They are a powerhouse in our culture on so many levels.
In our household, sports are a staple in terms of entertainment & exercise. We love to watch sports. We love to play sports.
And both watching and playing sports creates tremendous learning opportunities for our kids: It develops skills in teamwork, it teaches the discipline of self-control, and it builds character qualities like perseverance, determination, forbearance, and loyalty.
But sometimes I fear that sports plays too much of a role in my children's lives. I am in shock at the retention my 6 and 4 year old have for football and basketball stats. They remember players, scores, and game changing plays better than I remember most things. 75% of their play involves sports. Many injuries and tantrums result from too rough or just too much sports. It honestly feels like, at times, they literally eat, sleep, and breathe sports.
So I've sought the Lord for wisdom: What is THE healthy role of sports in my kids' lives?
And I feel He has given me two pieces of wisdom when it comes to sports AND my kids:
When it comes to sports, we must emphasize and teach BALANCE.
We can encourage our kids to spur on their favorite players, but not to idolize them.
We can allow them to partake in the fun of playing & watching their favorite teams compete, but not at the expense of their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
We can provide opportunities for training, practice, and participation in sports, while also encouraging them to pursue other interests outside of athletics.
Sports creates a plethora of teachable moments.
When we watch college athletes lose their cool and start punching and flicking people off, we can take the opportunity to talk about the importance of self-control.
When we watch in awe at the skills and success of a professional athlete, we can take the opportunity to talk about discipline, hard work, and perseverance.
When our child loses a game with unsportsmanlike conduct, we can take the opportunity to talk about humility and godly perspective.
And most importantly as we encourage our children to train and practice a sport in order to develop the skills necessary for success, we can also take the opportunity to encourage them to train and practice walking with Jesus.
1 Timothy 4:7 says to "train yourself to be godly." As our kids start to understand what it means to train themselves to play soccer (football, basketball, etc), God says we can use this sports analogy to help them understand spiritual training.
Take a look at the whole of 1 Timothy 4:7-8:
"Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales (in other words, silly stories that dress themselves up as religion); rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."
Our children must understand the distinction: Sports is valuable for some things. But training to be godly, to be like Jesus, is valuable for all things. So, we challenge them to practice kindness, forgiveness, mercy, and humility. We encourage them in that "whatever they do, to do it all for the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) And we provide opportunities for them receive sound and stellar Biblical training.
As I reflect on these two pieces of wisdom, I am thankful that God uses practical things like sports to teach us about Himself and His will for our lives.
Let's take time today to pray that the role of sports in our kids' lives is healthy and useful for training them up in righteousness.
I pray You would give my children a healthy perspective on sports. I pray You would protect their hearts from idolizing or worshipping athletes and sports. Would You use sports to teach my children character qualities You possess. May they learn self-control and humility as a result of their participation in sports. And may they use sports as an analogy to understand the importance of training to be godly, to be more like You. I pray they would grasp how valuable godliness is for all things. I pray they would develop perseverance and determination in godly training. May they work hard at being like You! And may they strive to give You glory in all that they do!