This week, Noah and Bjorn began their high school series by speaking with Kevin McNamara and Christy Komenda.
Kevin is a retired high school teacher, having taught at Christian Central Academy in Buffalo, New York for 32 years. He has been the coach of Williamsville South’s girls varsity soccer team for the past 27 years.
Christy has been an art teacher at Springville Griffith Institute, located in Springville, New York, for the past 22 years. She spent her first 13 years teaching at the elementary school before moving to the middle school, and then to her current position at the high school.
Christy is an assistant coach for Springville’s girls varsity swim team.
What Has Coaching Taught Kevin and Christy About Their Faith?
“The most important thing I’ve learned is God’s ability to put [the fruits of the Spirit] in my life.” -Kevin McNamara
One area of his life where Kevin has seen God have a big impact, especially as it relates to coaching, is enabling him to live a Godly life.
As a longtime coach, Kevin has had to deal with not only teenagers, but also parents who think that their kids should receive more playing time, refs that make calls that he disagrees with, and his own emotions that arise during practice and the pressure of a game.
These are all situations that can make it hard for anyone to keep their cool and behave in a way that they would be proud of. Despite this, Kevin feels that he displays God’s love during his interactions with others.
Kevin references Galatians 5 and the fruits of the Spirit; especially patience and self-control. He credits God for his ability to put these virtues in his life.
Without God, Kevin feels that he wouldn’t be able to display these virtues or show the love and respect to others that he does.
“What God has taught me most is to be who you are” -Christy Komenda
The biggest thing that coaching has taught Christy about her faith and relationship with God is to be herself. She doesn’t need to try to make herself out to be more than she is.
This realization came to her over time due to the interactions that she has had with her swimmers.
At the beginning of a swim season, Christy and the other coaches meet with each swimmer to discuss what the students think their strengths are and what areas they would like to improve in. This conversation, along with practices, help the coaches to see both the talents of each person and areas where there is room for growth.
Christy realized that this practice should be applied to her faith. It is important to be honest with ourselves and realize that there are always areas where you can improve in your faith.
However, it’s also important to realize what your gifts and areas of strength are. You can use these strengths to help those around you who might be struggling in these areas.
Christy said that she loves all of her swimmers, no matter what their skill level might be. This helped her see that just as she loves her swimmers as they are, God loves us as we are.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to improve, but we should be grateful for the gifts that God gave us
How Do Kevin and Christy Display Their Faith to Their Athletes?
“My role is my witness … coaching at a public school, you’re somewhat restricted in what you can say or talk about with the kids” -Kevin McNamara
Working for a public school presents challenges and limits what you can say to students as it relates to faith.
Kevin has overcome this by leading with his actions.
He says that while he may not be able to discuss specifics of faith with his players, what he can do is be a witness for them of what living through God looks like.
This is where Kevin feels that he can make the biggest difference. By displaying the fruits of the Spirit, he can provide a model for his players about what having a relationship with God looks like.
This goes back to the way he acts during games and practices. The patience and love that he shows during his interactions serves as an example to others of how Christ would want us to act.
Another way that he does this, especially this year, is asking his players how they are doing and being there to listen and genuinely care.
Kevin’s hope is that his athletes see the model he provides and then, knowing that he is a Christian, start to ask their own questions about God and explore their own relationship with him.
“I pray that God gives them the opportunity to be who they are and be loved -Christy Komenda
Just as Kevin does, Christy seeks to display Christ’s love through the way that she interacts with others. She says that she tries to express God’s love to her students and athletes through her own love.
In Christy’s mind, serving as an example for students will provide a lasting impact and help them see what a Godly life looks like.
Another thing that Christy believes is extremely important is prayer.
Before each swim season, Christy receives a list of names of the students who will be on the team that year. She takes time in the weeks leading up to practice to pray for each swimmer, praying that God gives them an opportunity to be who they are and to be loved.
While this might not be something that Christy’s students or athletes directly see, this is still a great example of displaying God’s love to those in her life.
Acts of God’s love don’t have to be public.
What is God Teaching You?
The avenues that Kevin and Christy take to display their faith are things that any of us can do.
Even if you’re in a place in life or have a job where you aren’t able to openly discuss faith with those around you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t show others God’s love.
Behaving in a Godly way, displaying the fruits of the Spirit, and loving those around us are all things that we can do with God’s help.
Oftentimes what people remember most about you is how you conduct yourself and how you treat others.
Loving those around us and treating them with respect will grab the attention of the people we come into contact with. From here, people can see what a Godly life looks like and hopefully begin to explore their own relationship with God.
Another thing we can all do is pray. Prayer is an important aspect of our faith.
Telling those in our life that you are praying for them often has a big impact. It displays to them the love and the care that we have for them, as well as providing an example of God’s love.
However, it’s not only important to pray for those you know; it’s also important to pray for those who you don’t know.
God doesn’t want us to only display love to those who we are close with. While this is no doubt important, God wants us to display love to everyone, whether they are aware of it or not.
Former podcast guest Mike Weston (episode 28), who is a chaplain for two professional Rochester sports teams, said that it is important to pray for professional athletes. It is also important to pray for high school athletes, high school students, and anyone else we can think of.
Everyone, especially now, could use some prayer and God’s love in their life.
Have you been praying for the people in your life? What about the people not in your life?
Are you living your life in a way that provides an example of Christ to others? What fruits of the Spirit are you strong in and which could you improve on?
1 John 4:16
1 Corinthians 13:4-13
1 Timothy 2:1
To hear more about the discussion that Kevin and Christy had with Noah and Bjorn, check out “The Sweat Room: Sports and Faith” episode 29.