Parenting Priorities: Sports Talk

Before reading this post, please know that it is a topic that could ruffle some feathers. While I realize not ALL parents, children, sports, areas, etc. may be like this…this was the experience that I had on this topic and am simply sharing my feelings/thoughts.


 

In the world of sports, the saying goes “If you’re not doing it, you can bet someone else is.” “It” can be replaced with: practicing, shooting 100 extra free throws before coming in for dinner, playing on a club team, playing travel ball, hiring a private coach, lifting weights, etc. And what that saying is basically meaning is that if you’re not doing “it”, you won’t get better…and those who are doing “it” will be a lot better than you.

It’s actually true to an extent…beyond those with God-given, natural talent who excel regardless of the extra hours put in at the gym (similar to the kids who don’t have to try very hard in school and still get straight A’s). And growing up in sports…I do agree with that saying, to an extent…but I feel like that saying has blown up in our world and a two-headed monster has been created. When I heard that saying as an athlete, I was in high school. Parents are telling themselves and their child(ren) this at age 9.

Third grade.

That’s the age I was told this past weekend by a fellow mom at a birthday party about the competitiveness of volleyball in our area. If you don’t have your child on a CLUB TEAM by 3rd grade (age 9), odds are, they won’t make the high school team.

My head spun.

(And as a side note, she was just the bearer of crazy news. She thought this was over-the-top, as well.)

After talking with other moms…moms of older kids who could speak from experience…they agreed with this fact in regards to other sports, as well. If they didn’t commit to living the crazy sport life in their child’s grade school years, their child would not be competitive enough to play on the high school team.

As I mulled this over in my head all weekend, I became more and more disturbed. Now, truly…I grew up in sports, so I am not blogging about this from a naive perspective. In third grade, I began playing basketball…but it was a school league. We played against our classmates in our elementary gym with our dads as the coaches. It was nothing fancy. I played basketball and volleyball throughout junior high and high school. And I finished my athletic career as a volleyball player at the collegiate level. I know what it takes to be successful….at least I KNEW what it TOOK to be successful.

So back to that “two-headed monster” I mentioned…let me explain to you what that looks like.

This monster looks like this…on one head, it’s parents wanting their children to be involved in something. Perhaps it’s a sport, perhaps it’s theatre…whatever the extra-curricular may be, OFTEN TIMES parents are judged or their parenting is measured by how involved their kids are. We begin to believe this lie that our child’s happiness and the success of their future is measured by where or what we are running them to each night and every Saturday morning. And the TRUTH is that our child’s future can only be happy and successful if they know Jesus.

On the other head is our child. Running from one thing to the next. Placing extra-curricular activities at the top of their priority list at a young age. Creating a false idol in their life. Learning to measure their success and happiness on whether or not their sports team won the tournament. When the TRUTH is…Jesus is where their worth is found.

Now, again…don’t get me wrong. I do believe there can be a balance…I do believe a child can be involved in extra-curricular activities while following Jesus and finding their worth in Him. I do! I believe learning to win and lose are important in life…important in learning how to be IN this world…but as Christians we are not to be OF the world…and that is certainly a fine line (especially for children) to distinguish.

So…as the saying goes…”If you’re not doing it, you can bet someone else is.” Replace that it with “teaching your child about Jesus” or “showing your child how to follow hard after Jesus” or “showing your child that their worth is found only in Jesus” or “teaching your child how to be in the world but not of it”…If you’re not doing it, you can bet someone else is NOT doing it either. It is our job, as parents, to do this. We must ensure that our children learn that they are VALUABLE to God…more precious than ANYTHING in this world to Him…regardless of what they’re involved in. Regardless of what sport they play, what school they go to, how they look or dress…He loves them MORE than we do and MORE than we can even fathom.

I guess this was so eye-opening/disturbing to me because I have lived that sports life and not even as intense as it seems kids are living it today…and I have also lost sight of Jesus. I made sports my idol…I found my worth in my success. And I was successful. (I am sharing these facts merely to make my point…) I was a two-sport athlete in high school and (my teams and myself) hold records at my high school. My HS volleyball team was the first female team in the history of Lawrence Co. female sports to with the WPIAL championship in ANY sport. I was First-Team selections in basketball and volleyball in high school. I started as a sophomore in college on my volleyball team. I was First-Team All-Conference two years in a row. I hold 3 records at my college. My team was the first team in our school’s history to go to the NCAA tournament. My team was declared a “Team of Distinction” last year at the school’s Hall of Fame banquet.  I am being inducted into my college’s Hall of Fame this year alongside a teammate I have played with since I was 15.

But…in the big picture of life…none. of. that. matters. I found my worth there at one time in my life. Are all of these things honors? Absolutely. Did I work my butt off to achieve them? Yes. Am I thrilled to be inducted into the HOF with my long-time teammate this year? Without a doubt. But at the end of my life, when I am face-to-face with Jesus…He will not ask me about my success in sports. Nor will I care about it.

In the end, all that matters is that I know Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior and that I am a child of God. My worth is found in Jesus. My purpose is found in Jesus. I will live my life for him for the rest of my days.

  

The saying that I hope to be more prevalent in our family…in my child is “I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul.”

I want to reiterate that these are just my thoughts and opinions since hearing of this sports-craziness. Do I think sports are evil? Not at all. Do I think they can be put on a pedestal? Absolutely. What I’m interested in and searching for is a healthy balance. Or perhaps a healthy imbalance. Where Jesus is the focus. Jesus is our ruler. Following Jesus is #1 priority. And all other things…extra-curricular activities…are ways to share His unfailing love with others who need him.

Matthew 6:33 reads,

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

When we seek God first…in sports, for example, God can do more with our “I started playing in 8th grade talent” level, having sought Him first and chosen to follow Jesus in sports, than we can do ourselves, with more years of training and experience. All glory be to God in ALL that we do.

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While I know this can be such a controversial topic, I want to know your thoughts! Are you a Christian family involved in lots of extra-curricular activities? If so, how do you find the balance? How do you keep Jesus as your one and only idol? Share in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!

His will, His way…

Lisa

3 thoughts on “Parenting Priorities: Sports Talk

  1. Lisa,
    You bring up a lot of really great points about this subject! This has always been a TABOO subject I believe with many people and you’ve addressed it very well. We should always strive to have our children put God first and there will always be that struggle for them…and us too. It’s a struggle that will continue throughout their lives but if we start early with these concepts our children will certainly be the better for it! Thanks for sharing!

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