by Shannon Caughey
What role does anger have in coaching? When a coach gets angry at an athlete, does that bring about the best results – not just in the athlete’s immediate performance but also in his or her life over the long haul? When a coach speaks angrily to an official, is that a helpful model for players – and the parents and other spectators who may follow the coach’s lead?
We may view anger as a normal part of coaching. We may see anger as a product of the intensity that comes with the competitive environment of sports. Or we may be tempted to rationalize anger as an unavoidable response to the failure of athletes, officials, or others to do what they’re supposed to do. But is speaking or acting out of anger wise? Does anger have a role in being skilled at living (and coaching) well in this world?
In contrasting wisdom with foolishness, Proverbs addresses how we deal with anger. Proverbs 12:16 says, “A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.” According to Proverbs 29:11, “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” And Proverbs 29:22 speaks to the destructiveness that anger can bring about: “An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin.”
We live and coach wisely when we do not allow anger to drive our words, actions, and reactions. But how is it possible to stay calm rather than speaking and acting out of anger? How do we quietly hold back rather than venting? In response to something that stirs anger within us, how can we choose God’s good design instead of going down the path of sin? Here’s a summary of the teaching of the Bible about the difference between foolishness vs. wisdom when it comes to anger:
Foolish people allow unfavorable circumstances to undermine their sense of control and wellbeing, triggering an angry response. If we feel like we have to maintain control and have things go a certain way for life to be okay, we get angry when this isn’t happening. When we’re insulted or challenged by someone, we feel like we have to protect ourselves and fight for our rights. When something feels unfair or our expectations are not being met, we fly off the handle because we think our wellbeing is threatened. Unfavorable circumstances trigger angry responses because we want to be in control, rather than looking to God. We then express our anger in unhelpful, unhealthy, and hurtful ways.
Wise people recognize God is in control and he is with us, enabling us to trust him with unfavorable circumstances. When something triggers the emotion of anger, we’re careful to remember what is true. We can trust God’s presence and protection – so we no longer feel the need to protect ourselves or fight for our rights when someone pushes our buttons. Our identity is defined by Christ, not what others say or do to us – so we can stay calm when insulted. In addition, our wellbeing doesn’t hinge on life always being fair or our expectations always being met. We trust that God is ultimately in control. Our life and our future are secure in him – so we can quietly hold back rather than venting anger.
There will always be situations in coaching and life that can make you feel angry. Wise coaches carefully guard against allowing anger to have a foolish, destructive role in how they speak, act, or react. You coach and live wisely as you let the truth of God’s sovereignty and his presence with you dictate your response to potential anger triggers. God is with you and he is in control. Trust him in every situation.
For reflection: Praise God for his sovereign control over all things and thank him for his presence with you at all times. Ask him to help you to trust him in situations that are potential anger triggers for you.