I spent a lot of time playing hockey and baseball as a kid. My favorite season in any sport ever was my 9th grade hockey season.
It was a great season for a few reasons. I got to play with a lot of close friends and we were a pretty good team. Plus we went on some memorable out-of-town weekend tournaments. But the big difference-maker was the coaching staff.
We had three coaches named Josh, Thad, and Adam. At the time they were probably in their late 20s or early 30s. They all loved hockey and understood the game from a tactical standpoint, so we trusted their leadership on the ice. Plus off the ice, from a relational standpoint, they knew how to balance being firm and fun with the 8th and 9th graders they had on their team. As a result we all thought they were the coolest guys ever.
What strikes me is how much influence they had in my life. I looked up to those coaches immensely. I thought the world of them. I would have done almost anything to please them. I so badly wanted their favor, not because I feared them but because I respected them.
They created an atmosphere that produced a lot of fun memories. We toured a hockey stick factory as a team. We laughed a lot in the locker room. We had inside jokes. We laughed at each other’s quirks and imperfections. And how could I forget the team party at someone’s house where the roughhousing got out of hand and one teammate ended up being pushed through a basement wall!
Whenever I recall a fond memory from that season I am reminded that the shoe is now on the other foot. As a middle school pastor I am now in the place of Josh, Thad, and Adam. I know there are teenagers looking up to me just like I looked up to them.
If you are an adult and have earned the respect of teenagers, they are looking up to you. They are watching you. They want to please you. What are you doing to steward the influence they allow you to have in their lives?