Investing in the Lives of Others

My six-year-old son Arli has recently started AFL Auskick and while I’m still learning the ropes of the game I’ve put my hand up to join the local coaching team. I’ll be spending some of my spare time in the weeks ahead getting my head around a range of kids’ skill drills and I’m looking forward to sharing with Arli in his new sporting adventure.

As I was supervising a group of kids going through their paces on Saturday morning, memories of my first football (rugby league) coach came to mind.

Al Gearing isn’t a name you will have ever heard of! He’s not listed in the who’s who of Australian sporting history. But in my books Al is a coaching legend. He was my first sports coach and more than four decades on I still remember some of his coaching maxims. Truth be told, with hindsight on my side, they could probably be better described as coaching clichés – but they worked a treat in the 1970s with a group of novices to the code.

Coach Gearing came alongside me when I was a quiet and shy boy and week by week he helped me grow in confidence. He taught me things about myself that went well beyond the footy field. It has been more than four decades since his mentoring advice over half-time oranges at Kentish Oval in New Lambton but here’s two things I still remember about his coaching style.

He coached with care – he was a coach with a heart (even for six-year olds who often didn’t listen and kept making mistakes, like the day one of our team members ran the length of the field to score, but alas he had run in the wrong direction and scored on our own try line!).

He coached with purpose – in his case it wasn’t about winning premierships, it was all about bringing out the best in young charges. He knew what mattered. Most of all he wanted to instil in us a love of the game.

Almost 45 years on I think there is still much to apply from Coach Gearing’s simple approach when it comes to investing in others


Care and Purpose

We all yearn for care. We all yearn for purpose.

And as I look back at people who left an indelible mark on my life, these two qualities are at the heart of their leadership and “coaching” approach. People like:

  • My parents
  • A Sunday School teacher, Mrs Box
  • A year 3 school teacher called Kath
  • Youth leaders like Wynette, Arnold and Joy
  • A youth pastor called Ross
  • A mentor and confidante called John
  • A relationship coach called Richard
  • Bosses like June, Ross & Rob
  • A trusted colleague like Mary
  • Friends that have gone the distance like Steve
  • An uncle called Trevor
  • My current boss Dale
  • And the list could go on!

There is absolutely no co-incidence that all those on the list above – beyond their intelligence, leadership and skill – share one core thing in common. Their lives have all been shaped by the love, values and ethics of Jesus. And this makes such a profound difference!


Shaped by Jesus

Yes, I have been blessed over the years with good people who have chosen to invest in me – they have enriched my life in many different ways. I am thankful for men and women who have stood by me, believed in me, inspired me, challenged me and helped me unlock potential.

Timothy Gallloway writes: “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own potential. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

This was the model of Jesus. He chose to invest himself in a small group. He saw this circle, this team not only as they were – but as they could become. He didn’t call them to behaviour modification. Rather he invited them to imitation. Jesus intentionally chose to model a caring and purposeful relational investment strategy.

Jesus didn’t seek to pull a big crowd – but rather he first and foremost sought to invest himself personally in the lives of a small group of people he believed in – people others may have pushed aside for a variety of reasons. He chose to journey with this small band as leader, coach, mentor and friend. And he left them with the challenge to model and multiply this life-transforming coaching model. And they did with passion, care and purpose!

Those who have made the biggest mark on my life have been people – ordinary men and women – who have taken up this same challenge. They have come alongside me, they have believed in me. They have seen me as I am, but more importantly, as I can become! They have accepted me “warts and all” – as my former youth pastor Ross Britza used to say – and still loved me. They have beckoned me to new possibilities, they have held my hand in dark days, they have expanded my vision, they have been caring and purposeful!


The Power of Perspective

I don’t remember too many of Al Gearing’s pre-game pep talks, but one does remain in my memory. We were taking on a team from a pretty rough and tumble neighbourhood in Newcastle and as we lined up to run on we were all talking about how big the opposition were. We were scared. The more we talked, the bigger the opposition were becoming in our minds. Soon they would be giant killers! Coach Gearing gathered us in a huddle and offered us this gem: “You can keep looking at them or you can remember how good you really are!”

Yes, coaching and mentoring changes perspective. Coaching reframes challenging contexts. Coaching repositions us to get through tough seasons. Coaching helps us discover our true potential! Good coaches and mentors don’t try and wave a magic wand and make the tough days disappear. They don’t try and take control. They don’t try and fix everything. But they do remind us our goals, strengths and capacity. They do help us develop a “game plan”. They motivate and inspire. They remind us we are not alone.

Across Australia in communities large and small there are people yearning for others to go the distance with them – to make that intentional relational investment choice!

We all have something to offer others – in formal and informal roles – as coaches, mentors, encouragers, confidantes, parents, family members and people of influence. We have all life experiences and lessons that others can benefit from. We all have the potential to make a real and tangible difference in the life of another person.

And the amazing truth, the unexpected upside, the win-win; as we intentionally invest in the lives of others, we ourselves grow – we become better people – we discover new things about ourselves, we “rise by lifting others” as Robert Ingersoll writes.

Here’s to those who have made their mark on our lives! Here’s to us doing the same!

Scott Pilgrim