We are fast becoming (or perhaps already have become) a society that to its detriment values security over risk and safety over adventure. As such, we consistently sacrifice opportunities to grow through challenge. Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence of this orientation toward safety is that our nation, now more than ever, lacks leaders of character. Consequently, America is faced with what I believe to be the defining problem of our time. We need a way to develop leaders who can forge ahead with self-control and moral clarity in the midst of growing uncertainty. Thankfully, while it may appear there are fewer and fewer places that are developing such leaders, I do not believe we are without hope.

I believe one answer can be found in the carefully constructed, highly competitive athletic environment. Such environments represent one of the few remaining cultural strongholds for leadership and character development in twenty-first-century America. On the outset, one must understand I am talking about an environment that is completely antithetical to those that produce and encourage the shocking antics of the latest ESPN prima donna. Instead, this article will argue for the idea that the carefully constructed, highly competitive athletic environment, infused with intentional and relentless coaching focused on developing Christ-like people, will result in the production of well-differentiated leaders who can revive America. Products of such environments are not reactive, do not blame others for their failures, and are not afraid to take stands in the face of pressure. In addition, in order to “survive,” they must wholeheartedly embrace a belief that short-term pain is necessary for long-term gain and are willing to live out that belief. In short, such leaders have “nerve” enough to lead.