Discipleship in Heritage Athletics
Discipleship is a key aspect of what makes Heritage unique, and the athletics department makes a concerted effort to encourage and disciple each coach, team, athlete, and family involved in HCS athletics. The department does this through what it calls the “three prong approach,” supporting the three main relationships that take place in athletics: department-to-coach, coach-to-student, and team-to-team.
In recent years, the athletics department has created a more formalized process to guide what each department, coach, and team does on a daily basis to fulfill its mission statement: “Glorify God in the discipleship of student-athletes and the pursuit of excellence in athletics, with the Bible as the foundation and Jesus Christ as our focus.”
The athletics department works to develop and challenge its coaches in their professional, personal, and spiritual growth. The department supports them professionally by holding coaches meetings to discuss season strategies and checking in with them weekly to see what needs they might have. Beyond this, the department strives to help coaches also grow in their own relationships with Christ, which in turn helps them mentor students and build unified teams and mature players.
The department supports the coaching staff by providing printed and online resources for them. One such resource is the book InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives, written by Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL star who became a pastor following his football career. The book helps coaches see how they have a tremendous amount of influence in their athletes’ lives and it encourages them to mentor their athletes beyond the playing field.
“Our main objective is to help our coaches become transformational coaches,” said former HCS Director of Athletics Michelle York. “Not coaches who care just about the wins and losses, but coaches who care more about the relationship with their players.”
All HCS coaches work to teach and mentor their athletes beyond the playing field. Some have their teams study a book of the Bible and others begin each practice with a devotional or life lesson talk.
“We ask all of our coaches to have some focused time to disciple, mentor, and share God’s Word with their student athletes,” said York.
While student athletes respond to different methods, the main goal is for coaches to connect with their students outside of the sport and to open up space for deeper conversations.
In order to help HCS teams live outwardly, humbly, and respectfully, the athletics department and coaches encourage their athletes to connect with their opponents. The teams do this by praying with their opponent teams or by being appreciative and kind during their handshake line at the end of each game. Most teams also prepare and deliver Blessing Bags to each opposing teammate after a game, which include a snack, drink, and a note of encouragement or Scripture verse.
“We have many people from the opposing teams or schools comment on how much they appreciate these acts of sportsmanship or service that our teams do,” said York, “especially when our team loses, but still prays or hands out Blessing Bags to the other team.”