A Note to Coaches

A Note to Coaches:

What is Joy for an Athlete?

 

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart.”  I’m guessing that most of you have heard this song, or even sung it at one time or another.  What does it mean?  What comes to mind?  Is this just the song of a bunch of kids having fun?  Do you get the picture of a ditzy blonde who has that fake smile and bounces around happily because she is oblivious to life around her?  Or is there something deeper represented by the presence of joy in a person’s heart?

 

Throughout this study you will examine what true joy is all about.  Most people are good at putting on a mask of joy.  We answer the  question, “How are you?” with at least an “OK.”  We want people to think we are joyful.  True joy, though, is not just something that covers the things we don’t want others to see.  Rather, joy is recognizing that you live in the presence of a merciful and yet Almighty God.  It is    believing, regardless of circumstances, that the providences of God in your life will always be for your good.  It flows from knowing “down in your heart” that you are in God’s hands; it is the pleasure and the     confidence that this knowledge provides.

 

Psalm 16:9-11 expresses this thought:  “Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will You let your holy one see decay.  You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.”

What is Joy for and Athlete

What will joy look like in the context of your team and your athletes?  In the course of a season you will face difficulties together, but it is our hope that as you work through this study, you will together find your pleasure and confidence in the Lord’s promise for your lives.  Winning takes on new life because it isn’t an end in itself.  In the same way    losing brings a joy — not that you are happy because you failed to accomplish your goal, but joy because even in your failure you don’t lose your identity in Christ.  Knowing this, you are free and confident to give your best effort every time you play, knowing that your self-worth is not bound in your performance.  Your team can be motivated to play to its fullest, in order to bring glory to Him , the source of your joy.

May God bless you, your team, and your season.  May this truly be a season of great joy.

How to Use the Wellspring of Life Program

This booklet is a season-long “coaching curriculum” for use in leading your team in pursuing the discipline of joy.  Coaches should keep the following principles and suggestions in mind, as they use the material:

We have provided enough material and activities for an entire 15-week season.  If your season is shorter than 15 weeks, you can preview the material and decide which weeks you will use to fit the length of your season.  If your season happens to run longer than 15 weeks, you may be able to extend a single week’s material over a two-week span (when necessary), or you could challenge your team to extend its study of joy by identifying additional passages and discussing those together.  For most teams, the length of this booklet should suffice to cover their seasons.

 Coaches, we encourage you to make time for discipline training each day. We’ve organized the weekly sections with an intent for you to spend    approximately 5-7 minutes on this daily — thus allowing you to make time for this important focus in your daily routines, without having to  sacrifice extensive practice time in order to do so.  If you’re going to be intentional about making your team’s athletic experience something that encourages spiritual growth, you need to build this into your daily routines. All coaches see practice time as a priority, and game days are busy for every team; don’t allow your habits to lead to neglect.  If you define your sport as having value only in itself (if you fail to discipline your players for godliness), your players will define their value and success only through their athletic accomplishments.

 Build in time for discipline training not only on practice days, but also on game days; you can set aside time before your games to do so, and it’s important that you don’t miss important parts of each week’s study (which will happen if you don’t make this a daily routine).  Please be sure to be consistent in this; don’t allow other things to become such a priority that your athletes begin to see their submission to discipline as less important than their athletic pursuits.

  Train and encourage your team to continually seek answers and truth in Scripture, as you explore the discipline of joy together.  Each week’s  challenge is based upon a passage of Scripture, and the discussion questions are designed to lead your athletes back to that passage, in order to search it for understanding and application. Don’t allow your athletes to base their answers on “their own perspective” or “common sense”, but instead always lead them back to Scripture.  This is a habit that will serve them well throughout their lives, and will help them to grow in their    relationship with God.  “Like newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)

It’s also important for you to understand the structure of each week’s activities, as well as the purpose for each day.  The following explanation and suggestions should help you to develop a routine that will be effective for your team.

 MONDAY:  Read the Scripture passage with your team.

 Each week you’ll read one or more Scripture passages that relate to the Biblical concept of joy. The truth of Scripture will help to “set the stage” for your times of discussion and application during the rest of the week.

You can accomplish this time of Scripture reading in a number of ways.  Some coaches may just read to their teams; we have printed each entire passage in this booklet, so that you’ll have them available for this purpose.  Other coaches may prefer to involve their players in the reading — having their players bring their Bibles to practice (to read together), or having a particular player read the passage to the team each week.  However you decide to handle this, be sure that (after you have read the passage) you spend just a few minutes talking together with your team about how the passage relates to the discipline of joy — and why that should be important to them.

Remember that one of the primary purposes of the Wellspring of Life Initiative is to encourage your athletes to develop a daily habit of spending time in Scripture.  For this reason, we highly encourage you to obtain booklets for each team member, or to photocopy each week’s material for your players; this will allow and encourage them to spend time on their own reading and considering the implications of Scripture.  (In the future, we also will be developing a set of daily Scripture readings to accompany each discipline, to give your athletes a plan for spending individual time in God’s Word.)  For your athletes to truly grow in their relationship to Jesus Christ, they must develop the habit of daily spending time in His Word.  “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)  Do not overlook the value of encouraging your athletes to spend time reading Scripture; this will be a habit that will produce spiritual growth throughout their lifetimes.

 TUESDAY / WEDNESDAY / THURSDAY:  Discuss the Scripture    passage with your team.

 “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) - This three-day section of the weekly program contains discussion questions and challenges for your athletes.  Your team will spend these days considering what God’s Word has to say about joy.

Coaches, you will present a question (or set of questions) to your team each day.  (After your warm-up, while your athletes are stretching, is a great time for this...or you may want to open or close practice each day with this time.)  Because you have access to the week’s Scripture passage(s) in your booklet, you will be able to review or refer to the portions of each Scripture passage that relate to the discussion questions for that day (we’ve tried to make reference to those in the questions).  Be sure to do so, in order that your athletes can engage in a meaningful, Biblical discussion about these issues.  Remember that their own opinions often may not reflect the truths of Scripture, so bringing them back to the Biblical text is very important.

We encourage you, coaches, to take the time to challenge your players beyond a superficial discussion of joy.  When the questions ask them to make personal 

application, encourage them to share their thoughts.  Set an example by being willing to share your own thoughts and experiences, and to make application to your own life.  If your athletes see your willingness to examine Scripture    seriously and to open your life up to them, they will do the same with one   another — and that will promote an environment in which they can spur one another on in growth in Christ.

Coaches, consider that completing a day’s full set of discussion questions might take longer than the amount of time you can spend together as a team.  For that reason we suggest requesting extra booklets for each team member, or you have our permission to photocopy each week’s study for your players — so they can work through the discussion questions on their own time, as well.  Many schools have communicated great success and team growth that have come from making the full study available to all team members.  You might even consider scheduling your season-long study of joy in such a way that you encourage your players to work through each day’s discussion questions at home — and then discuss together at each day’s practice or game.

 FRIDAY:  Discuss sport applications of joy, and pray together.

This section of the weekly program is a time when you and your athletes will discuss together ways in which joy can and should be exemplified in the arena of athletics.  It’s a time to ask your athletes, “What do the things we’ve learned this week about joy have to do with athletics?  How does a joyful athlete    behave?” The goal is to help your athletes create a “picture” of what joy means in the life of an athlete — which will identify habits and challenges that can be incorporated into each athlete’s daily routine.

Based upon each week’s discussion of joy, you will lead your team in creating a description of a joyful athlete.  This should be a list of “active phrases”, and you should add to that list each week (by asking the recurring question that we provide in the Friday section each week).  We encourage you to keep this list in front of the players (on a big sign on the wall of your practice gym, on your team web site, or somewhere else very visible) — so that the challenge of   Biblical joy will be presented to your athletes in a tangible and ongoing way throughout your season.

This list should not by generated solely by the coach; it should primarily be based on the ideas of the athletes.  Each week they should be challenged to think back over that week’s Scripture and discussions (the coach should help them to do this), and to answer the question, “Based on this understanding of joy in Scripture, what does a joyful athlete do?”  Do not settle for vague     answers from your athletes; challenge them to go beyond general qualities of a joyful athlete and to determine what those qualities look like in action.  What does a joyful athlete do?

Friday is also a day for your team to pray together.  (You may need to allow a bit more time on Friday (maybe 10 minutes), in order to have time for the “joyful athlete” discussion AND for prayer, but please do not sacrifice this time.)  This is a time for your team to reflect on the truths they’ve learned about joy this week, to verbalize the commitments they’ve made, and to yearn and strive together in the presence of God.

The simplest way to accomplish this prayer time is to pray as one large group, and to encourage each athlete to pray as he feels led.  However, you can vary how you do this, if you’d like (small groups, prayer partners, asking seniors to take turns leading, etc).  Remember that your athletes will mature in their prayer life at differing times and various levels, because the accomplishment of the internal spiritual growth in each athlete’s life will be unique, according to God’s plan and timing.  Thus, don’t pressure an athlete to pray aloud.  As the leader of the team, a coach should set an example in genuine, fervent prayer; invite your athletes to join as they feel led.  One good way to do this is to begin by having one person open in prayer, follow that with a time of silence (during which others may pray), and then have the coach close in prayer.

An additional team activity (which relates to the goal of seeing your athletes apply the discipline of joy within the realm of sport) is described in Appendix B of this booklet.  These materials are designed to challenge your athletes to set some joy-related goals for the season, and to help athletes of different ages and levels of maturity to best identify expectations that are appropriate for them.

* * * * *

As you use the resources provided in the Wellspring of Life Initiative program, give careful consideration to what will best motivate your athletes to fully submit themselves to Christ in discipline, and challenge them firmly and lovingly to that end.  Help them to see their struggles as profitable; pray with them, encourage them, and always keep them grounded in and accountable to Scripture.

Thanks for your desire to see your athletes grow in their relationship with Christ — for your concern for their hearts, not just their athletic pursuits and outward behaviors.  Our staff prays for you regularly, and we’re excited to watch God use your efforts to accomplish His purpose in your athletes’ lives.

 

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