Lately I’ve been wondering what to do about my kids and sports. I sincerely feel torn because I was always involved in sports growing up and enjoyed them, but I’m not sure they were good for my soul. As a dad, I truly want to consider the positive or negative impact athletics will have on my children’s souls.
It feels weird to even write that last sentence because I know that I may appear weird or fanatical for it. My temptation is to just start introducing them to sports and signing them up for city teams because it seems like that is what I’m supposed to do as an American parent. I honestly don’t desire alienation, but I also don’t want to allow something into my family just because it is normal and expected.
I’m just not sure what God thinks about athletics. This has been bothering me for some time, but especially since I have been the administrator at a small Christian school that participates in a varsity level basketball season.
I have witnessed ridiculous rivalries, parading arrogance, unrestrained anger, aggressive finger-pointing, humiliating words, and lots of tears. Our teams, coaches and fans usually are not the ones behaving this way, but there have been moments. Side note: most of those behaviors listed above have come from adults in the stands or coaches from the bench not from the players, but it’s easy to see signs of the poor attitudes trickling down to the kids.
What does God think about athletics, really? I've heard over and over again since high school that God does not mind sports and is actually in favor of them, but how do I really know this? Maybe he does approve of them, but if he doesn’t, I want to know… even if I’m the only one willing to search it out.
I know that competitive team sports offer many positive lessons to their participants. The ones that always seem to be mentioned are: teamwork, diligence, dedication and character. But are sports the only ways to teach our young people these qualities? Will my kids truly not learn these things if I don’t involve them in athletics? And could sports be just another opportunity for me to neglect my calling to train and teach my kids in these ways, trusting a coach and sports program to do it instead?
Also, if sports are so effective at making quality human-beings out of our children, then why is it that 99% of the time the most successful athletes are the last people I want my children looking up to? I know that there are exceptions to this, but I suspect that athletes like Kurt Warner, Tim Tebow and David Robinson are men of character and integrity despite their involvement in sports, not because of it.
One of my biggest concerns is the tendency for pride to flourish on the sports court, field or arena. I've seen men totally lose their Christian testimony while participating in sports. I’m afraid I have done the same thing in the past. I have often felt that ugly things come out of me while competing in a sport that I never experience in all the other areas of my life. I know that not all Christian men seem to struggle this way, but there are enough who do to cause me considerable concern.
In my opinion, pride is a more dangerous enemy to my children’s souls than anything else because it is the great granddaddy of every other sin. Not only that, but in my life I feel pride to be THE HARDEST sin to combat because of its many disguises and its ability to deceive me.
If I view pride the way God does, would I involve my children in an activity that can quickly cause pride to sprout and flourish in their hearts? Jesus said that when something causes us to sin we should cut it off. Unfortunately, I like most other men I know, have a pretty hard time imagining cutting sports out of my life and my children’s life- even as I am suspecting that sports could be spiritually detrimental.
That in itself gives me great cause for concern. Have I unintentionally made athletics an idol? And if I have, am I willing to crush and burn it?
There is so much more I could write on this topic, but I’m curious what other people think. Feel free to chime in…