I never thought I’d hear those words directed to me, but somehow they did. For the past two weeks, I’ve done something I’ve always wanted to do: be a substitute teacher. And for my first ever substitute gig, I was assigned as a P.E. Coach for elementary and middle school. I’ll definitely cherish this moment for several reasons that I’m still reflecting upon today. Though I was hesitant, uncomfortable, and nervous at first, I quickly found my way. In doing so, I now find myself slightly grieving my short tenure as a sub P.E. Coach, and I’ve found myself reflecting upon this recent experience that I’d like to briefly share with you.
I believe education is experience, and sometimes its one of the best. I learn best from hearing and doing, immediately. I learned how to sail a boat from one of my mentors in a matter of seconds, and I was scared the entire time. However, I wouldn’t consider myself a “captain.” That is an official rank that comes from training, education, and discipline. On my first day as a sub coach, I wasn’t exactly sure what title I would have the children call me. Naturally I would ask them to call me, “Mr.,” but deep down, I wanted the title of “coach.” Interestingly enough, I am currently working towards becoming a licensed life coach, so when the kids asked me what I coached, I said, “life.” Howeverknowing I had no training or right to even be considered a “coach,” especially alongside already established coaches, I defaulted to the proper authoritative title of “Mr. Crabtree.” By the end of my ‘tenure’ the children called me “coach.” Whether it was during P.E. or at some point in the day when they saw me, I became a “coach” to them without asking. I earned it. And this experience taught me A LOT.
Titles are important when it comes to us discovering and living into our identity. We may desire certain titles, but I’ve come to learn through this sub-coach experience that titles are earned, not given. Once a title is earned, I believe there is more to be learned. Achievement of the title comes with responsibilities, I think, and the title implies further growth. For instance, I learned how to become a husband by asking my wife’s hand in marriage. Thankfully she said yes. But, I am learning how to be a better husband by asking her how I can help her flourish into all that she wants. The same principle goes for me being a father, a friend, a pastor, or a leader. Hearing and acting, I learn from theexperience and honor of the title earned.
As I’ve reflected upon the movement from me being “Mr. Crabtree” to “Coach Crabtree,” I’ve noticed a cross-over balance between certain elements that may have led to this title development. Here’s what I’ve noticed that is necessary for any coach to student type relationship. At the center of this relationship there is a balance between authority, respect, and trust.
I wanted the authority as much as the children need it, and I wanted their respect as much as they wanted mine. Most importantly, I wanted them to trust me to care for them during the 45-minute window I had with them to be someone who was authoritative, respectful, and a friend. This development didn’t happen over night, but over time.
And….if I’ve learned anything from this week’s experience, it’s this: if you’ve been given or earned any sort of title, ask yourself if these three elements are in balance. If not, learn how. Your title assumes a certain level of influence, and our world needs influential people who are authoritative, respectful, and trustworthy.