I recently listened to a sermon by C. J. Mahaney entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Sport.” If you know Mahaney at all, you already know that it was fantastic; if not, you need to find it on the Sovereign Grace website (http://www.sovereigngracestore.com/Product/O9245-00-41/Don_t_Waste_Your_Sports_DVD.aspx) or buy the corresponding book on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Waste-Your-Sports-Mahaney/dp/1433522470) – you won’t regret it. Most of this post is not original to me, but the content is so fantastic that I can’t help but use this platform to spread the truth.

In coaching, I hear many colleagues talk about players that are selfish, arrogant, or bad teammates. Pat Riley wrote a book talking about the destruction of a team being finalized when that team acquires “The Disease of Me.” It doesn’t take long listening to popular sportscasters to hear phrases like ‘they lack chemistry’, ‘that guy is just a cancer’, or my personal favorite, ‘he’s just not a good locker room guy.’ The problem with all of these examples is that they lack clarity. How exactly do you define a cancerous teammate, a selfish player, or bad locker room guy? Mahaney addresses this issue with a terrifically concise list of attributes of a humble athlete. The humble athlete …

  1. Pursues and welcomes the correction and critique of both coaches and teammates
  2. Recognizes his/her limitations
  3. Understands that scoring is a process that involves others
  4. Encourages his teammates
  5. Is gracious in defeat and modest in victory
  6. Is respectful of coaches and referees, even when their decisions appear to be poor
  7. Transfers the glory of all athletic accomplishment to God, refusing to allow others to assign the glory to himself

Most often I see #1 violated when people assume that if they can take correction, they are a leader and are humble. But read it again. The humble athlete doesn’t merely¬†take correction, he/she pursues and desires it.

#3 is particularly evident in soccer, as the goal-scoring player routinely sprints as fast as possible away from his teammates after scoring. To be sure, basketball possesses no immunity here, and anyone following Puig-Mania in Los Angeles has seen it spill over into baseball.

Finally, I really appreciate how Mahaney closes with #7. It’s not just that humble players look to transfer glory to God when they are publicly and/or privately lauded, it’s that they actually refuse to accept that glory when others attempt to assign it to the athlete. This is not easy, and certainly is a rarity, but nonetheless an excellent point.

Share this with your team, whether you are a player or a coach. But more importantly, consider the team you are on, and evaluate yourself. “The unexamined life is not worth living.”