We were playing a Christian school from across the state. They had a small pep band that squeaked out a fight song that was supposed to help the guys play better. Both schools had cheerleaders that were cheering away. It was kind of noisy on the sideline. On the other side of the field my halfback was trying to dribble the ball with a guy riding on his back like a cowboy trying to break a mustang. I had had enough so I let it rip. I expressed my “displeasure” at the referee’s obvious lack of visual ability. Suddenly the band stopped playing, the cheerleaders stopped cheering and I was left standing there continuing my tirade. (I had to finish my thought.) The referee stopped the game and walked all the way across the field. He finally reached my sideline position and held a yellow card above my head. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
That was the beginning of my journey to discover and develop my Christian philosophy of coaching and athletics. I had been involved in soccer for six years prior to becoming a teacher in a small Christian school in Maryland. We started a soccer program with little experience. Little player experience. Zero coaching experience. I knew the importance of representing Christ in my life but was not able to translate it to the practice and playing field.
I was exposed to the writing of Wes Neal. He wrote about a Christian philosophy of athletics that would have a real positive effect on my coaching. I recall a couple of very basic principles from Col. 3:23. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” 1.) God is my audience. We practice and play with the idea that God is watching and we are seeking His approval. We aren’t trying to please our coach, our parents in the stands, or our girlfriend who is watching. Pleasing God is our motivation. 2.) We practice and play with our whole heart. The way we would measure winning was whether we played to the best of our ability. That might not mean running full blast all over the field. It did mean playing smart. Follow the rules. Help the guy up. The applications were numberless.
The philosophy was caught by the players. We had many guys who played soccer for the first time. We had some that went on to play at the college level. I believe the guys were able to take what they learned from soccer and apply it to their lives as Christian young men. And by the way: No more yellow cards for me.
Don Netz- Principal Gloucester County Christian School
Former Soccer Coach- Calvary Baptist Church Academy
Glen Burnie, MD