Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Christians in Sports Should Consider Theological Education. An NFL Coach Explains Why

“It prepared me to be a head coach in the NFL as much as anything possibly could have.”

What if I told you the “it” in that sentence is theological education, and the person delivering the quote is Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich?

Faith and Sports InstituteReich’s passion for theological education is one reason he serves on the Team of Advocates for the Faith & Sports Institute (FSI) at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. The Faith & Sports Institute is a new initiative aimed at making theological education and training available and accessible to Christians involved in sports.

“FSI’s vision inspires me with its intentional focus of doing theologically-driven reflection on competitive sports and engaging with the complexities and challenges of Christian leadership in sports,” Reich says.

The Faith & Sports Institute recently sat down with Reich to discuss his experience with theological education and why he believes it’s valuable in sports. Below are some highlights.

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On Reich’s decision to enroll in a seminary:

“One of the things that became very clear in my Christian walk was a hunger for God’s Word. Back when I was playing, I would come home from practice, and rather than turn on the television — this is no exaggeration — I would sit and just read the Bible for hours at a time. And then I would seek out mentors who could help teach me and coach me.

“I was down the street from a seminary. I didn’t know a whole lot about the seminary; I just said, ‘This is a place to go and learn about God’s Word.’ And so I walked in the door and signed up for a couple of classes.”

On getting perspective from theology:

“When I got to seminary, I thought, ‘Now I’m really going to learn all the answers.’

“And man, was I in for a shock. I did learn so much and my conviction on the core tenants of the Christian faith grew deeper and stronger. But I also gained perspective as I gained more answers. For every one answer I got, there were a hundred questions. And I realized that I didn’t have to have all the answers. It strengthened my convictions, but also gave me more of an appreciation for the diversity of the body of Christ.

“Sometimes we just kind of dive into the Word by ourselves without proper help and perspective from past church history and current church community. I just found that seminary helped me get that broader perspective, a global perspective.”

How seminary prepared Reich for coaching:

“It prepared me to be a head coach in the NFL as much as anything possibly could have. Obviously from the leadership standpoint, but also the process of theological education. Not just the content of what I learned, or the spiritual formation that happened in me, but also the grit and determination. It’s not an easy road.

“Having to write seminary papers and detailing every footnote — that’s the kind of detail that it takes to be excellent at something. And so I learned a work ethic and an appreciation for excellence in work that that very much impacts the way I coach football today.”

Two Scripture passages Reich incorporates in his leadership:

  • Proverbs 26:4-5: “It’s just a core Biblical principle that is extremely practical in every aspect of life. One verse says “don’t argue with a fool” and the next verse says “argue with the fool.” Sometimes you do argue, and you’ve got to stand up and speak up and be strong. And then other times, just let it ride. That’s so practical as a football coach.”
  • Ecclesiastes 7:18: “Essentially, it says a man of wisdom avoids all extremes. And, man, has this helped me be a better coach and understand human beings and how we react and how we tend to overreact. How do I help players find that middle ground? I think about that all the time. You lose a big game — let’s not go to the extreme and overreact. Let’s refocus.”

Advice for people interested in seminary:

“I don’t think seminary is for everybody, but my encouragement to anybody who’s thinking about it is to try it. It’s a great opportunity. Theology is high and lofty in one sense, but it’s earthy and gritty in another sense, and it’s very practical. Not every seminary class has to end with a degree, but I can promise you, it’ll make an impact on your spiritual formation.”

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If you are interested in learning and growing with the Faith & Sports Institute, visit our website to learn more about our graduate program, our online certificate program, and more.

— Paul Putz, PhD
Faith & Sports Institute,
George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

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