A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.
– Ara Parasheghian
Coaches train young people for more than sports, they train them for life. Pope Francis recognized the great influence of coaches recently when he sent a personal message to a seminar in Rome on “Coaches: Educating People.”
“The presence of a good coach-educator”, the Holy Father observed, “is shown to be providential especially during the years of adolescence and early youth, when the personality is developing and in search of role models to refer to and identify with.” Coaches spend much more time with students than other teachers and have great influence on the young people whom they are mentoring.
Indeed it might be said that coaches’ influence on young people is exceeded only by that of parents and family and should always have the goal of building on family values.
“How important it is, then”, the Pope continued, “that a coach be an example of integrity, coherence, good judgement, impartiality, and also joy, patience, and the capacity for appreciation and benevolence towards all, and especially the most disadvantaged!”.
Sports can never be just about winning but about “putting in perspective both our defeats and our victories. … and how important it is for [coaches] to be an example of faith…. with human and spiritual balance,” Pope Francis added, concluding, “ensuring that [sport] does not become distorted under the pressure of many interests, especially those of an economic nature, which are increasingly evident nowadays”.
I am reminded of a verse from the Sportsman’s Prayer: “If I should win, let it be by the code with my faith and my honor held high; and if I should lose, let me stand by the road, and cheer as the winners go by.”
Good sportsmanship is more than a code for playing; it is a code for living.