When I was sixteen years old, I sat in the front row of a large funeral home surrounded by my family. The church was packed with friends and neighbors, teammates and coaches, and a whole bunch of people I didn’t know. But, they knew me. Because they had known my father. He was the man in the casket in the front of the room.
In the grief that comes with losing a parent, I remember very little of that day. But, I remember the sermon. It was a message that would change my life and, eventually, shape my perspective as a coach’s wife.
As it turns out, the preacher that day was my sister’s track coach. Only weeks before my Dad passed, I learned that Coach Fields’ other title was Pastor Fields. Like so many of our husbands, he understood coaching as a ministry, hoping to impact the young people in his care. His expertise as a track coach became the focus of the funeral sermon for my father — and it was absolutely perfect.
You see, my Dad’s life ended at forty-nine. Middle-age. Certainly not when you expect, or want, anyone’s life to end. But, Pastor Fields didn’t speak of a life that ended too soon. Rather, he talked about the race my Dad was given to run, and commended him for doing it well.
Here’s an excerpt (as best I can remember)…
“In track, there are all types of runners. There are sprinters. There are middle-distance runners. And, there are long-distance runners. Brother Roger was a middle-distance runner. His job was to do well in the time that he was given. And he did.” Then, he shared these verses:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, NIV
“Brother Roger ran his race in a way that he gained the prize. He is not gone too soon. His race was done.”
Although the focus that day was on the end of my Dad’s life, I have carried that message with me in this life as a coach’s wife. Coaching has a lot of “races” that end, too.
You lose a senior class every season.
You may stay at some schools a long time, and others only a year or two.
And, someday, the coaching life itself will end.
For some, this will be at retirement. But, for others, it will be at middle-age or even this year. Not all coaches are lifers, and that is really and truly okay.
We must remember that it is unwise, and unhelpful, for us to place our boundaries around God’s timing. For everything there is a season. Some of us would like out of this coaching life and some of us don’t ever want it to end. Regardless of how we feel, our job is simply to run our race well — short, middle-distance, or long.
I don’t know if it is you or your coach who needs to hear this today: God does not equate the length of a coach’s career with his value. Rather, it is the quality of the coaching in the time he is given that matters.
Press on, dear coaching sisters, until the coaching is no more. Run in such a way as to gain the prize, and then embrace it when it comes.