As an avid fan of sports, I was fascinated by the many responses to the final minutes of the Seahawks-49ers game this past Sunday and particularly the actions and words of Richard Sherman. Rather than dive into more rhetoric where the only winner is the media, I have been reflecting on how I hope I would respond if I had the incredible privilege of coaching Richard Sherman. Certainly, I realize I will never coach football, let alone in the NFL, but as I reflected further I realized that over the past 20 years, I have had the privilege of coaching numerous Richard Sherman like players. I realize some of my players may be flattered or resent the comparison, yet I cannot help but reflect on the good I see in Mr. Sherman. First of all, I see a fiery competitor, who hates to lose and takes every challenge as a personal one. Next, I see a man who has overcome the odds on a personal level and continues to overcome by proving himself every time he steps on the field. I see a man with imperfections like the rest of us, who rather than be defeated by his mistakes is embracing the reality of what it means to be an overcomer. After all, he has been overcoming his whole life. Finally, I see a guy who celebrates and recognizes his teammates contributions to his personal success. He constantly lauds his teammates and praises the “front seven” for making he and his defensive backs’ jobs easier.
As a coach, if I had the opportunity to coach an ultra-competitive, overcoming, team-driven gifted athlete who occasionally needed to be reined in a little bit, I would jump at the opportunity for that privilege. In fact, they are the stuff champions are often made of. So while many are criticizing, I find myself reflecting on players like Mike Osborne and Lawrence Lartey who made the teams I coached achieve special results even while seeing in both of them some of the volatility I saw on Sunday. It just so happens that both of these men have now channeled that drive into impacting lives for the glory of God and the good of others. Sports does not build character, it reveals character. Most of the character I see in Richard Sherman seems worth emulating. The part he came up lacking on Sunday will be left to Coach Carroll to address. It seems he has another game to play.
My guess is many of you are coaching these kinds of players as well. How are you embracing the joy and the challenge of this kind of difference-maker?