Coaching Football: Jesus Style

Mark Jackson, Christian Head Football Coach Athletic Director Center High School Kansas City, MO

Coach Pitcher goes over the special teams depth chart one last time, next Coach Goltra reminds the team one last time of the keys to success on defense. Now it is my turn, I try to eloquently hit the tree points necessary for us to be successful on offense; establish the Power by getting a play side push from our offensive line, be able to protect the play action, and make sure that we play our “up” tempo style of no huddle. “Gentlemen, play fast tonight, if you are more physical than them then you will win this game. Remember focus and intensity, but focus comes first! All right now, let’s pray.” I usually pick a player to lead the prayer, they sometimes fumble through it or seem very nervous, but I am always encouraged by the sincerity of the prayer. When the players finish praying we always do one last thing. “Okay guys we have prepared you all week and we will coach our butts off tonight for you, we are going to head to the field, this is your time, players only breakdown as soon as we are out the door. Remember, 3 minutes till we have to be on the field.” As we walk out the door I make a point to shake the hand of all my assistants. Up the stairs and down the hall to the doors, the players follow. “Two lines, helmets on, hold hands, seniors in the front”. Once we have everyone lined up, we start the walk out the door, “No talking, get focused”. It is not a long walk out the end of the high school, down the sidewalk, across the drive that runs in front of the stadium and through the pass gate, down the hill, across the mats laid out on the track to west end zone. I go ahead and jog across the field to our sideline; we are on the sidelines opposite the stands, one of the best coaching moves I have made since coming to Center. The players break it down one last time, through the tunnel of cheerleaders and drum majors. The band strikes up the fight song and here comes the Yellowjackets. It is an awesome feeling and just writing about it gets me fired up. I love Friday Night football. And I was about to write this line, “it is what I live for”. As a passionate high school football coach it is easy to get consumed; consumed by the desire to win, the “need” to prepare my team in off season, consumed by watching film, going to clinics, coaches meetings, and all the things that are necessary to be a successful high school football coach. The next thing you know, you are “doing” all the things it takes to “win” football games and are probably even experiencing success on the football field, but at what cost. I speak from experience and I know most of you can relate. The bottom line is that my priorities are often way out of line. Joe Gibbs write in his book Racing to Win, “Success on the playing field or in business doesn’t necessarily make me a success in life.” Is the thrill of Friday Night football really what I live for?

See, unless I am a hypocrite, it can’t be what I live for, because as a Christian I have a higher calling and Jesus is who I live for. I have chosen to follow Jesus, to enter into a personal relationship with him and the costs are great, but the rewards are even greater. My priorities, if biblically placed should be as followings: God, family, and then career. Of course I am not perfect and one of my biggest struggles as a Christian is misaligned priorities and if you are anything like me you often follow these guidelines: Football, family when convenient, and God if time and always on Sunday so I don’t feel convicted. In Matthew 6:30-34, we are instructed on proper priorities. I particularly like the Message Bible as it expressed God’s Word in everyday language very beautifully. Matthew 6:30-34 in the Message reads:

"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers--most of which are never even seen--don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? 31What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. 32People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, Godprovisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Put God first and as King James puts it all these things will be added to you. I will end this paragraph with a question; Where do your priorities lie and how will they be judged when Friday night lights have long faded? Coaching Point # 1: When you put things in place—by putting God first—God can move because He does not have to “compete” with the things you put before him. Now don’t get me wrong, I am as competitive as the next guy. I want to win and I am going to do my best on Friday nights to score more points than you and I do not apologize for it. It says the meek shall inherit the Earth, not the weak shall inherit the Earth. Jesus is our ultimate role model and if you truly study him you figure out real quick this guy is as meek as they come and as strong as they come. You didn’t see anyone standing up in the Temple to stop him from turning over the money changers tables. He demanded respect and he is authority. As Christian football coaches if we do anything less than excellence at our job we are hurting our witness. For us to be true walking testimonies for Christ, we should be examples of excellence. Excellence to me is defined as not necessarily being perfect, but to excel means to go beyond the normal or what would be acceptable. I am to do that in my walk with Christ and as leader of my football program. Coaching Point # 2: I believe that it was God who placed in me a desire and passion to coach football. It was He promoted me to the position of Athletic Director and Head Football Coach. It is He who gifted me to be able to do the job. And the job should be done for His glory. In order for me to be able to glorify Him, it is His desire that I

achieve excellence and prosper before men. If I have put Him in His proper place in my life, then when I am lifted up before men than He will be lifted up before men. Of course we must protect against pride and the “look what I did” syndrome and give credit where credit is due. Of course we know that actions speak louder than words. We should live a life that Christ has called us and it should be evident to those around us that we are a Christian. The best coaching analogy I can think of this. As coaches we are always talking about judging players based on performance and not on potential. We all have the potential to live a Godly life, but does our performance live up to the hype. Also, give some thought to who your best players are. Your best players are those who perform with consistency. We all have those players who show “flashes” of greatness, but are just as likely to disappoint us. Consistent players are the ones we can count on and are a blessing to our football team, likewise, consistent Christians are the ones God can count on and are a blessing to God. Coaching Point # 3 What makes a Man of God great is that they do the things of God all the time and not just when they feel like it. In daily terms, it all boils down to choices. In order to have a relationship with Jesus, you must make time for Him. In order to be a good husband or father you must work at those relationships. In order to be a successful football coach you must have a plan and a vision and work that plan to make your vision a reality. You must choose to spend time daily in prayer and in God’s Word. You must choose to schedule time with your family. You must choose to become an active member and supporter of a local Bible believing and Bible teaching church. You must choose to walk as an example for you athletes of what it means to be a man of integrity. You must choose to follow a Biblical world view in which the Bible is still the source of right or wrong. Coaching Point # 4 (Based on 1 Corinthians 6:12) Life is the sum total of the choices you make. In God’s plan, we have freedom from the law—but just because everything is lawful does not mean everything is profitable for me. If you are still reading this article at this point hopefully you are beginning to give some thought about how to balance living for Jesus and coaching football in excellence. From personal experience, here are some real practical things that can be done. First, follow this rule, do it now. Procrastination is the number enemy of success. In order to coach in excellence there is a big time commitment and many things that need to be done. Do it now, gives you the mind set to get to work and get it done, therefore giving you peace of mine and in the long run saving time. The same is true in your spiritual walk, have a do it now mentality when it comes to God. Pray when the Holy Spirit is leading you to pray, give when he is leading you to give and so forth. Second, clean up. Clean up your finances, your car, your house, the coaches’ office, or whatever is a mess in your life or in your football program. Get rid of excuses. We live in a society where it is always

someone else who is at fault. Accept responsibility and find solutions to answers rather than why things can not be done. And finally, identify and get rid of bad habits. I am in the process of doing this in the area of my eating habits. We all have bad habits, with the help of the Holy Spirit work to get rid of them. Remember the principle of little by little, you did not develop your bad habit overnight and you are probably not going to get rid of it overnight. Coaching Point # 5 1. Do It Now 2. Clean Up 3. Get Rid of Excuses 4. Change Bad Habits I will share with you my football coaching prayer. I try to pray this over my team every day. I have not always been consistent with that but I do believe this is a God inspired prayer that helps me to remained focus and acts as a blessing for my football team and my football program. Father God, I come before you in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Father lead and guide me as I coach. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And if I put God first, the desires of my heart will be given to me. I speak blessings and favor for this football team because I am a child of God by the blood of the lamb. Father, use me to impact lives in a positive Godly manner as I coach today. Let my actions speak for me Father, and let my tongue be used in a manner that will glorify you. I pray for the coaching staff and players. Let us remain injury free and let everything that is done be pleasing to you. You are my source and my strength and let me not forget who I am in you. Let me walk in a way that is worthy of my calling. I will walk victoriously both on and off the field because you are my strength. We pray these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen If you are like me the following statement has been true much of your Christian life. Even though I am a Christian, God has not been in charge of my life, I am. Therefore an appropriate ending is with this prayer: Father God, From here on out, I am going to quit trying to do this myself. I’m going to trust you. I’ll work as hard as I can, but You’re the boss from now on. In Jesus Name Amen

Suggested Reading for Christian Coaches: Racing to Win, Joe Gibbs Ashes to Glory, Bill McCartney Civil War, John Feinstein Wild at Heart, John Eldridge God Chasers, Tom Tenney Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby Suggested Scriptures to Ponder: Philippians 4:13 Proverbs 17:1 Proverbs 28:25 Proverbs 18:21 Proverbs 16:20 Proverbs 27:17 Hebrews 12:1 1 Corinthians 9:24 Romans 12:1-2