Keeping An Eye on Competitive Sports
Over the years, our six boys tried basketball, soccer, baseball, and finally football – which is where most of them settled in. Along the way we learned a few things that make a big difference in the experience for your kids and for the whole family.
First, understand sports and competition are not un-Christian! Paul frequently describes the Christian walk as a race – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race …” and “I do not count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy …” (2 Timothy 4:7 and Acts 20:24). In our church life, we are told to “outdo one another showing honor.” (Romans 12:10 ESV). And it’s okay to have winners and losers, too – and to work hard to win: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)
But we need to approach sports like Christians. For example, Paul also told Timothy, “If anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5) The writer to the Hebrews encouraged, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) When we compete, we play by the rules, and as we train ourselves for the competition, we watch to keep sin out of the game.
Avoid the common traps of pride and boasting. Teach your kids how to enjoy the game but don’t allow bad sportsmanship. “Let not the mighty man glory in his might,” God warns, “but [rather] that he knows Me …” (Jeremiah 9:23-24) One of the things which God hates is “one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:19) Remember that God rules even over our competitions: “It is not of him who runs, but God who has mercy,” (Romans 9:16) and last-minute loss is just part of the game—not a cosmic disaster. Beware – sometimes we parents are more obnoxious than our kids! Don’t be.
Make sure your sports don’t overwhelm your family life. We struggled the year three boys played baseball on three different city league teams—with different schedules, we seemed to spend the season driving laps around town! We never did that again. It was much better when we found homeschool leagues which recognized the challenges of larger families and tighter budgets, and grouped practices and games close together. We appreciated their emphasis on sportsmanship, too. You can learn more about homeschool leagues in this interview with Earl Pendleton of the Homeschool Football League.
Sports can be a challenging but rewarding way to get your children active, make friends, and learn some teamwork and social skills at the same time. Don’t overlook the possibility, but keep your eye on the ball – our goal is making disciples, not athletic stars!
Yours in the battle,
Hal and Melanie
This article appeared in the The Homeschool Minute, an email newsletter from The Old Schoolhouse magazine.
Why do boys love to compete? Why are they anxious to test out their strength? That’s just one of the things we talk about in our book, Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys. It’s the book we couldn’t find in raising our six boys – Biblical and practical, too! Click here to find out more about this award-winning book.