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What I Learned from 10 Years Coaching Football Overseas

09.11.19
by Crossworld
in American Football Coach, Sports and Recreation, Blog, West Asia
An interview about making disciples on the football field

Famous football coaches like Tony Dungy have changed the game for Christians in the NFL. But where is that influence on the international scene? Crossworld worker Hudson sees a window of opportunity for coaches in least-reached countries. Read how he’s changing the missions game through American football.

Hudson, where did your love for football start, and how does that relate to your love for Jesus?

“Football connects with my faith because we’re commanded to make disciples, and I believe disciple-making happens best in real life.”

My first word was “football” — even before “momma” — and my parents tell me the “Boomer Sooner Fight Song” was the first song I ever sang. I guess I was born with it. I’ve played numerous sports, but football has always been my passion.

Football connects with my faith because we’re commanded to make disciples, and I believe disciple-making happens best in real life.

Football is particularly awesome because of the quality time you get to spend with your players — in the weight room, watching film, on the field…. You’re constantly getting pushed beyond your limits, physically and emotionally. As a coach, you can talk about what’s coming out of your heart and what’s going on inside. You get to walk through life with them and help them grow.

Why did you move from Texas to West Asia to coach football?

I didn’t expect to coach football overseas — I didn’t even know they had American football. But when my wife and I took a vision trip, someone invited us to attend an American football game, and the owner of the team found out I coached in Texas. He offered me a job on the spot.

How is coaching different overseas?

I assumed it would be very different, but when I got on the field, it was just like coaching in Texas. The average guy on the team was hoping to get beer money and a girlfriend that weekend … the same as many students in the U.S.

One difference was the level of relationship I had with my players. In their culture, fathers aren’t very connected to their kids and they don’t go to the games. So I connected with the guys emotionally as a father figure, more than I did with my players in Texas.

Tell us a story about someone you coached.

Ahmet was starting his fifth year of college with a 0.7 GPA when I met him. He was overweight and always in trouble at school. He joined my team, and at first, he just wanted to fight. He continued to push and shove his teammates, even after the whistle blew. I learned later that his dad had left his family, and Ahmet was acting out of anger and depression.

“Being part of the team gave Ahmet a purpose. And though I didn’t know it at the time, God was letting me influence a future leader.”

After about six months on the team, Ahmet learned to stop at the whistle. He cut back on his cigarette and soda addictions, and he began to lose weight and improve his grades. We built a father-son connection over his years on my team, and I had the opportunity to show him the way of Christ — how the gospel affects everything we do.

Ahmet graduated college in nine years with a 3.2 GPA, and today he’s a successful engineer in Detroit. I’ll never forget the day he graduated. His mother gave me a big hug and said, “I wish you had come four years earlier.” Being part of the team gave Ahmet a purpose. And though I didn’t know it at the time, God was letting me influence a future leader.

Is there an opportunity for other coaches to do what you’re doing?

Absolutely. American football is growing all over the world. Guys everywhere love the camaraderie — the blood, sweat, and tears that bond you together. It crosses cultures. In the Middle East and Asia, football is still new enough that leagues want help from American coaches. They see their need for football expertise that they don’t have yet … but this could be a short window of opportunity.

In that first football game I ever saw in West Asia, they played by the rules, but they didn’t really play. They lacked the enthusiasm, the discipline, the stick-to-itiveness. That’s what American coaches can bring.

What kind of coaches are you looking for?

“Before my American players needed to hear the gospel for the thousandth time, there were players who needed to hear it for the first time.”

Coaches who are passionate about Christ and passionate about football, and who believe that where they coach is just as important as how they coach. You can coach here in the U.S. and that’s a noble calling. But for me, before my American players needed to hear the gospel for the thousandth time, there were players who needed to hear it for the first time.

There are openings for coaches of just about every level of experience. If you’re passionate about discipling young men and you want to make an impact for God’s kingdom, this a phenomenal opportunity for you.

How can someone get involved?

Let’s talk. If you want to test it out, come do a football camp during the summer to get on the field and spend time with athletes in this part of the world. Or if you’re ready to commit, let’s explore open coaching positions. Learn more, and talk to us.

Hudson and his wife make disciples wherever life happens — in Texas, West Asia, or beyond.

The people in this story are real, but their names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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