Angelo Dundee. Ivan Lendl. Tim Grover. Patrick Mouratoglou. Any of those names mean anything to you? Probably not, but how about these. Muhammed Ali. Andy Murray. Michael Jordan. Serena Williams. Those are probably a bit more familiar.
The first group of names are the coaches for each those sporting superstars. They are the ones spending all the hours out of the spotlight so that, when the time comes, the athlete has a chance at victory.
The coach-athlete relationship has always fascinated me. Sometimes, a player will become a coach, after achieving highly in their chosen sport or discipline. More often, though, the coach is someone who hasn’t made it as a player, or didn’t even try. Isn’t that interesting? That an elite athlete will hire someone who isn’t as good as them to train them? Imagine telling the greatest basketball player ever to improve his jumping? Or correcting Muhammad Ali on how to throw a punch? What must that be like?!
Now, you and I may not need an athletic coach, but the Bible is full of plenty of comparisons between a life of faith and sport. We’re commanded to “run the race”, to fight “not aimlessly, like a boxer beating the air”, to go into” strict training in order to get a crown that will last forever”. So, if we are going to finish well, if we’re going to seize all that God has for us, maybe we need a coach too?
We have a Christian word for this – discipleship – but it can be helpful to think about it in terms of a coach or mentor relationship. Someone who can watch us as we go through life, encourage us, correct us, challenge and motivate us. Having a mentor, someone who is older, more experienced, who you can be honest with and who will help you discover all that God has for you, is one of the greatest gifts in the world.
It doesn’t have to be your pastor – although it might be. There may be a man or woman whom you respect; who has faith that you’d love to learn from, knowledge that you’d love to know, a marriage or lifestyle worth copying. Approach them. Ask them if they’d be open to mentoring or coaching you. Set a time and a place and stick at it. Accept the correction and welcome the encouragement. It could change everything – both this year, and for the rest of your race.