The Coach’s Mind

Giving coaches something new to think about each Tuesday

Coaching Faith, w Faith

Nothing makes a public school teacher more nervous than discussions of religion. The same for a basketball coach, by extension.

This article is designed to help you as coach feel comfortable coaching players who hold religious faith. You also should feel comfortable in your own skin of belief. For the First Amendment does not require that we censor-out who we are, or what we believe. It only prohibits those in public positions from requiring others adopt their belief as true. It likewise creates a protective canopy around all of us for our religious faiths, and prevents others from discriminating against us on that basis.

Some years ago I attended a leadership program at Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, called “Faith & Leadership.” Gathered together were 40+ people from every continent and religion of the world. Two things stood out to me: 90% of the world’s 3+ Billion people believe in some sort of faith. Even communists in China believe in something higher than themselves. This means that 90% of your basketball team players possess some sort of religious faith. The same for their parents, and your coaching staff. The second point is that most religions have very much in common that can help us as a basketball coach.

For example, that we are created, according to purpose, and with different gifts, talents & abilities (plus weaknesses). This makes teamwork necessary to achieve our goals. Further, we are to enjoy the world around us, and act justly toward others. Our actions must back our words, and hard work is important toward reaching any endeavor worth obtaining. We all need rules to govern basic actions of life, while higher level principles should pull us all forward, and upward. Finally, some sort of final whistle will blow for each of us someday, at which time we will win, or lose, based on how we have lived.

I ask you: Is this really any different from a player being part of a larger team, playing hoops according to rules, and working hard with teammates to reach a higher objective than any could realize on their own? Is not this game both enjoyable as entertainment, and yet meaningful for what it does inside ourselves as we play it fully with mind, body, (and yes, soul)? Does not the final whistle blow in the end, at which time one is awarded a victor based on their committed effort and practiced skill? The game of basketball does not discriminate; we all stand before it, evenly.

Take comfort coaches, there should be no tension between who you are as a person, and what you do as a coach. There need not be a rift between what you believe and how you coach. Instead, you will find there is great commonality between you and your players, plus their parents, and your entire coaching staff (not to mention with fans, opposing teams, plus referees. Let us not try to deny, or hide, what 90% believe to be true. Instead, let us coach powerfully through it. Let us speak to our players of meaning, purpose, integrity, hard work, common effort, and fairness of play. Speak of destiny, calling, caring and passion. Speak to them of service as a team, and individual uniqueness of each person’s contribution.

ALL GREAT BASKETBALL THEMES are shared by virtually all Creeds of the World. Can I get an Amen?
Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at, or call/text at 317.643-6042


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