When I first followed Christ, I knew I needed to read the Bible. However, I didn’t want to give up any of my “down time” to do so. I had idols that needed to be dethroned, a few of which I'll list here.
- Sports video games (Super Tecmo Bowl is my all-time favorite)
- Late night ESPN airing of “Whocares State vs Nobody College”
- Internet with 24/7 access to my teams, their latest recruits, post-game, pre-game, and general smack-talk
- Sports radio filling my commutes
- Coaching others' kids
- Coaching my kids (from the sideline or the car)
Notice a theme? To help you, a reminder from my previous post, “My name is Chad, and I’m a sports worshiper.”
Removing idols was a process. A big one for me was youth sports. Now, I don't think youth sports are bad. But, if we place them too high among our priorities, they morph into a problem.
To paraphrase an Alcoholics Anonymous tenant, “An expectation is a future resentment.” As my kids began playing sports, I fell into the trap of creating unrealistic expectations. Shamefully, I wanted their success to bring me glory. The same glory I chased as a player in my younger years.
I’ve been an educator for 20 years, much of that time spent coaching high school sports. I know what it’s like to idolize sports as a player, fan, coach and parent. I’ve worshiped every side of that golden calf. I wonder, are we teaching our kids how to worship at that same altar?
To help us discern that, a few questions:
- How much time does your child spend learning their sport versus getting to know their savior?
- Before and after games, are you more concerned with coaching them into the player you want them to be instead of the person you want them to be?
- How often do you miss church for your child's games, practices, and tournaments?
- Is your relationship with your son better or worse due to their involvement in sports?
- Do you ever say to yourself, "If ______ (...my child makes the team, gets playing time, receives a scholarship...), then I will be satisfied."?
Proverbs 27:12 says, "The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty."
Like me, when you answer the questions above, do you sense danger?
If every good and perfect gift is from God, then why would youth sports create so much frustration in our families? Could we be expecting them to deliver a satisfaction that they never were intended to give? Until we place sports - especially youth sports - in the proper place, God cannot receive proper glory. As Kyle Idleman explains in his book Gods at War, "God cannot bless that with which He competes."
In the final post in this series, we take a look at how one father called a time out and built a game plan around God calling the plays. His approach is one many fathers and sons can take together to set and keep realistic expectations, preserve vital relationships, and keep youth sports off their high place.