It might seem odd to you, but I often think of Jesus as the World’s Greatest Coach. I teach fitness as you may recall if you’ve read this column for a while. Coaching is a second career for me, so it has been interesting to learn over the last 8 years what makes a good coach.
To be a coach, teacher or mentor in any field, and in the game of life, one has to first learn from a coach—and I’ve been blessed to learn from some smart and caring fitness coaches. However, there is no greater coach in my life than my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
One of the most important attributes of any good coach is to believe in what you are teaching and to impart that to your students to the best of your ability. When we look to our coach Jesus, we know that he learned from the best; after all, he’s the Son of God, and his Father’s will is his will. He knows exactly what he's doing and why he’s doing it and even stuck to it amidst temptations. He is infinitely qualified and motivated to lead us closer to God so that we can be in heaven with him someday.
Another key to being a good coach is to be a good listener and to respond appropriately to your student’s needs. If one of my students says her knee hurts, and I ask her to do sets of 10 squats, I’m probably not listening to her needs.
We see in Jesus, a coach who is the ultimate listener. We can tell him everything because he knows everything already — and loves us anyway for who we are, not because of what we do. Jesus is listening (and responding) to us every second of the day. This listening is especially profound in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we vocalize sorrow for our sins and Jesus responds by setting us free from sin.
To be a good coach, one has to believe in their students and persevere in helping them learn. Sometimes we have to work creatively with our students, but there is much joy and satisfaction in helping people do something that doesn’t come easy to them. Sometimes we don’t want to be helped, coached or guided and so this becomes an opportunity to grow in humility.
Isn’t this how Jesus works with us? He loves us, believes in us and works creatively with us to guide us to accomplishing God’s will. While we might get down on ourselves for sinning over and over, or failing to pray, or acting selfishly, Jesus never gives up on us on. In fact, Jesus, his Mother and the saints model and intercede for us to humbly carry on despite life’s difficulties.
A final attribute I’ll share with you about being a good coach is to encourage consistently healthy habits to support the athletic journey, such as getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, managing stress/illnesses/injuries, and giving time to developing a healthy spiritual and emotional life. It isn’t possible to see good results in our athletic endeavors if the rest of our lives are totally out of whack.
When we look to Jesus as our coach, we see a loving guide who wants us to be holy and healthy in every area of our lives—not just on Sunday, not just with our church friends, not just when everything is running smoothly in our lives, but also in the little, hidden, everyday activities and when we face big challenges, sufferings, failed plans, health issues and the loss of loved ones. Jesus desires that we live the Gospel message 24/7, in all circumstances, and he’s here with us to make that happen.
Let us close with a prayer to the World’s Greatest Coach. Jesus, thank you for believing is us and coaching us through this difficult thing called Life. Grant us the humility to give you control of every aspect of our lives and for the strength to carry out the unique mission you have each one of us. Amen.