Rhule speaks at Truett Chapel

Head coach Matt Rhule speaks at National Signing Day on Feb. 1. Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

By Junpeng Zhang | Reporter

27th Baylor head football coach, Matt Rhule, was invited to do an interview and discussion with John and Cynthia White at George W. Truett Theological Seminary during the Paul Powell Chapel on Tuesday.

Rhule came to Waco after four seasons as the head coach at Temple University, where he led the Owls to consecutive 10-win seasons in 2015 and 2016 and the 2016 American Athletic Conference championship.

“Dr Todd Still, Dean of Truett Seminary, invited Coach Rhule to our weekly chapel service in order to formally introduce Coach Rhule to the Truett Seminary family and so that he knows that our spiritual community cares about him as a Christian leader and his family’s relocation to their new home in Waco,” Dr. John White, an assistant professor of practical theology and director of sports ministry program at Baylor, said. “We also wanted to expose him to the abundant resources at his disposal found in the Sports Chaplaincy Program and all the initiatives associated with it so that a mutually beneficial relationship may exist between Truett sports ministry and Baylor Athletics.”

White came alongside with his wife, Cynthia White, an All-American volleyball player in college (B.S., University of Alabama) and an assistant coach at the University of Texas.

Dr. Todd Still, Dean of Truett Seminary, who invited Rhule and the Whites, started the call to worship based on Psalm 27; John 4:23, and he also welcomed and introduced the guests. When asked about their wishes on this chapel, John White expressed his own goals.

Cynthia White then shared her understanding in different passages such as James 4:8; Matthew 5:8, 6:24; Romans 1:21,22,25; and Romans 12:1. She took Romans 1:25 as an example, and pointed out an important idea for attendees to think about with one of her own living experiences – no matter whether it is for current parents or a younger generation who will be parents in the future.

“When I refused to give money to my daughter, I knew she would be mad. Who doesn’t want to be a parent that children like? But I have to make my daughter to be responsible and independent for her life by the time she graduates,” Cynthia White said. “That’s not right or wrong necessarily, it is about helping her grow up. So as a coach, a parent and a professor, what is going to help our children and young people grow up? That’s the decision.”

Cynthia White then explained how the Beatitudes in scripture applies to athletics, although the passage seems impossible to live by in the modern world since the field of sports is very competitive.

“However, if understood properly, the Beatitudes epitomize how Christians can and ought to inhabit any area of life, including sports,” Cynthia White said. “I chose this passage to help demonstrate that humility, other-centeredness, patience and justice can foster communities of virtue so that together coaches and athletes grow holistically and prepare others for future leadership.”

During the interview period, Rhule expressed his thoughts, but he also told people what he did before to help athletes handle pressure and find things football athletes care about.

“I think the first thing you want to make sure is everyone feels value. Your value is what you bring to the team. However, I won’t treat guys like talented and untalented in different ways. We want every person in our program to understand that your value is who you are,” Rhule said. “But more importantly, we should know who would be there for those kids. Some kids feel no control in their situation, and then they lose heart, faith and confidence. That’s what we are trying to do right now.”

John White said he admired what Rhule said and gave his own comment on the answers from Rhule after the chapel.

“It is so encouraging to hear what he said with his transparency and honesty which people don’t always get a chance to know in the media world of sound bites and tweeting. Coach Rhule holds such beliefs and values because all people are valuable in God’s eyes,” John White said. “He also shared the challenges ahead of him and welcomes prayer first and foremost, and others around him who will encourage and grant patience with the process of character formation and training athletes to become leaders on and off the field.”