Parents and Sports
Parents and Sports
I grew up playing sports. Practices after school, injuries, lots of smelly clothes, and of course playing in games were a part of my life. I stopped playing sports about 8 years ago since I finished college and have been a fan and spectator for the most part. However, I have two children who are at the age where my wife and I are thinking about sports. This time we will not be participants but parents.
The thing is, while sports are great often times they can be life consuming. They can be draining. And if you are not careful sports, performance, accomplishment can begin to shape the way you see yourself. As parents, my wife and I want to guard our children from that. However, we are also trying to figure out how we disciple our children well and to keep our own selves from living vicariously through our children.
Well, I stumbled across this podcast from Desiring God on Youth Athletics that I found extremely insightful and if you’re a parent of kids in sports I thought it might serve you well. It’s an interview with a man named Ed Uszynski. I suggest you read this article linked here and listen to the podcast, but for I’ve also synthesized it for you below.
The first thing that parents should remember is this potent truth, “It’s just a game.” Say it with me again, “It’s just a game.” When you realize that sports is just a game there’s no pressure. The goal then becomes having fun. I’ve known parents in my years playing sports who saw a game as life or death. They would put all this pressure on their kid to excel and sap the fun right out of the kids.
Uszynski says, “parents and coaches take what they see on television from professionals and Olympians and bring it onto the field of play for 10-year-olds. Losing has become the great American sin, and like never before, our identities are getting wrapped up in winning and excelling.” He says that this is the reason why some Christian parents choose to keep their children out of athletics all together.
So should we choose not to put our kids in sports and some have decided? Well, he goes on to say that “sports provides a venue to work on what it means to be human and whole.” In other words, sports can be leveraged to teach life lessons, socialization, self-control, discipline and teamwork. Another thing that sports has the potential to teach kids is how to deal with failure. About this Uszynski says, when our kids fail we have an opportunity to teach our kids something unique about the gospel.
When we look at the gospel of Jesus we realize our failures are not the last word. He says, “Whether it’s a fumble, a strikeout, or a tripping bogey, our children’s missteps are chances for them to learn what it means to bring Jesus into every moment of life.” When they see that in the gospel we never measure up, we never save ourselves, we never win, but we have in Jesus someone who sees our failure and wins on our behalf. Romans 3:23 says that when it comes the the game of life, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Everyone has failed but we are “justified freely by his grace.”
So how do we approach sports as Christian parents? We teach our kids that the scoreboard and stat sheet do not define them. Ultimately, we want them to look not toward their own skill and performance but to look to the work that Jesus did on the cross and let that define them. In the cross their failure is swallowed up in Christ’s victory. And this means seeing sports for what it was meant to be, a fun activity for the kids that can provide some valuable learning experiences.