Role of Faith in Coaching
ALL great basketball themes are religious themes. And, they are shared in common by nearly all Creeds of the world.
I once attended a leadership program at Harvard, called “Faith & Leadership,” where 40 people from different religions and countries gathered, to share experiences as leaders. Two things struck me: 90% of us were all saying the same thing. We believe in something higher than us, who gives meaning and holds us accountable. Even communists in China believe this. And, all of us believe we are in some sort of transition in life, from one state or place to another, and we believe there is purpose in our effort, and value in our life.
So, take comfort coaches. We have a built-in common language of Faith with our players, and with their parents, and those on our coaching staff. There does not need to be a tension between who we are as a person, and what we do as a coach. We dont have to deny our beliefs, to teach X’s & O’s to others. Instead, there is great common ground between us and our players (not to mention with fans, opposing teams, and referees).
I understand nothing makes us more nervous as coaches than discussions about religion. But I call us to be honest. Polls repeatedly show that 90% of Americans believe in Faith. I bet you do, too. So, do we have to somehow try to act like our faith, and that of our player’s, does not matter-or exist at all? This is ridiculous, and impossible. Instead, I call each of us to coach powerfully THROUGH our faith. Let us speak of the values that mean so much to us, and mean so much to our team, such as playing with purpose, demonstrating integrity, doing hard work, showing common effort, and playing fair in all things. Let us coach on destiny, calling, caring and passion. Service to others higher than ourself is key to our uniqueness of individual contribution. Both faith and basketball call us to great things.
Take comfort, feel comfortable in your skin. The 1st Amendment does not mean we have to shut up about who we are, and what we hold to be true. We dont have to censor-out all the important stuff. The law only provides that we cannot force others to believe the details as we do, and it protects us, and others, for having our religious details in the first place.
I challenge you to to think of any basketball theme that does sound inherently religious. As a coach, you created your team on purpose, with players having different gifts and weaknesses, to play together, according to rules, relying on talent, training and trust in others to win. Together we will collectively celebrate in a humble, thankful spirit, achieving meaningful victory. Nothing worth having comes apart from hard work. Character matters more than point-count. Lest we abuse our power, we need whistles and officials to keep us within the confines of rules. Finally, at the end of this game (be it in AAU, travel, rec-league, school play, or Elite), a whistle is going to blow. We are going to run out of time. Then a victor will be crowned who works best with others.
Basketball does not discriminate. Nor does good religion. If we play this game with heart, soul, mind and strength–we win. We all stand before the game of basketball (and God) even.
So, take heart coaches, ALL GREAT BASKETBALL THEMES are religious themes shared in common by all great 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 email@example.com, or call/text at 317.643-6042