Editor’s note: To help Christian sportspeople navigate these uncertain times, we will be publishing a series of posts focused on what it looks like to “Run The Race Well” in a time of coronavirus and quarantine. We will be getting contributions from a variety of perspectives: theologians, philosophers, athletes, coaches, mental health professionals, seminary students, and more. This post comes from Jessika Caldwell, head girls basketball coach at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.
The buzzer sounded on our last game in the Colorado state basketball tournament. Our season was over. But by the next day another season was beginning—one I was not qualified nor prepared for. I went from being the head coach on the sidelines of a state semi-final game to the kitchen table as a reluctant homeschool mom.
I struggled with guilt at first for not enjoying and embracing it. But a friend helped me out. She listened to me lament and responded with a sentiment of true wisdom. “It’s not easy teaching someone else’s lessons,” she said. “Think of it like coaching someone else’s game plan.”
The analogy struck me. It made sense and it explained the sense of inadequacy I was feeling. It would be so tough to coach a plan intended for another coach and another team. I could probably muster my way through, but comprehending the totality of the game plan and the vision for the season would be murky at best.
My friend’s words also caused me to examine my own heart, especially in regards to planning and control. As a coach, planning is in my DNA. I plan out practices, schedules, and even our team’s spiritual game plan for the season. I schedule my children’s days to the point that they wake up asking, “What’s the plan for the day?” It’s uncharted territory for me to feel like my “game plan” is truly out of whack.
Yet, that’s how I feel right now. As I have pressed further into this, I’ve felt the Lord calling me to a sense of surrender. It hasn’t been easy, but in the process of trying to teach my children, I’ve been learning new lessons myself. Here are three that stand out during this new and uncharted season.
#1: Make Game-time Adjustments
As a coach, the plans that I have may be great in theory. But I never truly know until we are in the game. And even then I often have to make game-time adjustments to account for new situations and circumstances. Right now, I’m learning that I have to adjust my attitude.
Any plans we make these days are sure to be disrupted. Something as simple as a Zoom call for work turns into chaos with a tiny human running around the house in a bike helmet, Sharpie in hand. How do I respond? Even though I consistently ask my athletes to focus on the two things they can control—effort and attitude—in this situation, my frustration mounts. I snap at the tiny human and then I snap at the situation and then I throw my hands up in exasperation at the Lord. (Insert face palm here).
Maybe I should listen to a bit of my own coaching and recognize that my attitude can (and does) shape my experience.
Facing so much everyday uncertainty has struck a chord in me that I’ve never really explored. Am I more driven by the plans of my life or the Lord of all the plans? Home schooling may not have been my plan. But I still serve a good God. Can I find God at work every day in the midst of it? Can I make a heart-adjustment to have gratitude on a daily basis?
#2: Growing my Foundation
I sat in on my four-year-old’s preschool Zoom call a few weeks ago. It was precious and funny and cute to see these little humans interact. I watched it all at first like an amused observer.
Then the teacher began to read the story of the week, and I realized that this preschool story time might be meant for me. The story of the day was It Will Be Okay by Lysa TerKeurst. It tells the tale of a seed. In the beginning, the seed is happy to be safe in the farmhouse, protected by the fox. Then one day the seed is taken out into the world and planted by the farmer. It feels lonely, hard, and dark. But in the end the seed sprouts, growing fully into its potential.
I saw myself as the little seed in the story. I realized that in this time of waiting and uncertainty, God is helping me to grow DEEP roots. Just as the roots have to grow before the seed pops up out of the ground, my foundation in Christ must deepen so that when the time comes for me to walk into the next season of my life, I am rooted in Christ.
In a way it’s like those practices that you don’t really want to participate in. You might have to drag yourself to the gym. But you show up, ready to work, because you know that it’s going to build the foundation to be ready when it’s game time. In this time of practice, I know that the Lord is preparing me for His plans in the seasons to come.
#3: Trust the Grand Planner
This may not be my plan. I don’t feel particularly equipped to execute this plan. But do I trust in the Grand Planner? This is the question that I continue to wrestle with. I love the Lord, I say I trust His plan…but then again, do I trust that His plan is right for me, for right now?
I think of my experience as a coach. It’s frustrating when my players don’t buy into the game plan that I worked so hard to build. I watch all the film, prepare all the scouting reports, and confidently arrive at practice with a plan that is unquestionably thorough and unapologetically a “winner.” But sometimes I’m met with disinterest, doubt, and questions. That’s a tough one to handle as a coach.
I can’t imagine what the Lord might think of my response, then. He has shown up with the right plan at the right time for my life over and over again. Yet, when it’s not what I envision as the right plan, why do I still get frustrated? Why do I still question His intention?
Am I in it for my glory or His?
Recently we sang a worship song during online church and the words just washed over me.
Even in the valley, You are faithful
You’re working for our good
You’re working for our good and for Your glory
The Grand Planner is working for our good and for His glory. And that knowledge is really all the “plan” we need.
About the author: Jessika Caldwell is Campus Chaplain and Head Girls Basketball Coach for Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. She played college basketball for Baylor University and spent a year playing professional basketball overseas before returning to the United States to pursue a coaching career. Before coming to Valor she served as a head coach and top assistant for two NCAA Division II programs.