I know next to nothing about football. Like, there’s absolutely zero knowledge about football, and then there’s me sitting right next to it. I am not a football fan.
I am a fan, however, of parties, so when the Super Bowl rolls around this Sunday, I will be attending a gathering of my favorite football spectators. But make no mistake — I am there for the food, the people, and the commercials. Beyond that, I don’t even pretend to be interested.
But I do know one thing — a team doesn’t make it to the Super Bowl – the pinnacle of the football experience – without a good coach. The individual players must have the drive, discipline, and raw talent, but the coach takes them where they want to go. The coach can very well make or break the team.
It’s not unlike a parent’s role in raising a family, really. Each child has his or her own personality, character, and skill set, but the parents are responsible for developing that potential into the greatest possible team performance. Just as coaches are tasked with the responsibility to teach, train, and develop their teams, so are parents tasked with the responsibility to teach, train, and motivate their families. And yet, both coaches and parents face the same biggest limitation to success.
I may not know much about football, but I’m learning a thing or two about being a coach at home. Here are four ways raising kids is like coaching a team to the Super Bowl.
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HOW PARENTS ARE LIKE COACHES
One of the essential aspects of a coach’s role is instruction. Coaches teach their players specific skill sets, maneuvers, plays, and techniques to help them achieve peak performance. They give the athletes the knowledge they need for success on the field, court, rink, etc.
Parents have a very similar role in our families. We teach our kids new skills, new techniques for achieving goals, new maneuvers for navigating life’s oppositions. We give them knowledge they need for success in the home, in school, and in the real world. We are their instructors.
Coaches also build a winning team by training their players. Hard. Training involves forming disciplines, correcting mistakes and bad habits, building strength, and developing those newfound skills. For a coach, it means helping the team reach their full potential.
Parents are like trainers for our kids. We instill in them character and discipline, we correct improper behavior, we build spiritual strength in the form of faith and integrity, and we develop our children’s life skills. We are trainers.
Finally, coaches motivate their teams to greatness. They mentor their teams and encourage them. They stir up passion when the game gets hard and push them to give it all they’ve got. They’re not afraid, however, to get tough when the situation calls for it. They speak the truth, even when the truth is hard to hear. But even then, it’s for the good of the player and the good of the team.
Parents are (or should be) the biggest cheerleaders in our kids’ lives. We are their biggest influence and mentors – we are their role models and examples of what being a Christian, wife, husband, mom, dad, etc. means. We encourage our kids to strive for greatness, and we lift them back up when life knocks them down. We love them unconditionally. But we also speak the truth. We don’t shy away from hard conversations, and we address issues that need correction. Because it’s in the best interest of our kids’ long-term success. We are motivators.
Those are three ways parenting is like coaching, but let’s take this metaphor one step further. As Christian parents, we’re not just coaching our families for any old game. We’re coaching them for the Super Bowl.
MY PARENTING “SUPER BOWL”
I’ve never played on an actual sports team before, so I’ve never known the feeling of making it to any kind of playoff or championship or tournament finals. But I can imagine the intention and focus and drive it takes to reach that kind of level. (I had my own comparable experiences in music and academics, so even as an utter non-athlete, I can relate to this kind of goal.)
And I know that in the world of professional football, the Super Bowl is the end game. It is what every team hopes to reach when they start the season. It’s what every athlete hopes to experience when they sign their first pro team. It is the ultimate goal and the pinnacle of a successful season. A coach who ushers their team to the Super Bowl knows that he has done his job well.
My end game, what I’m coaching my family towards, is Heaven and Heaven on earth. My main objective, what drives all my instructing, training, and motivating, is raising kids who love the Lord, accept salvation for their lives, and seek to further God’s Kingdom here in the world. Who welcome Jesus into their own lives and shine the light of Jesus into others’. That is my parenting Super Bowl, and if I can lead them there, then I will know I have done my job well.
But even the best coaches have a limitation that can keep them from reaching the Super Bowl, and it’s the same limitation that can keep us as parents from seeing the ultimate fruits of our labor, as well.
WHAT COACHES AND PARENTS CAN’T DO
Good coaches instruct, good coaches train, and good coaches motivate. Behind a winning team almost certainly stands an effective coach. But there is one thing even the best coaches can’t do.
Coaches can’t do the work for the players.
They can’t make the players exercise. They can’t do the hard work for them. They can’t force them to make good choices. They can’t make their decisions for them on the playing field. They can give them all the tools they need for success, but ultimately it’s up to the players to make good use of them.
In the same way, even the best parents can’t guarantee our children’s success. We can’t do the work for them. We can’t make our kids behave, we can’t make them be kind or loving or compassionate. And we most certainly can’t make them follow God. We cannot force salvation on them. We give our kids all the tools they need, but ultimately it’s up to them to use them.
We can do all the “right” things, and still not end up in the Super Bowl.
But that certainly doesn’t mean we should stop trying! A coach knows when he leads a team that they may or may not make it to the Super Bowl. But that doesn’t mean he takes it easy. He doesn’t adopt a why-even-try attitude. No, he gives it everything he’s got. Because he cares about the team and he takes the endgame seriously. So should we, as parents, do everything we can to raise our kids to love God, love themselves, and love each other. No matter what, we focus on the end goal.
As I stated earlier, my knowledge of football is extremely limited. So the fact that I’m choosing to wrap a post in a sports analogy is pretty hilarious. But I’m hoping the parallels I drew made at least a little sense. 😉
The important roles that coaches play in their teams can make or break a team. And parents, the same could be said for our families. We must take our responsibilities as teachers, trainers, and motivators seriously. Like a coach, we cannot actually do the work for our children, and there is no guarantee of success, but it’s imperative that we try anyway. The endgame is too big not to give it all we’ve got. It’s even bigger than the Super Bowl.
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