Of all of the ingredients needed to become a really good athlete, two of theme are key; talent, and coaching. With great talent and great coaching, you could become a pro. With no talent and bad coaching, you probably won’t make it a season and end up hating the game. With little talent and good coaching, you will probably have fun but not go as far as others, and you’ll be good with that. With little talent and bad coaching, you will be frustrated and definitely not go as far as your potential. There is an interesting parallel between coaching and discipleship resulting in how far and how well people follow Jesus.

tenniskids

As a kid my parents put me in sports. I played soccer for a few years and learned that when the ball hits you, anywhere, it hurts. It hurts more when its cold and rainy which it always is in Vancouver, WA through soccer season. I also learned that I don’t have a killer instinct, but rather a Monty Python “Run away!” instinct. No talent, good coaches, but these aren’t the coaches we’re talking about. I just wanted to lay the foundation of my athletic prowess.

Baseball

As a really little kid, I played Tee-Ball. I learned later in life that most kids who play do so for one, maybe two years. I played for three. Go ahead, laugh, I’ll wait. I had no talent. I didn’t play pitch the next year which was the first year I was eligible age-wise. For some reason I wanted to give it a shot the next year after.

I don’t remember much, but I do remember this; the coaches were bad coaches. Not once did they actually teach me, nor anyone else on the team, any fundamental skills or strategies about the game of baseball. The coaching, for me anyway, amounted to

  • Hit the ball!
  • Catch the ball!
  • Throw the ball!

If I did get on base during practice and the next player hit a fly ball to the outfield, coach would yell, “Tag up!” at me. I had no idea what he meant. I didn’t learn what this meant until sometime in early adulthood. (If you don’t know, best to just Google it.) I was worse than Scott Smalls from The Sandlot (ironically one of my favorite movies by the way).

If I got the ball (in right field), I had no idea where I was supposed to throw it which resulted in me being yelled at by the coaches. I was also the kid who watched the ball go over his head and behind him because I didn’t know how to catch it. Being at bat was terrifying. Aren’t your supposed to avoid things that are thrown at you, not stand in their way with a stick? I almost never got a hit. However, on the last pitch of my last-ever game of baseball, I hit a double! Someone else got thrown out which ended the game. I don’t think I ever made it around all of the bases once.

For the longest time, though less so these days, I didn’t like baseball. I had no idea how to follow the game! Why did he throw it to second? Why was that guy out? Why do these guys get paid so much money to sit in the dugout? Isn’t a dugout a kind of canoe?

All of this primarily because of bad coaching.

Tennis

After baseball, and after soccer, came tennis. I’m not sure, but I think this started when some of us got bored and thought we’d play for fun. The city had build a court on our elementary school property and was free for public use. We got pretty good on our own, such as we were. I got myself signed up for some lessons through the Parks and Rec. Enter Rogé.

Rogé had a European accent I couldn’t quite place. He was one of the staff instructors at the Vancouver Tennis Center. He was a good coach. He taught us how to move our feet. He taught us the mechanics of a swing. How to move around the court. When to rush to the net and how to volley. He watched and corrected. He watched and praised. He encouraged us to watch tennis on TV. He would work with us longer than he was paid to.

Rogé was a good coach. And that European accent was pretty cool too.

In middle school I decided to enter a tournament the Center was having. I lost 0-6. But you know what? I didn’t care. I had fun. While I never played for my high school team, that same group of friends from elementary school played together often. I also looked forward to watching Wimbledon every summer.

  • Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl
  • Steffi Graf and Monica Seles
  • Jim Courier and Pete Sampras
  • Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova
  • John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors
  • Andre Agassi and Michael Chang

I still love watching Wimbledon every year, even if ESPN’s coverage is lame compared to NBC back in the day. Every year it inspires me to start playing again, though that has yet to happen. This was all due to good coaching by Rogé.

As a foot note, when I was a senior in high school I was dating a girl who went to another school. One day, while hanging out at her house, one of her family friends came over. He looked very familiar and was introduced as Roger. It was Rogé! The accent and the name was just this goofy thing he did to help pass the time of teaching! He was just another ordinary American dude who loved tennis. It was fun to reconnect and tell him I still played for fun.

Discipleship

Some people who disciple others in following Jesus do so like my baseball coaches. They basically don’t. They say, “Good job” to the ones who seem to get it, at least at first, while not actually demonstrating or teaching anything. If those being discipled mess up, or fall off of the radar, the discipler doesn’t really do anything about it. Really, they just tend to look for people who are doing well and claim them as disciples, with no actual discipleship taking place.

Then there are those who disciple others like Roger did (hopefully without the goofy name and fake accent). They actually demonstrate what you are supposed to do. They show you how. They help you do. They tell you who else to watch as good and bad examples, just like Jesus did. My hope is that others would describe me this way as I have the opportunity to disciple them.

Next Steps

If you are someone discipling others, how are you doing? Are you actually demonstrating and teaching, or are you just chatting over coffee and putting on events? Are the people you are discipling more like trophies for you, or are they trainees into which you are investing your life? Be like Rogé, not nameless baseball coaches. Take some time and find someone to teach you how to disciple others well, which means they will be discipling you well.

If you are someone being discipled, how is it going? Are you being given an example to follow? Do you love to live the life even if you lose sometimes? Do you dream of leading others as you have been led? If not you are missing out on what it’s supposed to be like. Ask someone you know and trust who would be a good discipler.

If you are not yet being discipled, why aren’t you being discipled? I hope you are now better equipped in terms of what to look for. Look for a good coach who loves the game and his students. Look for someone who did it like Jesus did.

Game, set, match.