The Gods of Coaching

There are many different coaching styles in major sports, but in the NFL it sometimes seems that there are really only two.

First is the disciplinarian. 

He yells a lot, expects much from his team and is very process-oriented.  The philosophy says players need to get the details right, play their role and the wins will come.  Players should be inspired by fear and driven by commitment.  Fail in big or small things and pay a penance because you let your team and yourself down.  If George Patton ever coached pigskin, he’d fall in this camp.

Values: Rules, discipline, respect for authority, hierarchy
Role: Coach as boss

Then there is the so-called “players’ coach”. 

A friend to the player who manages practice reps, adapts his style to player strengths and is generally looser with everything.  Under this model players are granted more leeway in hopes that they’ll self-discipline.  It is a more rah-rah pat on the back style and leadership is shared.

Values: Enthusiasm, encouragement, collaboration
Role: Coach as teammate

Pete Carroll- Nice Guy

Both have had success in the NFL.  Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll both win, but they choose different paths.  As for the rest of the league, most teams flip-flop between the two styles with each new hire.  Mike Tice runs wind sprints with his team and is replaced by junior dictator Brad Childress.  And on and on it goes.

What’s interesting is to apply this methodology to the ultimate coach, your Creator.

Old Testament God defined His relationship with us via strict rules and consequences.  The Garden of Eden, the ten commandments, the great flood, Moses getting shut out of the promise land, etc.  In short, Old Testament God makes Bill Belichick look like a pantywaist.  And yet the results still weren’t promising.  Oh sure we got some near-term stuff right, but a stiff-necked people continued in rebellion.

So when the Divine decided to revisit things, He sent a Players’ Coach in the One and only Christ.  A fully divine yet fully human Being that basically said “forget the rules”.  Sure the big ones are still valid, but the rituals around what you eat, how you dress, etc are too next level for you.  Focus on the big stuff first.  Start with the commandments and get your act together.  No more wrath of God fire and brimstone.  Instead He brought a more relational, self-governing style.  Christ was a Rebel, but a mostly softspoken “show me” type Leader.  Differing from every other religion, the True Christ was essentially a Players’ Coach.  One of us, yet so much more.

What is interesting and well known in the NFL is that teams typically have their best years when they transition between the authoritarian coach and the players’ coach.  They have the discipline instilled by the taskmaster, but they thrive with the ability to have fun with the game and apply leadership to themselves.

This is interesting if you look at the early days of the church.  Following Christ on earth, Paul not only committed to changing his ways, he lived it.  He grew the church and wrote much of the bible in those early days and together with others led to the spread of Christianity that still resonates today.

Why does any of this matter?  Because it is interesting to think about in the context of God’s plan.

  1. God wants a relationship with His created. How that plays out has been different over time but the core desire is always there.  This should encourage us all.
  2. The Holy Spirit is a game-changer as God now dwells within us. No more burning bush signs like yesteryear, now we are driven by internal factors too.  It’s Christianity’s ace in the hole.  The fire in the belly your coach always wanted is now ours for the taking.
  3. We know in the NFL a players’ coach is generally followed by a disciplinarian. Read the book of Revelation and you can see this pattern will continue in the spiritual realm as well.  Will we be ready?

Did I just say that Belichick will lead us to the Apocalypse?  Unclear, but that’s mostly fake news.

But what is clear is that the end of the story has yet to be written.  Today we’re all entitled players who lack discipline and understanding.  We resist coaching and can’t see the big picture.  We are poor teammates and in rebellion.  Only by changing our focus, playing our roles and learning the lessons from both styles can we meet our full potential.

And that is simple to write, but incredibly hard to live.  The point is that the struggle is real, happens daily and well worth it.

Now get in the weight room, you have a soul to build.


Posted by

Christian. Father. Hawkeye. Male pattern baldness survivor.

One thought on “The Gods of Coaching

  1. As you spelled out, the Bible is split into two covenants (testaments) to the people. The old with a focus on the promise of prosperity and the love that God gave to His people, as long as they followed the rules. The new displays a broader grace and mercy to his people, based on the new promise of salvation (from sin). Either promise was put in place to allow us the freedom to choose. The new covenant is for all of us, to go to Him, through Christ. So, do we take action or sit idly by on the sidelines?

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