Last weekend I had the opportunity to hang with and speak to about 55 coaches and their spouses. This was a weekend conference at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley put on by a group called Coaches Time-Out (CTO), which is part of Pro Football Outreach. My good friend, Steve Stenstrum, is the President of Pro Football Outreach and he invited me to be one of the speakers. I was joined by David and Kelli Pritchard, who spoke on marriage; Don Christiansen, who spoke on managing money; and Steve Kennelley, who spoke on leadership. Joe Broussard, the National Director for CTO, did an excellent job hosting the conference.
Part of the reason this was fun for me is that I have a heart for coaches and their spouses. As I think back to my own growing up, I can see how influential coaches were in my life. Men like Tom Burt, Bob Baird, Ron Moser at Los Altos High School and Jim Sanderson at Cal Poly had a huge impact on me. I was like wet cement and they made an imprint on me that has lasted to this day. Growing up, I never understood how much they sacrificed to invest in me and others. It makes me also appreciate the many coaches who are now part of the church I pastor and I am reminded of the important ministry they have in the lives of children.
Coaches were so important in shaping my life that I went to college as a P.E. major with the intent of being a coach. God re-routed me to pastoral ministry, but I have still done some coaching along the way. I coached varsity football for a year at Mountain View High School. I also coached wrestling for a year at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton while serving as a youth pastor at a nearby church. One of the joys of my life was coaching all three of my kids in soccer, football and baseball. I’m not sure I was all that good at it, but I wanted to coach because of what my coaches had meant to me. Even now as a pastor, much of what I do with our staff is more like coaching than pastoring.
Coaches continue to be an important part of my life. I have a son-in-law who is a football coach at Stanford University. I am very proud of him and my daughter, who see coaching as more of a calling than a job. My own son, Matt, has had a lifelong dream of being a Division One football coach. He is now approaching his senior year at Wheaton College where he plays football. I’m more than grateful for the coaches at Wheaton College, like Mike Swider and Rodney Sandberg, who have invested in my son and have provided a sterling example of what it means to be not just a football player but a man of God.
If you get a chance, find a way to say thanks to the coaches in your life. Better yet, pay a coach’s way to one of the conferences put on by CTO next summer.