My children don't play organized sports much anymore, but they did a lot when they were smaller. I was big into sports as a kid. I loved basketball, and have so many fond memories of my coach and teammates. High school ball is a highlight of my life.
I do think sports can become an idol (like many things). A person can put a sporting activity or event above service to Yahweh. That's dangerous. When a parent is constantly on their child to do better and practice more, the child feels overwhelmed and pressured. The parent has then idolized the sport to the point that it takes over their own life and their child's life. Life becomes about how good the child is at basketball, or football, or softball. That's not a healthy way to live.
I think that an organized sport can be good for a child, if it's kept in its proper place. The child learns respect and how to work with a team. They learn about ups and downs. They learn discipline. These are good things.
I would always tell my children that there were 3 rules to a sport. Yes, I'm about to get spiritual here, so hold on to your hat. I think everything we do should be filtered through Holy Scripture. If you don't see things that way, you might want to stop reading here.
Rule 1: Put Yahweh First
I didn't let my children play a scheduled game if it was on the weekly Sabbath. I was teaching them priorities. When Yahweh's holy time came around, His time came first. His time was prioritized over our time and recreation. I was trying to instill in my children that Yahweh is number 1, not number 2. No matter how important a game was, Yahweh took precedent.
This wasn't always easy. I specifically remember one game my two oldest sons missed. It was an important tournament game, and my sons played first base and short stop. I almost gave in, because I didn't want to hurt the team. But I had to stick with what I had been teaching them. Yahweh comes first.
(I haven't been perfect in this area. Sometimes activities have arisen, and I've allowed my children to do them on the Sabbath. Some of this, I'm okay with. Others, I kick myself for putting Yahweh on the back burner. It's a learning process when you have children.)
Rule 2: Be like the Messiah
This is a rule that goes against the main tenant in organized sports. I taught my children that it didn't matter who won the game.
Now you've got to realize something: I'm a very competitive man. I like to win. I like to be first in everything, and I do think it's okay to try to win, but ultimately it is just a game. I have to remind myself of this when I watch the Atlanta Falcons play, because I'm a huge fan. My wife has "helped" me for years: "Matthew... remember it's just a game. It makes no real difference honey." I shake my head and mumble. (She's right you know.)
I would tell my children to be kind to everyone on the field. I'd tell them to tell the players on the opposing team "good play" when they made a hit, or caught a fly ball. I would tell my kids that when they lost, the other team had the chance to have that good feeling of winning, so they should be glad for the other team. No matter how bad you felt because you lost, rejoice because your friends got to win one.
I know that's not easy, but I didn't want my children making their life all about winning, because that's a big, fat lie. In life, there are so many losses; so many heartaches; so many disappointments. You don't always come out on top. I wanted to prepare them for that, and let them know that they are still great people even when they lose. It's no big deal, especially when it's just a ballgame.
Rule 3: Have Fun
I'd always end by telling my children to have a good time. Laugh, high five, encourage everyone, and be an example of fun. Sports are fun, if you approach them rightly, but you can't let a game steal your joy. You can't let a missed ball or a strike out make you bitter for the whole game. You've got to go into it with a mindset that you are there to enjoy some recreation with your friends.
I'd encourage any Christian parent to re-evaluate their priorities if their child is active in sports. It can be a good thing, but don't turn it into the main thing. Don't neglect the Creator who gives people their talent and ability in the first place. ✌🏼
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.