Coaches need to show integrity, fairness, patience, joy and kindness, especially toward those who are struggling, Pope Francis has said.
Like any good educator, a good coach or trainer is extremely important in helping kids develop into mature, well-balanced and well-rounded adults, he said.
Instilled with solid values and Christian faith, athletes can help prevent sports from becoming distorted by “pressure from many increasingly intrusive interests, especially economic”, he said in a written message released this week.
The Pope’s message was presented to participants at an international seminar on the role of coaches and trainers as educators of human and Christian values. The seminar at the Vatican on May 14-16 was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s Church and sport office.
Good teachers and coaches are vital for children and young adults because they are at a “delicate stage in life” as their personalities are developing and they are looking for role models and approval from others, the Pope wrote.
It’s a stage in life when “the danger of getting lost by following bad examples and seeking false happiness is more real,” he wrote.
Therefore, coaches, like teachers, have a great responsibility because they often “have the privilege of spending many hours each week with young people and have a great influence on them”, he wrote.
But their influence depends more on “who they are as people and how they live than on what they say”, the Pope wrote. “How important it is that a coach be an example of integrity, consistency, correct judgment, impartiality, but also joy for life, patience, ability [to show] esteem and kindness toward everyone and especially those most disadvantaged.”
Being a person of faith is just as important, he said, because being able to raise people’s eyes up to God helps put victories and losses into better perspective.
“Faith gives us that gaze of kindness toward others and it makes us overcome the temptation of a rivalry that’s too heated and aggressive; it makes us understand the dignity of every person, even those less gifted and at a disadvantage,” he said.
Coaches can do much to help make sports an occasion for solidarity and inclusion by giving those usually left out a chance to play and socialise.
For this reason, Pope Francis said, resources and time must be invested in educating coaches and trainers so that they can be “authentic witnesses of life and lived faith”.