Race continues to be a very difficult subject to talk openly about because of the underlying fear of causing offense. As a coach and also the dad of three kids who played sports, I’ve observed how sports bring people together who otherwise wouldn’t be together. Growing up in the inner cities of Southern California, I saw my fair share of racism. And like most of us who grew up in this kind of environment, there was only one-way to look at it, it was us against them. For me, the “us” were the brown and black people, and the “them” were the white people. This was how I viewed race for a very long time.
In high school I had a coach who saw past the color of our skin. He was different from any coach I’d ever had. Coach Jianas oozed love. He always made it a point to tell us he loved us. It didn’t matter what neighborhood we came from or what the color of our skin was. I had never heard a coach say those words out loud to a bunch of guys from different backgrounds and nationalities. I can still picture our faces when he spoke those words.
Though none of guys would probably admit how great it felt to have your coach speak those words, I’m sure they left the same indelible mark on their lives as they did mine. We have the power of life and death in our words, and Coach Jianas spoke life. I still remember his speeches about being one team, one family and having one purpose. He would say that if anything broke our team, our family and our purpose, we would not be strong enough to weather the storms of life. I can remember being in a huddle with those guys, holding hands before our quarterback called a play. Looking around at their faces in the huddle, I saw guys who outside of the game, would otherwise never chosen to be together.
That’s what sports can do when we as coaches see it from God’s point of view. John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” That includes loving those from different tribes and different teams. We are one tribe of coaches loving one another!
– Coach Joe Nu’u is a linebackers coach at Valor Christian High School. He is a speaker and author of the book, “Invisible Lines.”