“Do as I say but not as I do” is not a very effective coaching strategy. Yet we tend to default to this strategy in certain situations. We instruct our players to keep their emotions in check, but then we lose it when someone makes a mistake or a ref misses a call. We drill into our players the importance of eating right and taking care of themselves, but then we make repeated choices that undermine our own physical, emotional, and spiritual health. These are issues of self-control.
Self-control is the final quality listed in Galatians 5:22-23 as part of the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The truth is, most of us struggle with self-control in at least some areas. How can we grow in this quality that is so crucial for spiritual maturity?
Utilizing a sports metaphor, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 points the way: “24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Here are three dimensions of growth in self-control:
1. Recognize what’s at stake. Self-control is not a “nice if you have it but no big deal if you don’t” quality. When it comes to the life for which God created us, self-control plays an essential role in determining whether we obtain the prize (v. 24) or we’re disqualified (v. 27). Just as the athletes you coach won’t reach their full potential if they lack self-control, you’ll miss out on the fullness of all God desires to do in and through your coaching and your life if you fail to exercise self-control.
2. Do a personal “self-control assessment.” Take an honest look at the various areas of your approach to coaching and life. Where is self-control lacking? Is it with your anger, the way you speak, or even the way you express yourself nonverbally when you’re frustrated or impatient? Is it in the use of time or in focusing on the most important tasks instead of getting distracted by lesser things, including too much time on social media? Do you struggle with self-control when it comes to certain appetites, whether it’s eating too much or sexual desires expressed in sinful ways? Ask God to reveal to you those areas where you’re “running aimlessly” and undermining his good design for you.
3. Follow Jesus’ example of exercising self-control for the benefit of others. Consider how Jesus “disciplined his body and kept it under control” (v. 27) so that he could fulfill his mission. He resisted every temptation to sin (Heb. 4:15). He did not retaliate when he was unjustly subjected to false accusations, cruel suffering, and undeserved execution on a cross. In all things, Jesus exercised self-control for our benefit – so that we can experience salvation and life in him.
When Jesus is our Lord and Leader, our perspective on self-control is transformed. We realize that self-control isn’t just for our personal benefit. It’s for the benefit of others. When you exercise self-control so that you can approach coaching according to God’s design, your players and fellow coaches will benefit. When you exercise self-control in pursuing spiritual, emotional, and physical health, you’ll be able to offer those you care about the best version of yourself: what God has in mind for you.
Growth in self-control offers such significant rewards to you and to those around you! You can do this by Christ’s power and grace through his Spirit working in you. Then you as a coach can lead your players not only with your words but also with your example.
For reflection: Take some time to reflect on and pray about the three dimensions of growth in self-control. In the particular areas of your coaching and life where greater self-control is needed, commit this to the Lord.