Christian Life / Sports / World Magazine / September 9, 2015

Judging Second Chances

From my 9/4 article at

When should a coach take a risk on a troubled player? It’s not uncommon to see college coaches accept transfers who left a previous school because of disciplinary issues. Skeptics say these coaches care only about winning. Optimists say people deserve second chances.

Sometimes the risk pays off. Sometimes it’s a disaster. Baylor head football coach Art Briles is under fire right now because of a transfer he accepted who went on to sexually assault a fellow student. The player, Samuel Ukwuachu, left Boise State under a cloud, but Briles and Boise State coach Chris Petersen differ on the details that were shared prior to the transfer. Did Briles make a foolish decision? Did he do his due diligence? What kinds of standards should a coach abide by when making such a decision?

A coach must seek out any viable source to learn the nature of the player and why he was disciplined. . . .People can’t extricate themselves from trouble or independently leave behind bad habits. They need help, and a good organizational leader will provide it.

For fans, it’s easy to play armchair judge when coaches give second chances to “bad apples.” Just like we cast aspersions on anyone famous who falls and tries to recover (pastors, musicians, politicians, etc.), and on those who accept them after their fall, we sit in self-righteous judgment of athletic programs that welcome besmirched players.

But fans should operate with cautious grace. Rather than writing off a player, or any person, we should welcome them while understanding they’re a risk—grace and reason hand in hand.

. . .

Too often we take to our perches on social media and weigh in on such situations. We make assumptions about the participants, motivations, and situations without realizing our own motivations are often impure. Sometimes we want victories, so we approve of an organization cutting corners. Sometimes we want to look holier-than-thou, so we point out every flaw while failing to recognize how often we too need a little grace.

. . .

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