Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

whistle-1525647-639x426One of the great joys of my lifetime has been coaching my kids in their wide array of sports. I started when they were little bitties in Gymnastics, and I’m still at it today in the wonderful world of high school Ultimate Frisbee. It’s been a challenge to be Dad and Coach at the same time, but I wouldn’t trade it for being in the stands. We’ve made some great memories, pushed through intimidating obstacles, grieved painful losses and celebrated euphoric victories. We’ve shared some incredible experiences we’ll get to cherish for years to come.

As much as I’ve enjoyed seeing my children and their teammates realize some of their physical potential, I’ve gotten just as much – if not more – satisfaction from seeing their character develop. What a blast watching qualities like dedication, integrity, teamwork, and endurance emerge like diamonds from the crucibles of practices and game day performances.

With character in mind, I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in the attitudes of players toward their coaches as they grow in age. Grade school kids respond to their coach much like the game “Simon says.” They struggle to keep up, but they give a lot of effort trying to just do what coach says. In middle school, self-awareness floods in and the athletes are as interested in how they look as they are in what they’re told to do. By the time high school rolls around, a lot of athletes have enough of a handle on their sport that they begin to believe they really know what’s best (maybe even more than their coach!).

Generally speaking, growing young athletes tend to move from a place of great dependence in their early years to that of independence in teenage years. It’s as if someone told them that the goal was to become so good at what they did that they no longer needed a coach. Where did that idea come from? What is the allure of self-sufficiency?

In my life, it was about self-protection, self-promotion and a desperate search for significance (there’s a great book by that title). I wanted to be somebody, and I thought superstars were those who grew beyond a need for anyone. Simply put, my outlook was rooted in pride.

On the flipside, have you ever tried to coach an arrogant athlete? Or offer input to a teammate who has an inflated view of themselves? It’s next to impossible. Pride undermines the whole nature of the coach/athlete relationship … a relationship based upon need and assistance. Where there is no sense of need, there is no receptivity.

You probably know where I’m going with this.

You and I are coachable to the degree that we are aware of (and willing to admit) our need. And, as you might have expected, this applies not only to athletics, but also to spiritual maturity. The heart of a “coachable” person is eager for input regardless of how much knowledge they have acquired. Their assumption is that they can always improve, and so they soak up feedback like a sponge.

By the way, I’m not talking about accepting input without discernment. That would be just as foolish as rejecting input of any kind. I’m talking about giving genuine consideration to the observations offered us in hopes of gaining additional insight into ourselves and the next right steps toward greater maturity.

Tell-tale signs that I’m NOT receptive are defensiveness, blame-shifting, excuses, denial, minimizing, change of topic or dismissiveness. These are all strategies for preserving my pride and avoiding the need for change. They give me the feeling of control while stunting my growth and isolating me from the people who can most help me realize my potential.

One of the greatest models of coachability I’ve seen was a professor of mine, Dr. Howard Hendricks. He taught at Dallas Theological Seminary for over 50 years, wrote prolifically, personally discipled several of the most influential Christian leaders of our day and taught the Bible to literally millions of people over the course of his lifetime. And yet, if you or I were teaching in a room where he was present, he would be on the front row, taking copious notes in hopes of growing in his faith.

I would argue that Prof’s far reaching influence was directly tied to his humble willingness to receive input wherever it might be found. And that’s exactly what we find in the Scriptures …

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7, ESV)

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2, ESV)

“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23, ESV)

“… Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5, ESV)

Instead of striving to grow out of our need for coaching, let’s humbly surround ourselves with wise truth-tellers who will faithfully and graciously speak the truth to us in love for our good and God’s glory.

Who in your life has modeled a coachable spirit? What have you learned from their example?


*seen also at; Tri4Him is an international body of Christian triathletes united in sport and spirit.

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