Coaching 4 Life aims to change athletic culture in Canada
For kids who grow up playing sports, one of the most important people in their lives is their coach. A good coach doesn’t just make his players better on the field, court, or ice, but can make them better people, improving their confidence, character, and self-discipline.
The resources available for coaches in Canada, however, are primarily focussed on winning more games—tactics, strategies, and teaching styles—rather than on developing athletes as people. That’s where Coaching 4 Life steps in.
“It’s not just X’s and O’s,” says Mike Shearon, who heads up the Coaching 4 Life program with Athletes in Action. “What Coaching 4 Life is all about is calling Christian coaches to a different way of coaching and helping them see that coaching is more than just wins and losses.”
Shearon certainly understands winning, helping the Trinity Western University men’s soccer team to three CIS medals, three Canada West Championships, and three Canada West league titles as an assistant coach and associate head coach. He was named the new head coach of the Spartans earlier this year.
But his time coaching with TWU and with Athletes in Action soccer camps, as well as his years as a player, has taught him that there’s something more important than winning.
“It’s been a journey of trying to figure out how God interacts with sport, how faith interacts with sport, and how it works as a coach,” he says. “It’s good to be successful and win games and put the best product on the field that we can, but I think there’s a way of doing it that fits with who God has created us to be.”
Going through that journey has helped Shearon put together the Coaching 4 Life program, along with many other Athletes in Action staff, who drew from their experiences working with athletes and coaches at all levels. Together, they created a set of practical tools to help coaches fulfill their purpose.
“There are a lot of coaches who are very successful,” he says, “but they use their athletes to build themselves. And there are some coaches that a lot of people might not know about that are very, very good coaches who are more into building their athletes.
“If you look at a youth game, you can tell which coaches are completely insecure, finding their identity still in sport and living vicariously through their team. And you can tell which ones are coaching for something greater.”
That is the key, according to Shearon: finding your identity in God rather than in sport. That’s where Coaching 4 Life starts with their conferences, one of which is coming up on April 29th and 30th in Edmonton.
“Each conference is revolving around getting the core of the coach in the right spot,” he says, “and inspiring them to live the life that God’s called them to. It’s an inward-outward journey. We go inward with God, God fills us with hope and with life and that comes outward and we’re able to bring that to others. The core of the coach has to be right.
“If you’re a Christian, then your identity is not wrapped up in sport; your identity should be first and foremost found in Christ and then that actually leads into living out that coaching role in a different way.”
If a coach’s identity is not wrapped up in something greater and is still found in sport, that leads to athletes living the same way. Shearon knows that from experience.
“As a kid,” he says, “the two main athletic influencers in my life were my dad and my coach. How I performed and what I did really led to me believing that my identity was solely based in sport.
“Most of our ministry time [with AIA] is spent working with athletes and helping them figure out their identity, but in many ways, the coach begins to form that identity in their athletes.”
That’s why Coaching 4 Life is so important, says Shearon: “You can actually help athletes build their future with sport; those are things that last way longer than whether you can kick or throw a ball.
“Our hope is that as we continue to inspire more and more coaches to coach differently, then the athletic culture begins to change within Canada.”