This story appears in FCA Magazine’s May/June 2017 issue. Subscribe today!
Hometown: Nassau, Bahamas
• Purdue, Head Coach (2012-present)
• University of Arkansas, Associate Head Coach (2000-12)
• University of Arkansas, Assistant (1996-2000)
• University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, Assistant (1995-96)
• Southwest Missouri State, Graduate Assistant (1991-95)
“This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24
Coming to know the Lord as a child in the Bahamas, Lonnie Greene eventually began his coaching career while still a student-athlete, assuming the vacant role of jumps coach at his university while still competing. Since then, the Purdue track and field coach has fully recognized his divine placement as a coach and embraced God’s qualification, joyfully savoring every chance he has to impact his student-athletes.
FCA: It took you a while to fully embrace your coaching role. Why?
LG: I remember calling a good friend while in grad school saying, “I think I messed up. I got a degree in social sciences, but I want to coach!” I went to my then-coach and asked how to get into coaching. He said I didn’t need to worry; all I needed was experience. But that didn’t rest well with my spirit.
Years later, I still didn’t feel good in my heart. God was providing and placing me where I needed to be (I was already at the University of Arkansas, a track and field powerhouse), but in my mind I always thought I wasn’t qualified. And He was saying, “You are. That’s why you’re here.”
One day, in a passing conversation, I asked [former Arkansas basketball coach] Nolan Richardson about coaching and experience. When he said as long as I had a college degree and good coaching experience I would be fine, I was finally like, “Okay, I’m good.” It changed the way I approached almost everything in this profession.
FCA: How does coaching tie in with your life purpose?
LG: I believe this is part of my purpose. I remember praying to God in college, asking Him, “Show me my purpose on the Earth. Let me operate and walk in that.” At that moment, I began to realize that it was working with young people. God always puts a path in front of you; sometimes we fall into it, and sometimes we recognize it and stay on it.
FCA: What brings you joy while working with student-athletes?
LG: When a young man or woman comes to you one way—sometimes broken—and at the end of four years they understand and are confident in who they are as a person and in Christ. I tell them all the time, they don’t have to believe what I believe, but if what I’m saying resonates with them in any way and they can grasp it, I believe I would have impacted their lives going forward for the Kingdom.
FCA: What are young people today looking for?
LG: Authenticity. They’re coming to you with different experiences, different hurts, different wounds in their heart and soul, and some of them don’t handle it well. If there isn’t someone to be authentic and real with them, they’re going to fall off the beaten path. If you’re mindful and prayerful and your heart is always in the right place toward people, you can impact their life for the better. They’re not looking for something packaged; they’re looking for us as coaches to be real, not fake. They identify with that.
FCA: How do you live your own life and faith?
LG: It’s a fine line, but I live my faith out loud in front of everybody and don’t worry too much about what others say. By living it out loud, it doesn’t allow for me to be one way in public and another in private. I have to think about everything I do, because now I’ve professed to being a disciple of the Lord. I figure if He was God enough to create the day, He’s God enough to keep it and pull me through each and every day. I just have to trust Him.
FCA Staff Quote:
“I love having Coach Greene around the Purdue athletics department. His faith and influence are powerful. He prays with athletes often. All the track and cross country teams know and appreciate his faith in and love for Jesus. God is using him greatly.”
FCA Purdue Athletic Chaplain
Photos courtesy of Purdue Athletics