Today’s lesson is a hard one for any head coach, but it’s something that has to be dealt with.
If somebody keeps refusing to support you, let them go— or you’ll wish you had! This is especially hard if you’re (like me) a nurturer by nature. Somebody who’s invested in making relationships work and will hang in there with someone, hoping they’ll change. You can’t convert the fearful into the faithful! That’s God’s job. God’s “water test” showed Gideon who he could count on and who he couldn’t.
This is one of my favorite Old Testament accounts of how God teaches us to work as a leader. God told Gideon: “You have too large an army. When you’re victorious, they’ll take the credit. Make an announcement: ‘Anyone who has any qualms before we go into battle may leave.’ Twenty two thousand headed home. Ten thousand were left. And God said, ‘There’s still too many. Take them down to the stream and I’ll make a final cut.’”
When the opposition is standing strongly against you is often the time when you lose the most support of those around you. Don’t worry, God is at work. During that first cut, when Gideon lost 22,000 men, what looked like a set-back was really a set-up from God to determine who was dependable. It’s in the rough times that you find out who really stands with you. “Gideon took the soldiers down to the stream. Three hundred lapped from their cupped hands… the rest knelt down to drink. God said, ‘I’ll use the 300 to give you the victory.’”
We learn 2 lessons from this story: 1- You need to be able to SEE your enemy approaching. Those who knelt to drink, sacrificed their vision to satisfy their immediate need. When assistant coaches or players lose track of the vision you have for your program, it usually means that they are more concerned about themselves than the team. I had a player early in my career who didn’t show up for practice on Monday. We weren’t very good at the time but he was a pretty good player. The kids told me that “he quit… that’s why he didn’t come to practice today.” We couldn’t afford to lose a player of his caliber so I called him in my office the next morning to talk to him. At that point he was very repentant and wanted to get back on the team. It had to have been the Lord prompting me, because I got this thought: I asked him, “Ryan, would you rather we go 10 and 0 and you don’t start OR… we go 0 and 10 and you start all 10 games?” He replied, “Go 0 and 10 and I get to start.” I smiled and thanked him and said, “We won’t be needing your services. You made your choice to quit and we’re going to abide by that.”
I knew about this story of Gideon and decided to apply it. It didn’t immediately turn our program around but… this experience was one of those “key moments” when a paradym shift occured and the players realized that when I talked about unselfish play, I meant it!
Second lesson: When it seems that God has reduced your support, it’s to give you a great victory. It’s to show that how somebody without a lot of experience can lead a football team. Somebody who’s lost everything can make a comeback.
So when the people around you can’t pass God’s “water test,” let them go and trust God. He has something better in mind for you. Oh yes…. the player who replaced the one who quit was just a Sophomore at the time. By his senior year, he was an All District player and had a chance to play 1AA ball after he graduated. Our record got better real fast! God is good!!!