Call Me Coach: Winning Starts At Home
by Tim Popadic
If you have children, you’re no stranger to the countless things that kids will ask of you – including the roles that they expect parents to play in their lives. On one hand, it’s flattering that children think their parents have an endless supply of wisdom and energy. On the other hand, the reality is that trying to balance your family and ministry life is no easy task.
Over the past few years my son, Graham, has requested something of me that I didn’t think was possible. He asked me to become a coach for his little league team. Every year I put him off with some great (at least to me) excuses: “Son, I’m too busy”; “I’ve never been athletic”; or the best one yet, “we have too many kids for me to coach everyone.” And every year Graham would patiently wait for me to understand just how important this was for him.
Just to set some context regarding my athletic abilities, I was one of the only people in history to be cut from the track team in high school. But athleticism aside, I also didn’t want to overcommit to something that might pull me away from my other responsibilities (ministry, etc.). So I checked into the process of becoming a coach, and found out that the only requirement was taking an online course followed by a short half-hour exam.
Each year our family sets goals that we hold each other to. Some are related to experiences, some educational, and some are outright dares – and this was mine. Examination day finally arrived; after years of excuses, and days of course review, I finally stepped up to the coaching challenge and took the test.
I’ve taken a lot of exams in my life, but for some reason this one created more anxiety and sweat than all of them put together. My only inspiration was the little heart of my son. The test should have only required about 30 minutes, but somehow took about three hours of my time. When I finally finished, I called Graham in to share the news that he could now call his Dad “Coach.” He jumped into my arms and then stood up and did a dance. He said, “Today is one of the best days of my life!” It was as if this exam meant more to him than I will ever realize.
I don’t want to over-analyze the test, but it was a close one. I needed to answer 80 percent of the questions correctly, and I scored 83 percent. I wasn’t aiming to be a head coach; I just wanted to be a father who kept his promises and made his son’s heart jump – even if it was only for a second.
Graham went on to play baseball for the next four years on every travel team he could make, and even went all the way to Cooperstown. I, on the other hand, retired after the second season. It was quite an honor to coach from the sidelines and cheer my boy onto great memories and real life lessons of winning and defeat.
More importantly, the day I became “Coach” taught me a valuable lesson: Winning at home requires being intentional in every area. I was not coaching material, but my son thought I was. Mark 10:14 says “Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in” (MSG). It’s remarkable to me how our children can often speak into our lives through their simple faith.
Even several years later, my son still remembers my fairly brief tenure as his coach. He recently said to me: “Dad, I’ll never forget the day you took that exam. You weren’t the best coach, but you did what you could. You challenged me to be better and try things that I’m not good at. I’m so glad I can still call you Coach!” No matter how many degrees I’ve earned, sermons I’ve preached, or seminars I’ve taught, nothing – absolutely nothing – matters more to me than winning the hearts of my children.
So listen closely to your children’s hearts. What do they see in you that you can’t see yourself? Perhaps God wants to teach you something by giving you the opportunity to view your life through the eyes of your own kids.