Midweek Musing for 4-20-22 - Coach Jesus
Often in the education field, coaches—be they football, basketball, PE, baseball, soccer, etc.—are picked and criticized rather openly by the more academically oriented members of a school’s faculty.
To be blunt, the Calculus teacher or the English Literature teacher or the Chemistry teacher may look down on or even make fun of the coaches because they feel the coaches’ work is not as academically rigorous or challenging as the subjects they teach. In fact, more than once, I have heard other teachers talk about coaches, calling them “dumb jocks” or saying their classes are just easy A’s and that they really do nothing. I have even heard more colorful metaphors used to describe coaches, but since this a church publication and not That 70s Show or HBO I will not use those descriptors.
Now some of this ridicule may be well-deserved. I have been a student in the class with the coach who handed out textbooks and worksheets on Monday and collected them on Friday. And for the rest of the week told us to shut up and do our work while they sat at their desk and worked on the game plan for Friday night’s game against the cross-town rival.
In recent years, however, educational research and educational journals have published the discovery that what coaches do in coaching their sport – that the strategies they use to teach their players – are perhaps the most effective tools teachers can utilize in their classroom teaching.
And that when classroom teachers apply these “dumb jock coach’s” techniques in their academic subjects, students’ overall performance and academic growth was far greater than those classrooms that did not utilize these tools.
Now the top two things research states that coaches do well are that they build relationships and model/demonstrate for their players.
Coaches get to know their players. They know their skill set. They know strengths and weaknesses. They know likes and dislikes. They know about their families. They can tell you the classes and teachers they like. They know what church they go to or if they even go to church. They know who they hang out with and who they date. They can tell you their favorite food and music and the list goes on. They take the time to get to know them and share their lives with them as well. Players know the coach’s wife and their kids and what the coach likes and dislikes.
In short, the coach gets to know them and cares for them as a person.
Many times, if you ask a kid their favorite person in a school it is a coach. And if you then ask them why it is not because their class is easy, but it is because they know that that coach knows them. And because they know that the coach knows and cares for them, they are willing to work hard for them.
The second thing (strategy) a coach uses is called modeling. What that means is that a coach doesn’t just tell you what to do; they show you what to do. They show players how to hold their hands to execute bunting a baseball. They demonstrate body position to properly set a volleyball. They even get down in a stance to show a lineman how to execute a block. And as coaches get old and cannot demonstrate quite as well, they hire assistant coaches who can.
Research has shown that modeling is perhaps the most effective strategy a teacher can use. I can tell you how to do math verbally or what a good sentence looks like, but unless you are a super-bright, auditory learner you may struggle with the material. However, when the teacher demonstrates and models whatever it is they are trying to teach, the success of the learners goes up exponentially.
This is why so many people who struggled in school academically turned out to be great mechanics or plumbers or artists or musicians. Because in those jobs folks modeled what they were to do and then had them do it.
I think we as the church can learn from this.
In fact, if we really look at the Biblical text, we will discover that this is what Jesus, who even in the garden after his resurrection was called teacher, did in his time on Earth.
Jesus formed relationships everywhere he went. And though he was criticized about them, the criticism was not about his building relationships—it was about the people he created them with. Jesus also modeled the things he said. He touched lepers, cared for the poor, fed the hungry, spoke to those society shunned, and even washed his students’ feet. He modeled love and grace so we might know how to live and what to do. I am not sure if the word rabbi could be translated as coach as well as teacher, but it occurs to me that it might be a good synonym—because I am sure it is an accurate description of our Lord.
In our world today I find a lot of folks who love to talk about Jesus. These folks love explaining stuff about God. They even post on all the social media platforms about what folks are doing right and wrong. They talk and talk about Jesus. They talk about salvation and about God’s love, but their actions don’t match their words.
What I believe is that we are called to show the love of Jesus. That we are called to model the love and grace of God. One of my favorite hymns is They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love. In the hymn it talks about doing love. Walking with each other and working with each other.
I have no doubt that the world would be far better off, and the church’s witness far greater if everyone
worried less about talking about the love of God and instead went about doing the acts of love and kindness placed before them.
It is then folks will indeed know about Jesus because they will see it modeled before them thorough the relationships we make and the acts of mercy and justice we do.
In the name of the Father and the Sona and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia. Amen.