Paul Putz

Sports are more than a game.

As much as we might delight in the pure joy of competition, it’s impossible to entirely separate organized athletics from the rest of the world in which we live. Questions about meaning, values, priorities, race, gender, faith, identity, community, and more are bound up in our sports. And those questions do not remain on the sidelines until the game is over. They enter into and influence the competitive environment as well. The players and coaches who compete between the lines do not suddenly shed their identities as human beings when they enter the game. No, they carry with them a self that has been shaped and defined in part by the cultural and social environment in which they live.

Sports, in other words, are more than a game.

But that does not mean it is easy to take on the “beyond the game” questions, especially in our fraught and divided cultural climate. Because while sports are more than game, they are also a game. And most leaders involved in sports are judged by how well they succeed in competition. To meet those expectations, they’re required to devote most of their time to game plans, scouting reports, schedules, player/coach development, and the like.

There’s not much time or space to truly wrestle with and reflect on the place of sports in our culture and society—much less, for those of us who are Christians, on what God might have to say about sports.

It’s because of this need that our program at Baylor’s Truett Seminary has developed a new online certificate program to provide leaders in sports with a Christian-based foundation for cultural engagement and leadership. This summer we are offering our first two classes: Sports and Theology and Sports Leadership.

Our classes are flexible and accessible, designed for Christians who are already leaders or involved in sports but who want to continue to learn and grow. They are eight weeks in length, and you can expect to spend between 2-3 hours each week on course material. Unlike some online courses, you will get opportunities for meaningful and constructive interaction with the course instructors, your peers, and guest speakers.

While our curriculum is accessible, it has also been developed by a team of Christian scholars with academic expertise in a variety of fields: virtue ethics, theology, counseling, mental health, history, philosophy, biblical studies, and more. Those scholars have backgrounds as athletes, coaches, and sports ministry leaders, so they understand the practical realities of competitive athletics.

Our course registrations so far have hit exactly the right cross-section of sports leaders we hoped and prayed to connect with. We’ve had coaches, administrators, pastors, sports ministry leaders, professors, teachers, and more sign up.

Classes begin on June 29, so there is still time to register if you are interested in joining the first cohort. Check out the certificate program website for more information. You can also shoot me an email [scroll down to “Putz” in the directory]. I’d be happy to answer any questions or to set up a time to talk.

In the meantime, if you’d like to get a better sense of what we are about, you can consider registering for our free online Faith & Sport Forum. It will take place next week (June 23 and 24) and will feature conversations on competition, leadership, mental health, and spiritual disciplines from four Christian leaders in sports.