Tonight’s National Championship game is a great rematch between Clemson and Alabama. Although it always comes down to what the players do on the field, the head coach plays an integral role in college football.

Dabo Swinney has been leading Clemson with a fun and upbeat attitude, and is considered a true player’s coach. While attempting to win his first National Championship as a head coach, he’s facing Nick Saban who is competing for his sixth. Swinney is the new elite coach in college football, but Saban has sustained dominance for a long time.

When former player and current ESPN analyst, Booger McFarland (coached by Saban while at LSU), was asked about what makes Saban so good, he said, “His ability to relate to people…the ultimate relationship person…he can sit down and talk to anyone…and make them feel comfortable.”

From the outside looking in, this may not be the first thought that comes to mind when thinking about Saban. However, having this characteristic is clearly important in his ability to recruit the very best athletes in the country. He brings all types of players from multiple backgrounds into his program, and finds ways to work well with each of them.

I believe the ability to relate to people is extremely valuable in all walks of life. When we find common ground and look for ways we are similar to others, we can connect to almost anyone in some way. When this happens, it’s amazing to see the doors that open!

As followers of Jesus, we should desire to make people feel comfortable around us, and figure out how to sit down and talk with them. The easiest way for me is talking sports, but the important part is letting people know you care about them and really listening to what they have to say.

When we relate to others because of our common interest in sports (or work or hobbies), we can develop a bond that leads to the possibility of communicating the love and Good News of Jesus.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9 about being like the people he’s serving, so that he can ultimately bring them to Christ. He says in verses 22-23, “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”

Nick Saban has done a tremendous job of finding common ground with players, so he can attract them to Alabama. Today, let’s be challenged to bring purpose to our relationships, and point others to the transforming power of Jesus. I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack that!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I pray You would give me discernment when it comes to finding common ground with others. Help me to look past our differences and find areas we can relate to. Strengthen me to even use sports as an opportunity to tell others about Jesus, and to share with them how You’ve transformed my life. Please give me opportunities to do this today. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.