If you’re familiar with 3D Coaching you know the difference between transactional and transformational coaching. I have found the two terms, transactional and transformational, to be useful in helping me evaluate what I’m really trying to accomplish as a coach.
A transactional coach is only concerned about what an athlete can do for him or her in the realm of competition. This type of coach is only interested in improving performance on the field, court, mat, track, etc. Transactional coaches have little interest in developing people; they only develop players.
Transformational coaches, on the other hand, desire to use competition as a medium for developing the whole person. While improving performance in competition is important to the transformational coach it’s only a component of what he or she is trying to accomplish.
This year I’m being reminded of how easy it is to fall into the temptation of being a transactional coach. From 2009-2013 our football team had three seven win regular seasons. Seven wins here in Nebraska is a big deal because during those years we only played eight regular season games. Our coaching staff has always done it’s best to be transformational coaches, but I can assure you that winning can cause you to lose your focus and start thinking more like a transactional coach. Slowly (often so slowly you aren’t noticing the change in yourself) you begin to value the scoreboard, statistics, and playoff appearances more and more.
I mention those previous seasons because wins have proven to be quite a bit more difficult to come by the last two years. We’ve still had solid talent on our teams, but we have played a brutal schedule (tonight we play our fourth game of the season and our third against a top ten team). We missed the playoffs last year for the first time in seven or eight years.
Losing has exposed my natural tendency to be a transactional coach. I want to win. I love to win. Truth be told, it’s hard for me to really believe I can be valuable as a coach if I don’t win. I think Herm Edwards had a point all those years ago when he told the media “YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!” We all play to win, but there is so much more to high school sports than winning. The lessons young people can learn through sports are invaluable and the coach that makes sure those lessons are learned has great value in this society regardless of what the scoreboard says.
The great thing about Christ is that in Him that last sentence is just the beginning. Yes, I can be a valuable member of society if I am a transformational coach rather than a transactional coach, but in Christ that’s just the beginning of my value. My value before God, and the value of all believers in Christ, is found only in Christ. It’s not what I produce as a coach that makes me valuable before God it’s what Christ did for me when He died for my sins and was resurrected from the grave conquering sin and death.
This reality, that my value is in Christ alone, frees me to value transformation over transaction. Practically speaking this means that tonight, as my team takes the field against yet another top ten team, I am free to value progress, effort, attitude, and unselfishness more than great play. I am free to keep my energy focused on developing the next generation of Christian men rather than trying to prove I have value as a coach.
It’s this mindset that leads directly to the ultimate goal we all should have as Christian competitors: Pursue your God-given potential and become more like Christ in the process.
Do you realize how freeing that goal is? If you do, then you understand completely how Christ has freed all those who believe in Him from the bondage of sin. He is our loving Master whom we serve with great joy because in Him we have died to sin and stand righteous before a holy and loving God.
Only God knows who will win our game tonight, but the Gospel reminds me that I can be successful as a coach regardless of what the scoreboard says. If I have pursued my God-given potential as a coach and become more like Christ in the process the game is a success. Not only that, but I know now, about four hours before kickoff, that I am valuable before God no matter what happens because my value is in Christ.
Lord willing my players will have the same attitude and our God will be worshipped as we Compete4Christ tonight.