The Depressing Reality of Kids’ Sports

depressing reality of kids sports 3Having 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 ( 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

footballMore 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.

Works Cited

Murphey, A. (2000). The Faith of A Child: A Step-By-Step Gueid to Salvation For Your Child . Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Stats, S. (2013). Retrieved September 22, /2014, from

Wallerson, R. (2014, 1 31). The Wall Street Hournal . Retrieved September 24, 2014, from

Teach Jesus. Use Football?

Football Blog PostCollege football is amazing. The sport has fanatical bands, big hits, and unfettered enthusiasm. Quite simply the sport is the perfect blend of World Cup craziness and rugged manliness.  As we watch the college season unfold, we will being watched by our kids. Good or bad, our interactions with our favorite teams have a spiritual element. Let’s seize the day and use football as a tool to teach our kids about Jesus.

Don’t Be A Loser

When our team wins only two games (like my Air force Falcons did in 2013,) is our Fall ruined? Or if our team captures the National Championship like Florida State did, is our year made? If the status of our team is our spiritual identity, the answer will be a yes. Now I do not think expressing happiness or sadness about the outcome of your team’s last game is wrong. I was pretty excited to watch Texas win the national title in 2008!  But living by the outcome of your team’s score is a problem. As Pastor Tim Keller rightfully warns,

sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things (168).

How do we know if the sport has become an ultimate thing in our life? College football is the ultimate thing if it determPeter At Notre Dameines our emotions and actions.  For example if we are short with our kids all week or extremely generous with our money because of how our quarterback played, we are teaching our kids that joy is found in a leather ball. Our football identity is melting off our t-shirts and into our hearts. This is a huge problem. As Pastor Tim Keller explains, “Identity apart from God is inherently unstable. Without God, our sense of worth may seem solid on the surface, but it never is – it can destroy you in a moment” (170-71).  Every team (even SEC teams) will lose eventually. And scandals hit even little schools like the Air Force Academy at some point. If we live for college football, we will be fragile, miserable people with really strong and yet very indefensible prejudices. And we will encourage our kids to create equally fragile lives founded upon stadiums, swag, and whatever other trinkets that promise happiness but deliver despair. If this is you, repent and make Jesus your identity!

Everybody has to live for something. Whatever that something is becomes “Lord of your life,” whether you think of it that way or not. Jesus is the only Lord who, if you receive him, will fulfill you completely, and, if you fail him, will forgive you eternally  (p179).


Make Jesus Your Soul’s Captain

But if we flip the field, college football will be a great teaching tool. In a very real way, we can use football to show the sufficiency and power of Christ. When our team gets blown out (…Air Force…), we can still have a great Saturday because Jesus is king. And when our team collects the umpteenth championship, we can be humble and happy, because we base our identity on Christ’s free gift of salvation.  As we flip between games on Saturday afternoon, let’s show our kids that every Saturday is a good day because we get to worship on Sunday. By teaching our kids that games are just that – games, we can point them to things above where Christ is!

Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord. Jer 9:24b


Get Back Up

If you are like me, you probably have had at least one sin fueled identity crisis during the college secfootball season. A little ways back, I dug my way under a friend’s skin by chanting, “Cry, Tebow Cry” after the former quarterback got slammed hard to the turf.  A few seconds later, I heard my Gator buddy say, “You need to leave my apartment, NOW!”  Ultimately our issue was not a battle between the SEC and the Big 12.  Our issue was a sin issue. I had missed the whole “love your neighbor as yourself and let you speech always be with grace (Matt. 22:36-40; Col 4:6)” We need to be gracious and loving even during sports.  Eventually, I had to repent of being rude and unkind with my words. When we sin during college football, let’s be quick to repent and return to our Jesus identity.

Its Ok Leave The Team

Lastly, we can’t forget that sin is always displeasing to God. Boasting about Notre Dame until it’s our identity is never excusable in God’s eyes. And if we can’t watch football without sinning against God and hurting our friends, let’s embrace the Frozen mantra and “Let it go!” It’s better to cut out an eye and miss a little football than for us and our kids to suffer from the deadly effects of sin (Matt 5:29).

Closing Thoughts

I truly think college football is fantastically entertaining! And I have me some swag: t-shirts, mini football helmets, and banners.  But it is just a sport, nothing more. Jesus is so much better. Will we embrace the Jesus identity this football season? Our kids are watching. More importantly God is watching!


Works Cited

Keller, T. (2008). The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York : Penguin .