CHARACTER COACH GUIDELINES
- Take a relational approach; have a missionary mindset! Do not approach this role with an agenda other than to serve.
- Focus on people rather than methods and strategies. Give your heart to the coaches and athletes. Be expressive in letting them know you care about them.
- Don’t talk down to anyone and always be available…you never know what other opportunities may arise by simply being in the right place at the right time.
- Know the coaches and athletes by name; show a personal interest in them and their families. You will be trusted when you show you care about them.
- Be present. If possible, drop by practice twice a week. A short time on the field will open hearts and it speaks volumes about how much you really care about them. Walk around at practice and speak to anyone and everyone…listening to ways you can best serve them.
- Be affirming and encouraging. Always look for opportunities to build them up. You might be the only person who tells one of the coaches or athletes that you believe in them.
- Understand that you are in that position for a reason that is bigger than athletics. Take honor in your role…it is a great responsibility.
- Be loyal. Never hang around people who constantly criticize the coaches…do not listen to them and do not entertain those conversations.
- Do not be presumptuous. If the coaches want you on the sidelines or to ride the bus for road games, they will ask you.
KEYS TO BEING AN EFFECTIVE CHARACTER COACH
There may be no more costly nor rewarding role in ministry through sport that that of the Character Coach. The keys to effectiveness in such a role are simple, but most important.
Simply said, there are a few keys to ministry with people of sport and they are outlined briefly below. Chief among those keys is to take a relational approach rather than a programmatic approach. Focus on the people more than the methods or strategies. The goal is not just to develop programs or to hold meetings; rather it is to relate to the people of sport closely enough to sense the needs of their hearts and to minister to them accordingly.
1) Focus on the people of sport. Win their trust through serving them.
a. Focus on the coaches and players, not the fans, the media or others. Coaches are key. Invest in their lives and build trust with them. Respond to the athletes who show interest. Follow up with those who ask questions or indicate a desire for spiritual things.
b. Know their names, positions, uniform numbers and all you can about their backgrounds. Show a personal interest in them and they'll be more open to you.
c. Ask good questions about the sport, their roles, their expectations and their goals.
d. Be available to them, even when it's terribly inconvenient. The point of crisis or the inconvenient phone call is often the situation that either wins or loses you their trust and confidence.
2) Watch your attitude and don't act like a fan.
a. Respect and value the culture of sport. Study it; learn its history and language. Ask good questions of the coaches and players.
b. Look for opportunities to serve the team and don't seek privileges. If they want to outfit you with team gear, they'll ask for your size. Don't seek such privileges. An arrogant, presumptuous attitude will quickly invalidate your ministry.
c. Encourage always and don't become critical. If they want your opinion, they'll ask for it. Maintain a supportive attitude and you'll be a highly valued person. If you are constantly critical or finding fault, you'll soon be marginalized or ignored.
d. Don't talk about religion. Talk about faith in the context of the sport. Help them see what genuine faith is through their sport experience.
3) Be in the right place at the right time.
a. Be at practice sessions. Lots of people attend the games, very few attend practices. The coaches and athletes know that only those most highly committed to the team are at practice. If you're there, their respect for you will grow quickly.
b. Be there when they lose. Everyone seems to hang around to congratulate the team when they've won a big game. You must be the one to stay late, to console, to encourage and to commiserate with them when they've lost the big game. This builds trust and lets you see their grieving hearts.
c. Be available in times of crisis. The trips to the training room or the emergency room with an injured player build trust and deepen relationships like nothing else. The private meeting with a coach in his office concerning a troubled player is a powerful ministry opportunity. The lunch meeting with an athlete or coach who's looking for counsel as he or she is making a big decision is a life-changing moment. If you're available, you have a ministry. If you're not, you don't.
4. Strategies and methods are secondary to the relational emphasis.
a. If you will focus on the relationship building tips listed above, the appropriate strategies and methods will be much more easily seen and implemented.
b. Always ask permission before beginning a ministry initiative. Make a proposal to the head coach for the Bible study, discussion, chapel, event, etc. Doing so honors his position and may keep you from violating a team or athletic association rule. It also further builds his or her trust of you and your ministry.
c. Be sure to adapt ministry methods and tools to the sport's culture. Don't simply drag the people of sport into church culture and expect it to be a good fit. Strive to help those whom you serve to fully integrate their lives in sport with their lives in Christ Jesus.
To effectively serve the people of sport as their Character Coach; focus on the people and win their trust through serving them; watch your attitude; be in the right place at the right time; and keep strategies and methods secondary to the relational emphasis.