Young coaches are interesting to watch. Eager to assert themselves and establish some means of authority and identity among their players, many young coaches do so by means of punishment, threats, and a generally disagreeable stance toward anything and anyone out of line with their thinking. Anyone caught crossing certain lines, or breaking the team rules, is up for extra conditioning, less playing time, or perhaps dismissal.

When once I was a young and very green coach, a wiser and older mentor explained the fallacy of this approach to me. “You can’t treat every player the same,” he said. “You have to treat them the way they need to be treated.”

At first, I didn’t understand, thinking he was just trying to be soft on obvious offenses committed by members of the team. Not even close, as I learned.

To treat them all the same requires no wisdom or judiciousness. In fact, it simply requires a list of rules posted to the walls of the locker room, dugout, and other team facilities. No relationship with the players is required, just the rules.

To treat them as they need to be treated requires wisdom deeper than most of us care to explore. It’s difficult and unending, but in the long run, it’s better for every player individually. To treat them the way they need to be treated is to get to know them, pray for wisdom, and respond with an individual approach that helps both the player and the team.

Proverbs 8:15–“By me (wisdom) kings reign, and rules decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, all who judge rightly.”

If you’re in a position of leadership, whether as a coach, parent, or player, you have a choice to make. You can establish rules and post them everywhere, talk about them incessantly, and enforce them ruthlessly. Or, you can use wisdom and “judge rightly,” establishing a culture in which those under your leadership not only follow the rules, but do so out of love and respect for the rule-giver. Only the wisdom of God can help you with this, not your own. Your wisdom and mine, on their own, will change with the ever-changing circumstances. God’s wisdom, however, is everlasting and unchangeable. And, it’s also free and inexhaustible. Just ask for it.

Lord Jesus, please give me wisdom I cannot produce on my own. I want to lead with your form of justice and your sense of what is right. Help me establish a culture among those under my leadership that would please you. Amen.