I have coached for more than 20 years. Some of my former players have kids older than my own children. When I get a text, a call, or an e-mail from a former player sharing with me about his current life situation, it tends to drive me into the memory bank of a moment we shared together on the field. As a coach, I tend to look ahead into my players’ lives, thinking about how a situation we deal with on our team will help them as husbands or fathers. I often think, “One day, this player will connect the dots, and it will all make sense to him.” This leads me to think about the goal of youth sports as I see it.
I have often tried to create a word picture of what we are trying to form in a young athlete through the games we play. So many teachable moments arise when the magnifying glass of competition reveals the character of a player. Recently, I watched a former player coach his own son, and the picture became a little more clear… I think the idea of being an “ambassador” paints the picture of what athletes should aspire to become. The word “ambassador” has a Germanic origin with an original meaning of “service.” Every former athlete will have the opportunity to be an ambassador of his or her sport for the benefit of others.
If I dwell upon the character of an ambassador, the words honorable, knowledgeable, skilled, wise, selfless, patient, and understanding flow to the forefront of my mind. Ambassadors of a game are ready to share their knowledge and experience with others. A calm demeanor allows them to guide others through the learning process efficiently. At some point in their playing career, they realized they were not in control of the outcomes they longed to achieve, and they became focused on perfecting the process instead. Hours upon hours were spent mastering the skills and strategies of the game, and now, the athletes realize the value of the processes they learned. The processes they refined are now their greatest asset. The lessons they learned have shaped their character. The results of the laboratory of life are now being tested by life itself.
Our focus as parents of young athletes is to develop the attributes of an ambassador in an effort to redeem our children’s time spent in sports. The following are five things to consider in training an effective ambassador.
- First and foremost, we need ambassadors who are focused on others.
- Second, we need them to be able to reflect upon the processes they followed in mastering their sport, so that they can refine and teach the process to those entrusted to them later in life.
- Third, mastery is an art, not a science. We must learn to trust the Holy Spirit and the goodness of our Lord as we are refined through His sovereign plan to allow us to master a sport. We must be resolute in our pursuit of such a high goal.
- Fourth, we must figure out how to produce great listeners. Our ambassadors must be able to hear first, then draw upon their wisdom and experience to represent their sport honorably.
- Lastly, they need to be able to teach and impart to others everything they have experienced through their involvement in sports. Our ambassadors must be able to develop passion in others for what they are passionate about, and they must be able to teach the skills and strategies needed to be successful.
Our ambassadors cannot wrap their identities up in their sport, though. They must know that they are children of the most high God, and that He has brought them into this world for the ultimate purpose of loving Him, loving others, and enjoying Him through any life situation. A Christian might also call this disciple-making; the skills are the same. Go therefore and develop great and mighty ambassadors for Christ!
It is with much gratitude that we thank John Hampton for sharing his thoughts on ParentingPathway.org.
John Hampton has coached, scouted, instructed, and trained at the professional, college, high school, and youth levels baseball. He played Division I college baseball in Southern California. He has coached for 21 years, winning at the highest levels while helping produce first and second round draft choices along the way, with 16 former players playing Major League Baseball
John has served as a missionary in Mexico and has held director positions for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Coaches Outreach. He has an understanding of the impact sports has on America, the Church, and the world as a whole. He has committed his life to helping us redeem the time and attention we all give to sports to grow deeper, more dependent, and more authentic in our relationship with our Creator.
John is also the father of two boys and the husband of one great woman. The Hamptons are members at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas.