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June 6th, 2013

Coaching as Discipleship: Going Beyond Wins and Losses in the Women’s Soccer Program

I started coaching when I was still playing soccer in college.  At that point in my life coaching was merely a way to earn money while being a part of the game I loved so much.  Shortly thereafter, I was asked to coach a local high school junior varsity team.  I spent countless hours from mid-March through the end of May running with the girls, training the team, riding school buses and just hanging out with them.  It might have happened after the girls “strawed” my car with McDonald’s straws one afternoon, or perhaps it was during a one-on-one conversation with the girl whose parents were always late to pick her up, but by the end of that season God had opened my heart to see the impact and ministry possible through the sport of soccer. 

Even though I’ve been coaching for almost eleven years now, I’ve still much to learn about being a great coach.  Coaching isn’t just about teaching skills or tactics; rather, great coaches are special individuals who know how to communicate and connect with their players on a deeper personal level.  Coaching is all about personal relationships and managing those relationships to pull out every bit of potential within the player.  To me, ministry is like coaching: to be most effective it needs to be built on personal relationships and nurturing those relationships.

It has been a blessing to coach here at Montreat College and work with the amazing group of young ladies who currently make up our women’s soccer team.  Coming into a new environment as a coach is unpredictable, and our team encountered a great deal of adversity this past fall season.  We had no field or subs and we were plagued by injuries, marching bands, and a good dose of bad luck. It was enough to cause any team or coach to become disheartened. 

Quite honestly, there were days I found myself discouraged and questioning how we were going to survive this season, but those questions always disappeared when I saw the smiles and heard the laughter of the girls.  Everyone had dark, frustrating days, but this team isn’t just here for soccer. These girls show up each day to serve each other and to serve our Lord Jesus Christ as well as to play soccer!

Integrating faith into the women’s soccer program has been incredibly easy because of the character and quality of young ladies and the strength of their faith.  As coach, integrating faith goes beyond prayers and Bible studies – it’s about developing those personal relationships with each of the players and demonstrating Christ’s love the best I can in their lives.  As a team, we seek to glorify God through our actions on the soccer field.  This means not playing for our own glory and pride, but giving up the results to God, stepping on the field and playing our hardest in a manner that is pleasing to him.  We lift each other up daily, building fellowship and accountability as a team.  Our next goal is to share the love of Christ with our community through mentoring programs or sports ministry camps, reaching out and building new relationships. Through our words and actions, we can be a light to our own teammates, opponents, and our fans.  Individually we are not perfect and never will be, but as a team we strive for that perfection, holding each other accountable to the standard we have chosen to represent, that is Christ. 

Two and a half years later it is sometimes hard to remember the struggles the women’s soccer team faced my first season here at Montreat.  We now have a full roster of players, have strengthened our talent level, and grown to be a competitive and dominant team within our AAC Conference.  In three short seasons this team has literally gone from last place to first place, winning the AAC Conference and Tournament for the first time in our program’s history.  Despite the changes in our results and new faces to our roster, the core foundation of relationships and family remain the same.  We strive to represent ourselves and Montreat College with in a manner that is glorifying to our Heavenly Father and to share the love of Jesus with our teammates and others.  I believe strongly that God has desired to bless our team and give us success because of our willingness to serve each other, love one another, and to bring glory to His Name.   I pray that no matter the wins earned or losses suffered, that the women’s soccer program will always seek to be more than a soccer team, but to be a tool for ministry in God’s kingdom.