In both sports and faith, learning the basics is key

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This past August, I “unretired” from coaching football and returned to the gridiron to lead the 6- to 8-year-old Pee Wee Yellow Jacket football team. 

Most of you probably are reading this and laughing, because you understand that – at this level of football and within this age group – coaching is merely a title and not necessarily an action.

Honestly, teaching football at the most basic level is the project at hand for myself and the three or four other coaching dads.

I must say that as a lifelong student of the game, I had visions of playbooks, strategies and philosophies, and anticipated structured practice schedules, and more. All of this has fallen to the wayside, as these practices include multiple bathroom breaks, wrestling-match interventions, and occasional group jogs to the trees for grass-throwing, and the distribution of “wet willies.”

In a matter of a few short weeks, we have been able to assess and evaluate our football “learning” curve: Basically, our new philosophy is to keep it simple: teach the absolute basics and don’t over complicate things. 

Each week at practice, I find we are  pulling back the layers to determine what is too much information, and what, really, is unnecessary information for little boys. We have to keep re-introducing the basics of football: how to block and how to tackle. 

If they cannot understand the basics and we don’t practice the basics, then their football career – however it goes – will be built upon an unsteady, unstable foundation that will surface as bad habits later on that even the most-skilled athletes would find hard to overcome. 

It is important for any athlete to understand the basics of the game and how to play it. Turns out there’s  a lot on the line for a Pee Wee football coach.

In Mark 12:28-34, a man full of spiritual knowledge stood up and approached Jesus, asking him, “Of all of the commandments to keep, which is the most important?”

In essence, he is asking, “What are the core pieces? What are the basics?  What should I focus on in my life? 

Quoting from the Old Testament scriptures of Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18, Jesus answered: “To love God with your entire being and to love your neighbor as yourself.” 

When the man recognized and agreed with Jesus’ answer, Jesus then told the man he was not far from the kingdom of God.

So, prior to his dying on a cross as the way to peace with God, Jesus sums up the basics of faith: “Genuinely love God; authentically love others.” 

If Jesus not only recognized and taught these scriptures, but also embraced these instructions as a way of life for himself, how much more should we pay attention to the basics: love God, love others? 

I must say that my latest coaching experience has been a great one so far,  and I have learned so much more than just football. 

These past few weeks have been a great reminder for this dad and coach to pay attention to so much more than blocking and tackling. 

Through coaching, I have been challenged to pay attention and peel away the superficial stuff, and to focus on the things that matter, the basics:  to love God and love others. 


The Rev. Jay Montgomery is youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Carrollton.