Nelson Cook who established Coaches of Influence (COIN) 30 years ago in Los Angeles USA writes a monthly letter to the many coaches at professional, college and high school levels and the current correspondence touches the spot.
It has been my privilege since 1984 to have been hosted innumerable times by Nelson Cook in my years in sport ministry, the most recent was in 2009 where I addressed coaches over breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
This is another of those Christian ministry movements where one person has a vision for a ministry area that had been untapped and gathered support to engender the dream and saw how God unleashed his 'touch' upon the evangelism.
There is a growing number of these 'niche' ministries that highly specialise into a people group and coaches are a vital people group in the American culture who both influence the life of high schools, colleges and professional teams, but have a huge input into the lives of their charges.
To this extent Nelson Cook's vision grew its feet and with the Lord's blessing this ministry is now a light on the landscape and this is Nelson Cook's latest letter to his coaching personnel:
Some years ago, Steve Wallenda of the Flying Wallendas high wire circus act, learned that his friend Joel Aronsen had to have a heart transplant. He also learned that Joel didn't have the money or insurance coverage for it.
Telling Aronsen, "I'm here to save your life", Wallenda set up a 40-foot high-wire in a parking lot at the Rawhide Amusement Park in Scottsdale, Arizona. Mounting the high-wire, Wallenda announced he would stay up there for four days in a fund-raising effort to pay for his friend's operation.
Wallenda didn't wait for anyone to tell him how he could help. He saw the need and pushed his own self-starter button. Initiative is what they call it.
Wallenda's sacrifice brought to my mind that he cared enough about his friend to say, I'm here to save your life. What are you and I here for? As Christ's ambassadors we are here to save people's lives by sharing the Good News (Gospel of Jesus Christ) with people who are on a high-wire of life that leads to destruction. II Corinthians 5:20. Do we see the need and are we willing to push the self-starter button (fuelled by the Holy Spirit) and tell people about the Saviour?
Let's commit together to pray for and then share the Gospel with at least one friend this week. Do that and you'll experience a better high than walking on a high-wire.
In a recent Nelson Cook newsletter to his coaches he wrote:
Amos Alonzo Stagg, the famous football coach, has influenced me greatly. He emphasised the role of love and the importance of doing what is best for each player. Coach Stagg admitted that he didn't admire all of his players, but he did love them. He wanted love to dominate his coaching career. He also stressed that getting the most from his players would be the outcome of doing what's best for them.
Alonzo Stagg stated that each year before the first practice he would tell my players something like this: I will love you all the same, but I won't like you all the same. You won't like each other all the same; you won't like me the same. I understand that.
I think treating everyone the same shows partiality
Nelson Cook continued quoting Coach Stagg: "You may feel, at times, that I have double standards, as I certainly will not treat you all the same. I think treating everyone the same shows partiality.
"However, I will attempt to give each player the treatment that he earns and deserves according to my judgement and in keeping with what I consider to be in the best interest of the team (a paraphrase quote from John Wooden)
"Shortly before Coach Stagg's death in 1965, some kids were playing football on his front lawn. A neighbour noticed and informed him that the grass would never grow that way. Alonzo Stagg smiled and replied, 'I'm not trying to grow grass, I'm trying to grow kids.'
"Joe Ehrmann (football coach at Gilman High School) calls his kids together before each practice and yells at them, "What's our (the coaching staff) job?" The kids yell back, "to love us." Then he yells, "What's your job?" They all respond loudly, "To love one another."
"Funny, that sounds a bit like what Jesus would say. In your passion for coaching the game, don't lose the priority of God in your life. But now abide Faith, Hope and Love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love. (I Corinthians 13:13)
Couldn't get the phrase out of his mind
I couldn't get out of mind the phrase ... "I think treating everyone the same shows partiality."
No parent can ever treat each of their children equally, as each child will need special attention at specific times. I pondered on this within the Scriptures and clearly the same situation applies over and over again. Hebrews 11 the Characters of Faith chapter illustrates this.
It appears to me this positive thought to keep in the back of our minds that when someone in our personal ministry orbit is in need, we each may offer that person some special pastoral care and prayerful consideration.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html