So, Why Do I Coach?

by Barry Bandara

Being a Lead Pastor at a thriving church requires a great deal of my time and energy. So, why do I coach? One word: investment.

  • Investing into teenagers. While some of my players over the years have positive and engaged fathers or father figures in their life, too many don’t. Some of my players don’t really know their fathers at all or haven’t seen them in years. While I enjoy teaching the game of basketball, I get greater enjoyment from encouraging teenagers and speaking positively into their lives. Encouragement is oxygen to our souls. Knowing someone loves you and believes in you is priceless. Besides helping my players improve their outside jump shot, my main goal is for every player to know that Coach B loves them and is there to encourage them on and off the court. Working with teenagers for 20 years as a youth pastor showed me that so many students are in desperate need of authentic love. Giving this to my teenage players is a worthwhile investment

  • Investing in our community. I love it here in Kitsap County. Coaching basketball is an opportunity to give back to my local community. As a parent, I was always blessed when someone made an investment in my daughters. I not only want to bless my players, but I want to be a blessing to their families as well. The most important thing I could ever share is the eternity-changing gospel of Jesus Christ, but in a post-Christian culture I need to earn the right to be heard. Coaching is one way to earn this right. I am very careful to respect the lines that are established by the school district regarding someone in my position, but the players and parents know that I am a pastor of a church in town. They know I am available to help in any way. If I’m asked a question about church, God, or other spiritual questions, I am free to answer. When I’m asked by a player to pray for the team prior to taking the court, I make sure I ask if everyone is comfortable with this request. Each time has been a wholehearted “yes” and I glad to do it. One of our strategies at GracePoint is to lead people to engage with their community to be a bridge to God. I can’t just challenge our people to do this. I must model it myself. Giving my time, talent, and heart back into my community is a worthwhile and lasting investment.

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits from investing lots of time into the lives of players, families, and our community through coaching basketball. Here are some benefits for me:

  • Coaching is a great diversion from the toll of ministry. Although I’ve had opportunities to take on head coaching positions, I’ve turned them down. Why? Because in every area of my life, I fill the #1 leadership position. At church and at home, “the buck stops with me.” In coaching basketball, I really enjoy the benefits of being in the #2 position as an assistant. I enjoy not having to be the main leader for once! It allows me to give out what gives me life: encouragement. It allows me to miss certain practices and games without feeling any guilt because my church responsibilities always come first.  Plus, for 3 hours at practice or at games, I don’t have to think about ministry and all the weight that comes with my Lead Pastor role. Coaching is a wonderful (and physically healthy) outlet for me.  

  • The blessings of seeing seeds blossom with players and parents. I’ve been blessed and honored many times when a player or former player shows up unannounced at one of our church services, often with a parent. What a blessing! It puts a huge smile on my face and heart when a former player takes the time to thank me for encouraging them as their coach. Last year, I was tagged in a Facebook post by a former player who I was fortunate to play a part in her getting a basketball scholarship at a college in North Carolina. She attached a picture of her on the training table getting treatment with her computer screen open. There she was watching one of my online sermons. Oh my! It made every practice and sweaty hug worth it!

Each year I evaluate if I should coach another season. I check with my wife and my team at church for their input. I always have to make sure that my main thing is getting my main focus and attention. If that’s still true, I will commit to another season. So far, the blessings have far outweighed the time given to my team and players. And the best part? The investment returns keep coming!