There are many elements which draw us to sport. Competition, pursuit of a common goal, fellowship are just a few of the reasons we are drawn to coach and play the game. While many factors make up a winning team, one that is integral is the ability to form partnerships between team members. It is difficult to go into a competition where you will be battling others when wars are raging between brothers on a team.
The two largest factors in my coaching style are drawn from the bible and the military. I know both to be great instructors of how to mold young men into an effective unit with a common purpose beyond one's self. There is a brotherhood in both which goes beyond age, race and social status. It is a bond which is born from shared experiences (a lot of it painful) and a mutual reliance upon each other.
It is my job to create the environment in which these bonds can be formed. The shared suffering of having to condition, the opportunity to bond through charity work, the occasion to share through devotions and the freedom to express themselves in ways only young men can understand!
The culture they build on the team will drive their success more than any scheming and game planning the coaches might undertake to instill in them. The Greek word for this level of partnership in the bible is 'koinonia". It is a term which Paul relies upon significantly in the book of Philemon when he asks a Roman slave owner (Philemon) to accept back a runaway slave (Onesimus).
Paul is not specific as to why Onesimus had run away from Philemon; however, he had found his way to Paul who was a prisoner and had served Paul where he became a believer in Christ. Paul sends a letter to Philemon before sending Onesimus back. In the letter, he requests that Philemon not only forgive Onesimus but to free him and treat him like family.
This was a huge request because most runaway slaves were punished and not rewarded as family members. Paul requests that Onesimus be accepted as a brother in the Lord. He says that if you are truly a partner (koinonia) then you will accept Onesimus and charge any debts owed to Paul.
So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.
What Paul is exemplifying here is the Gospel. He is acting out the good news that Jesus died for our sins allowing us to be reconciled with, and forgiven by, God. Paul is willing to take upon the sins of Onesimus in the same way Christ took upon our sins. Furthermore, Paul is pointing out we all need to partner in the forgiveness which comes through reconciliation.
Brotherly love is the glue which binds our teams. It is not handed out the first day of practice like equipment. Instead, it is forged through trials and the opportunity to mirror the Christian belief in reconciliation and shared forgiveness. We recognize everyone will fall short of the goals which we set both at practice and in a game. However, it is not our failures which define us but how we handle them and without koinonia we are no greater than the strength of a single player.