Coaching and Christianity
I am ashamed to admit that for a very long time, my faith was private and compartmentalized out of my work life.
However, about 15 years ago when I was a high school teacher and coach, I had a very unoriginal, yet powerful, thought: “If I claim to be a Christian coach, how is my coaching any different from someone who isn’t Christian?” Sadly, I could see no difference and vowed for that to change.
I wish I could say that, like in the movies, we went on to win the championship that next year (and a parent bought me a truck and family issues were solved like in the movie Facing the Giants) but real life doesn’t always work that way. Our team struggled, and two of my best players transferred to our arch rival. It gets worse. One of those players, who was 1-21 from 3 point land when he played for us the year before, hit a 3 at the buzzer to beat us that next season. I had to fight through the crowd that had rushed onto the court to celebrate just to congratulate him. I distinctly remember one of our feeder school coaches being distraught and calling me to console me after the game. But it wasn’t necessary, because I had a peace and a purpose with my new perspective that was much bigger than the scoreboard! Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to win but winning wasn’t everything and it wasn’t how I judged myself. Coaching had become a ministry for me.
Today, I try to integrate my faith into all aspects of my life. In fact, my personal mission statement starts with this line: “I will do all I can with all I have to honor God in all I do.” For example, after years of prayerfully seeking God’s will for my life, in 2012 I changed careers and am now an Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Coaching Education program at Georgia Southern University. We are proud to have a nationally-accredited, fully-online master’s program for coaches with students from almost 30 states and numerous countries and a 15-hour coaching minor for undergraduates.
In this current role, I continually seek appropriate ways to integrate my faith into my work, including my teaching, scholarship, and service. In teaching, against the advice of well-meaning administrators, I started a religion, spirituality, and sport course. They told me it would be too big of a hassle to get the course approved and that no one would sign up. Yet, we now have a waiting list for the course every year.
From a scholarly perspective, I co-authored a chapter titled “Supporting the Wellbeing for Athletes of Faith” in a recent international book titled Developing and Supporting Athlete Wellbeing: Person First, Athlete Second.
Finally, a recent service example is when I answered a call for Inclusive Excellence Faculty Fellows. I applied and presented to our administration the importance of faith development to college students- especially at public institutions. Thankfully, I was selected and spent the last academic year raising awareness of spiritual groups and resources on our campuses, building interfaith councils for staff and students, leading on-campus interfaith events, and leading off-campus, interfaith service projects.
It is my sincere hope that you don’t see MY faith in something that I do, but that you might see JESUS and the HOLY SPIRIT working through me in ALL that I do. I have found that things usually turn out better when I turn them over to God, and that even when they don’t turn out the way I wanted, I am able to process those temporary disappointments with an eternal lens.
I have found that things usually turn out better when I turn them over to God, and that even when they don’t turn out the way I wanted, I am able to process those temporary disappointments with an eternal lens.
— HAL WILSON
Listen to the companion podcast.
Hal is a consultant with USA Basketball–not a bad item to list on a resume!
Hal directs Georgia Southern’s online Master’s in Coaching Education program. Check it out!