We spend a lot of time at sporting competitions in our house. My oldest daughter plays competitive soccer, and my youngest plays ice hockey. We spend three or four nights a week at practice, and our weekends revolve around games. It's getting to be a rat race, and sometimes we wonder if it's all worth it. Sometimes it requires some creative planning and even some help from the grandparents to get everyone where they need to be.
However, both my girls love their respective sports. It's great for their bodies, and it's teaching them lessons that would be difficult to teach elsewhere. No matter the sport or activity, watch for opportunities to teach your children lessons about having a Christ-like character.
This spring, my older daughter's soccer team played another team that was super aggressive. At one point in the game, a girl on the other team knocked my daughter down, then punched her in the face. (Yes, my first reaction was to want to grab the girl. I'm happy to say I stifled that impulse.) You can guess what the topic of conversation on the way home was. My daughter's first reaction was to complain about the other girl and express her desire to hit her back. Despite the fact that I thought that was a perfectly acceptable way to feel, we used it as an opportunity to talk about treating others well even when they don't treat us well.
My other daughter is learning to play ice hockey. Before she can play on a team, however, she had to take and pass five learn-to-play-hockey classes. It took her eight months to pass all the classes. There were moments during those eight months that she was frustrated to tears by her inability to learn to stop, which was one of the things she had to do to pass to the next class. Through it all, though, we talked about persevering even in the face of difficulty. The sense of accomplishment she experienced when she passed the last class was made all the sweeter knowing how hard she had to work to make it through. We were able to apply the lessons she learned about persevering to the rest of life using Philippians 3:12-15.
Watch for opportunities when your kids are playing sports to apply the lessons they take from sports to the rest of their lives, with a Christ-like perspective. When you are talking about practice or a game, pay attention to the things on which your child is focusing. Try to bring the focus away from how well they played and put it on the character issues. Ask questions like:
- Did you try your hardest?
- Did you listen to your coach?
- Did you cheer your team on or did you focus only on yourself?
- Did you respect the players on the other team?
- Did you treat your teammates with respect?
These are the important things that they will take away from their participation in sports. Winning is nice, but it's not the only thing. Even on a losing team, your child can develop character and leadership skills that God can use. When you see your child acting with character or leadership on the field, ice or court, be sure to point it out. Sports skills are a great thing to have, but character is even more important.
As parents, we need to be careful to let our kids just enjoy the sport they are playing. In our society, it seems the push is on for kids to become involved in competitive sports earlier and earlier. We need to be careful not to push our kids to play because we want them to be a star. God has given each of our kids gifts and abilities. Just because you were a star baseball player doesn't mean that your son will be one, too. If he wants to pursue piano instead, that may be where God has gifted him. It's ok to support your kids in their endeavors, but keep in mind that they need to use the gifts and talents that God has given to them in a way that pleases Him. It doesn't please God when parents try to fit their children into a mold that He did not intend for them to fill.
Use the rest of the season to fill your child up with positive encouragement and a focus on building character through sports. Let's play ball!