The best-coached team usually wins. They don’t always win, but they usually do. The coach might have the temperament of a Bobby Knight, the fiery former coach of the Indiana Hoosiers (and other teams), who flew into fits and had a famous chair throwing incident, or the quiet demeanor of John Wooden or Tom Landry, each of whom was known for their calm in the face of the raging emotions of the games in front of them. Whatever the sideline behavior, great coaches are known for building great teams and great teams win…most of the time.
What are some of the common characteristics of great coaches?
1. They stress the fundamentals of the game.
2. They emphasize physical conditioning.
3. They help their players keep the “I” out of “team.”
4. The prepare their teams for adversity.
5. During difficult times, they refuse to stay down.
This Mother’s Day weekend at Stone Ridge Church, we will talk about “Passing the Faith Baton.” It’s appropriate, then, that I tell you about the two best coaches I ever had: my parents. While my mom never considered herself an athlete and my dad had very limited time to be a part of my childhood sporting events, my parents did more to pass the baton to me and to teach me about passing it on to others than they could imagine. Here are some of the things they did very well:
1. They stayed faithful in the fundamentals of life. It was little things, like the daily work of cow-milking, chicken-feeding, egg-gathering and other aspects of the farm that built a foundation for our family. It was the unknown power of arriving at church on Sunday morning and noticing the tithe check sitting on top of my dad’s Bible that served as a lasting stewardship example.
2. They worked hard every day. My mom suffered from migraines, but she kept going. They taught us that hard work is the way of life. The motive wasn’t physical conditioning, but that was often the result. They didn’t have us milk cows to develop the muscles in our forearms, but it did. They didn’t have us hoe the weeds in the gardens to develop our back and shoulder muscles, but it did. They didn’t have us carry buckets of milk and bushels of fruit or corn to develop our muscles, but that was what happened.
3. They demonstrated that we all shared in the work and all shared in the rewards. It’s not an exaggeration to say that we kids in the Norris household complained more than once that we were having “steak again” on our dinner table. We raised our own beef and were daily blessed by choice cuts in front of us. Add to it the fresh vegetables, the homemade bread and a regular dose of pies and cobblers and I can almost drool at the memories. We also had a plentiful supply of fresh cream so it was important that we make homemade ice cream in the summer to use it up. Yes! Honestly, I don’t remember nearly as much about the work as I do about the bounty we shared.
4. They talked openly about the difficulties of life. They modeled the grief of deaths in the family by welcoming others into their sorrow, often becoming the comforters as they were being comforted. They also helped us understand the brokenness of the world around us, from the alcoholic man who lived in an old broken-down house nearby to the needs of a native-american family who often rode to church with us. They never told us that life would be easy and we weren’t to expect it. Instead, they taught us to step into the problems and trust in the faithfulness of God.
5. They gave us the gift of letting go. When the company my dad worked for hit a financial rough spot and he was laid off, he could have gone back to work for them in a different job. Instead, he took another route and went into business for himself. The work was hard and they had no guarantees, but it paid off in the end. When their children were nearing adulthood, we were told that they wouldn’t interfere once we were married…and they didn’t. They let us go our way, loving us and praying for us. They were still there to help, but they didn’t push their will onto us. When my dad discovered that his cancer was inoperable, he accepted it and moved forward with joy and hope.
Now in my seventh decade of life, I look back to realize the blessing of being coached so well. Not only did my parents successfully pass the baton, but they taught us much about how to pass it on to our children. Can you join us at Stone Ridge this weekend as we talk about this critical skill? If not, catch the podcast!