Having spent most of my high school and college years coaching or being a Little League umpire, I have witnessed the power of freshly cut, chalk-stained grass to transform soccer moms and carpool dads into rabid lunatics. Sadly, even Christian parents get sucked into the screaming, chanting, (and occasionally throwing things, too!) and coach criticizing until Mr. Jekyll has completely transformed their once sweet smiles into snarled anger. Why do we fight with officials, other parents, and coaches? Why do we go nuts at our kids’ sporting events?
The answer is easy. We have lost our God-centered perspective. We have begun to worship our kids’ sporting successes. We find happiness in tournament wins and batting averages. And because no amount of MVP awards can make us perfect and complete, we become bitter, snarky people, willing to win at all cost in hoping to feel warm inside. To experience a joyful and fulfilled life, we need to continually remember the true value of sports and the awesomeness of God.
The Depressing Reality
According to recent studies, approximately 2,000,000 girls between the ages of 12-18 are playing softball. Once they graduate from high school, there are only 30,175 available roster spots on college and junior college teams and 36 USA national team spots. This means that about 1 to 2 out of every 100 girls has a chance of playing collegiate softball at any level (http://www.scholarshipstats.com/softball.htm). And only about half of those who play in college will receive an athletic scholarship. And only about 2 of every 100,000 girls will get to play for the USA team (Ibid).
Guys fair little better. Of the 5 million guys playing baseball between the ages of 6-18, only 1 out of every 1000 will have the chance to play in the MLB or the minor leagues (Wallerson, 2014). Of the 3.2 million boys throwing footballs around only .0005% of them will ever walk into an NFL stadium as a player (Ibid). And only .00008% of those guys dribbling the b-ball will sport an NBA jersey (Ibid).
In short, unless a kid has the talent of a Kerry Wood or a LeBron James, the probability of him or her becoming a professional athlete is next to none. Regardless of how many tournaments a kid plays in or how much we scream, most kids will never make it to the “next level.” Most will walk away from their bats and balls before the next ten years are up. Let’s take a deep breath and enjoy our kids’ amatuer sports, remembering games are just games. But if we make our kids’ sports career an idol, we will be disappointed and will frustrate our kids by placing unrealistic expectations on them. Most kids won’t go pro even if they truly wanted to play in the NFL.
God Is Way Better Than Little League
More importantly, we need to always remember that God is way better than a Little League World Series title. Instead of shady hotels, hot metal benches, and bug infested hotels, God offers us joy, life, and hope. Being the creator of the universe, he delivers every time. He proves his love for us by sending his son to die for us. He responds to our prayers, giving us more than we could ever dream of. The God who created Venus and Mar loves you and me enough to bless us with houses, cars, good churches, and beautiful families! If we begin to think that a room full of plastic trophies or that the fame that comes with being the parent of a professional athlete is better than God, we are crazy. Jesus gave us the money to buy those trophies and our kids the skills to play. Let’s worship the Creator instead of the creation.
Ultimately, whether we have a pro or just another “good” player on our hands, we always need to keep Christ first in our family. Our children can be great athletes, become famous, and still go to hell (Mat. 16:26). Sports are not bad, but we need to always place them second behind Christ.
Let’s engage kids’ sports with a heaven-centered perspective. Let’s focus first on living for Christ. Let’s pass on Sunday tournaments, let’s speak kindly to coaches, and let’s spend more time in the Word than on the road trips. Then, let’s point our kids to Christ, actively teaching them how to be godly men and women. Our kids are watching us and will pick up our values: good or bad. As Pastor Art Murphy comments,
It saddens me when I see parents who have made time to volunteer for Little League…but have not made time for their children’s spiritual or church life. This speaks volumes to children about what their parents value the most. – Murphey, p. 95
If we do not sacrifice softball for Christ, we cannot but help sacrifice Christ for softball, exchanging eternity for a slim chance of fading fame.
Murphey, A. (2000). The Faith of A Child: A Step-By-Step Gueid to Salvation For Your Child . Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Wallerson, R. (2014, 1 31). The Wall Street Hournal . Retrieved September 24, 2014, from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303519404579350892629229918.