The more adorable part was, she replied back by saying, “I love you too, coach!” She was implying that she will show her love for us by making sure she listens and obeys even in times when it is easier to just give up. The kid understood and it is such a joy until today to see her grow in character on and off the court.
Hebrew 13:7 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”
Those who obey bring joy, but those who do not bring grief. And we show our love to God by bringing joy and not grief to our coaches.