My kids all played sports. My oldest was a high school quarterback, my middle child a 5’3” hustling basketball player and most recently I spend my days on golf courses with my youngest, who made it to State play-offs as a high school sophomore last year. Each of them played at least two sports, sometimes more, and I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed most of the hundreds, maybe thousands of games I have attended. I am a proud parent, often to their great embarrassment. I stand with a camera in one hand and a cell phone in the other, ready to upload pictures. I’ve never been good at understanding all the rules, following the plays or sometimes even keeping up with the scores. I often don’t care who wins or loses. I’ll never be called competitive. But I am a parent. So I am there, and happy to be.
My kids have been MVP’s and state champions. They have been recognized in our small town and sometimes in bigger arenas. They have made many friends and had exciting opportunities because of sports. They have learned lots of lessons.
And they will tell you I am always proud of teamwork, effort and most of all, “emotion control,” whether in them or in their coaches. A good coach is a rare and precious thing. It’s sometimes been hard for me to watch my kids disciplined on the field, court or course. Many times I’ve had to bit my tongue when they were being “coached” to be better.
From an early age one of the things I told them often was if the coach is disciplining you, instructing you, correcting you, then he is watching your actions and cares about your performance. It’s when he doesn’t know your name that things get miserable and hopeless.
The very best coaches my children improved and thrived under all had two very important things in common. They knew the players and they knew the rule book.
Often what I’ve seen is the tougher the practices and the more pressure that is applied by a good coach to an unsure player in pre-game situations, the more sure of himself that player is when game time comes. It’s a fine line, a balancing act. It’s a special relationship.
And when the clock is ticking, when points count, time after time, the players the coach will put on the field, floor or course are the ones who can withstand the pressure.
You (along with all my friends and family) may be surprised to know that I too am an Athlete.
I may not look the part. I may not be in great physical shape. I may not wear a State ring.
But I’m on the field. I’m in the game. I have a Coach who works with me one on one every day. I’ve had some tough “practices” of my own. I’ve been yelled at, disciplined and beaten down by the pressure. I’ve wanted to quit. Run and hide my tears in an empty locker room. I’ve been bruised, sore and exhausted. I’ve sometimes lost championship games in the heat of battle.
But my Coach knows my name. My Coach knows just how much pressure I can stand. He’s my biggest fan, my harshest critic, the one who disciplines, corrects and teaches me when I need it most. He’s my Coach. He’s my Lord. And it’s a special relationship.
He created me. He knows my strongest muscles and my weakest ones. He knows my heartbeat and my pulse. He knows my endurance and my strength. He knows when I’ve had enough or when I can take a little more. He knows when I need to stand in the spotlight, or when I need some time off to process my losses. He knows me. He’s my Coach.
He knows the Rule Book too. In my case, he actually wrote it. Word for word. Chapter and verse. I have to trust Him on the legalities, the obscure points, the rarely quoted sections.
He can handle my critics in the bleachers. He can handle my teammates failures. He can handle my opponents, who don’t always play fair. He can handle the referees when they call the fouls in my life that no one else sees. He can handle my injured muscles and my injured pride. He’s my Coach.
So cheer for me when you can. Boo me when you have to. I can take it because I am an Athlete. I was built for this game. I was designed by my Coach. He knows the Rule Book. He knows the Player. He is the only one who can keep a record of my wins and losses. His job is to Coach. My job is to show up for practice every day in this game called Life.
And listen to my Coach.