One thing that many people probably don’t know about me is that in 2005-2006, I was the Head Varsity Football Coach at West Alabama Preparatory Academy in Demopolis, Alabama. We lost all of our games by at least 40 points. If you want a good laugh, you can pull up my info on the Alabama High School Football Historical Society website to see my win-loss record. I am an offensive coach. I would probably do great as an offensive coordinator coaching middle school or high school football but I can’t coach defense to save my life. I kind of have the mindset that former UK head football Coach Hal Mumme, had. I don’t care if you score 10 touchdowns against me, because I am going to score 11 touchdowns against you. Yes, that is arrogant and flawed thinking and I will admit that this particular strategy did not work out too well for me. As much as I love football and as much as I enjoyed being a head coach on the high school level, I felt that this was God’s way of telling me that he wanted me to stay in ministry.
While serving as the head coach at this small high school in rural Alabama, I was blessed with an opportunity to help at an FCA Football Camp. During one of the coaches’ huddle sessions, our huddle leader said, “I tried to coach my players as if one of them would one day become my son-in-law.” That has always stuck with me. And in Mark 12:31, we read that this kind of advice is actually from God Himself.
In sports, it is so easy to slip into a win-at-all-cost mentality. As a coach, unfortunately sometimes, I started to view my players as nothing more than a means to an end. I wanted to win, and, in order to win, my players had to perform in certain ways. They had to do certain plays and be able to have certain skills. My play calling and their skills have to be better than the other team’s. With all of this resting on the coaches shoulders, how in the world coaches teach their players to win and base it on love?
If we go back to Mark 12:30 we see that there is just one thing more important than loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, and that is loving God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind.
Coaches expect their athletes to do what they tell them to do. Jesus is the same way. He tells us to love God and tells us to love our neighbors. He doesn’t say, “When you feel like it, love your God and your neighbor. When you have time, love your God and your neighbor.” I’ve never read a verse where Jesus tells us to love God and our neighbors everywhere except when we’re playing sports, except when we are buying a car, except when we are at work, except when we are dealing with our finances, etc, etc, etc.
It is my prayer that we would be mindful of our calling to love those around us, no matter what the scoreboard in life happens to say. May we put people before trophies and realize that life is about so much more than championships. It’s about love. If you have the opportunity this week, please go out of your way and tell the Head Football Coaches at both Logan County High School and at Russellville High School how much you appreciate them. A young man’s high school football coach will have a stronger impact on that young person’s life than a Pastor ever will. Not only do they teach their players to be great athletes on the gridiron; they are planting the seeds in these young men to eventually become great husbands, great fathers and great leaders in the community.
- Rev. Scott Murphy is the Pastor at the First Christian Church in Russellville.