One of my favorite podcasts is “GM Street” on The Ringer. Former NFL GM Michael Lombardi goes through a series of NFL topics from his perspective, as he draws on a wealth of personal interactions and experiences from NFL legends ranging from Bill Walsh to Al Davis to Bill Belichick.
This past week, Lombardi gave his perspective on how coaching should be done. The great coaches now learned from a great coach in the past, and it seems there’s a “way” to do it. Because a head coaching job in the NFL is harder to get than one in the US Senate (30 jobs vs. 100 jobs), fitting into that tight funnel doesn’t leave much room for error. Lombardi is convinced that you have to be a hard man, even somewhat distant as a leader, in order to become a head football coach in the NFL.
The NFL might be a lot like the military and require such an approach to be successful, but I’m concerned that people look to those coaches as their role models when their coaching context is nowhere near the National Football League, the military, or be an organization that would require “life or death” kinds of decisions for individuals and countries.
It’s important for us to realize that the idea of “coaching” is relatively new, one that in the sports context only stretches to about 150 years. The military style of coaching has dominated our understanding of that vocation, but I wonder if the history of coaching is much longer than we realize.
One of my mentors referred to Jesus as “the master coach.” Jesus was certainly many things (Lord, Savior, Lion, Lamb, keep the list coming…), and I love this image of Him as a coach. Choosing His team. Discipling His followers in the way to go. Helping people do more than they could do on their own. Would Jesus as a coach resemble the picture Lombardi portrays as the best practices for a coach, or would it look different?
At the end of the day, Jesus didn’t coach in the NFL, or the MLB, or the NBA…and neither do most coaches. The context of our coaching matters. If that’s the case, maybe we would do ourselves good to look to Jesus as the master coach, and not the leaders in the NFL. The context may not be the same as the end goal and purpose may not be the same. I’m not going to pretend to know what it looks like to coach at that level, but I think it is safe to say that the highest level of coaching would be one that keeps in mind the great commission as an end goal for coaching for most of us.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…"(Matthew 28:19 NIV)