“A wise man will create more opportunities than he finds.” — Francis Bacon
The word “opportunity” is a word that brings promise, hope and responsibility. Coaches are in a unique position. They indirectly—and sometimes directly—provide opportunities for those they coach. As we have probably heard before, opportunities usually come disguised as hard work. Many times coaches can help those in their circle of influence to recognize opportunity in every situation. Coaches not only help athletes seek and take advantage of opportunities, they also have an opportunity almost daily to make a difference with individuals on their teams and in their schools and communities.
Opportunities abound in the world of coaching. They include, but are not limited to:
- Teaching skills in the sport you love
- Competing while representing your school or organization
- Influencing your staff, players and other students to have higher standards
- Developing a coaching philosophy of your own
- Building a positive culture in your school or organization
- Giving others opportunity and hope
Giving hope? Yes, you read that correctly. Coaches have opportunities that perhaps few others have to provide both hope and purpose in their sphere of influence. When I was a young athlete, I looked up to my coaches as leaders in our school, people with wisdom and the ability and willingness to give wisdom and advice. I don’t think that has changed. I believe your athletes look up to you. For some of them, you may be the only one they can look up to.
Warren Buffett has said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Some of the seeds you plant may not bear fruit for many years to come. As coaches, we need to accept and appreciate that. A win may provide instant gratification, but helping develop a young man’s character may produce positive benefits for generations to come.
As a coach, what hope do you have that you can share with your athletes? Hope for an education, if you persevere and put in the work. Hope for perhaps even a scholarship or an opportunity to be drafted by a major league club. Hope for a good future. Those are all good things, but they require investment—an investment from coaches in time, encouragement, discipline and caring. If all that we give our student-athletes are better skills on the diamond, we are missing out on a great opportunity. God will supply us with the opportunity, but it is up to us to do something with it. Excuses will always be there for us, but opportunities won’t.
As a coach, we should always be seeking opportunities to get the best out of our athletes. Ask questions. Listen. Observe interactions with teammates. Spend extra time with players who struggle in the classroom or seem troubled. Keep them after practice for extra groundball or batting practice. Talk to them.
Recently, I read a short devotional by Max Lucado. A statistic he shared was startling. Max said that the suicide rate in America has increased 24 percent since 1999. Perhaps by providing hope and opportunities, the coaching community can lower those statistics. Great coaches show athletes how to turn challenges into opportunities. Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Your big opportunity to change or even save a life may be right where you are now.
“Be wise…make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5)
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” (Galatians 6:10a)