I spent many years coaching youth sports, primarily little league baseball and youth soccer, and I enjoyed it greatly—in part, because I was coaching in team sports. Individual sports (like track and field, golf, or tennis) have great value, and I enjoy the benefits that young people can gain through those experiences. The fact remains, however, that individual sports cannot teach one of life’s most important lessons—how to be a good teammate. In a world dominated by self-promotion and self-advancement, being a teammate requires much more of us. It requires us to submit our personal goals and glory to the needs, goals, and success of the team. For some athletes, this is a tough needle to thread. Sacrificing personal plaudits for team achievement is at the heart of being a teammate, and it is also at the heart of being a servant—one of the great themes of the Bible.
This was certainly the attitude of the apostle Paul. While imprisoned in Rome, he may have felt as if he had been taken out of the game. He may have even felt resentment about those who were still in the middle of the action while he awaited trial before Caesar. But if he felt that way, he didn’t let it show. What he did display was the heart of a teammate who was far more interested in the success of the team than in advancing himself. In fact, while some sought to cause him pain by their service during his days of inactivity, Paul kept his eyes on the goal—the advance of the gospel—and called the Philippians to display that same team spirit. He told them:
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).
That is the spirit of a teammate, and that is the essence of a team. If sports can’t teach us anything else, it can teach us this: One spirit. One mind. We strive together. That is what it means to be a team—and carrying that mind and spirit is what makes you a good teammate.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain