Athletic Director Takes a Whole-Person Approach to Coaching
Why do schools have sports teams? Whether you have ever asked this question probably depends on your philosophy of, and experience with, athletics.
There is no shortage of opinions regarding athletic programs in the hallowed halls of education. On one side, sports programs are expensive, they cultivate exclusivity among the student body, they can distract students from traditional academics, and some Christians believe they provide the groundwork for idolatry. Heavy stuff to consider in a Christian high school like Berean.
Of course, there is the other side of the argument. Participation in sports encourages teamwork, physical health, social belonging, and school pride. At the helm of the Berean Christian High School athletic department sits a man who sees high school athletics as a vehicle to teach young men and women about God, themselves, and about life itself.
La Shawn Wells is an optimist. To him, life is a gift full of possibilities. “I want to live in a yes world,” he says.
Wells was raised in Los Angeles by a single mom who taught him to strive to be the best version of himself every day. “My mother told me that anything was possible if you had hope,” Wells remembers. When he talks about her, he describes her as a strong Christian woman who cared about people, the kind of person who would give you a meal if you were hungry, or her own jacket if you were cold.
Before assuming responsibilities as the school’s Athletic Director, Wells built a diverse career. He is or has been a college dean, a lawyer, the author of two books, a business owner, an NFL player representative, a coach, a consultant, and a community organizer. In addition to all of that, Wells is a husband and the father of three grown girls of whom he is quick to brag about.
One of the things that he learned while he was transitioning into the AD position at Berean Christian was how well his perspective aligned with the Christian education philosophy of Principal, Nicholas Harris. Wells had outlined his approach to coaching and Christian school athletics to Harris before accepting the role at BCHS. It was a good fit for the values that Harris wanted to instill in student athletes.
Years ago, Wells read a book called InSideOut Coaching by Joe Erhmann. The book made an impact on his approach to coaching, and became the foundation for how he was going to lead Berean Christian’s athletic department.
More than Wins and Losses
“Athletics is an extension of the classroom,” says Wells. “We are teaching all the time.” Wells believes that the coach’s most important role is not to lead teams to championships, but to help students be the best versions of themselves. Athletics is a platform for transformation, and Wells has made a career out of helping young athletes develop as human beings while they work on their skills in the game.
Wells encourages coaches to help student athletes set personal goals centered around their relationships, their faith, their strengths, and areas in which they want to improve. “Winning is great, but we emphasize character building more than just winning the game,” says Wells.
It is important to Wells that student athletes see the possibilities in the life God has given them. He wants students to dream big dreams. And he wants them to own those dreams, because they are more likely to chase after them. From Wells’s perspective, coaches are perfectly positioned to give students the tools they need to define and pursue their God-honoring life dreams.
According to Wells, students too often give up on long-term dreams because they feel out of reach or too far into the future. But Wells wants students to believe in themselves, even the parts of themselves that they haven’t grown into yet. We are all a work in progress, he says.
Coaches who work with students at Berean Christian have to be clear on their answers to four questions that are a key part of the InSideOut philosophy:
- Why do you coach?
- Why do you coach the way you coach?
- How does it feel to your athletes to be coached by you?
- What is your definition of success?
An athletic program with this level of clarity on the purpose and power of school sports is bound to have a lasting effect on the students who participate.
So why do schools have sports teams? At Berean Christian under La Shawn Wells’ leadership, sports teams are a vehicle to transform student lives and develop lifetime followers of Christ.
Verse to Remember: Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.