It made me sympathetic to all those “sports parents” you hear about on the national news from time-to-time, but it also opened my eyes to what is appropriate for parents and what isn’t when it comes to their children and sports.
The pride, the nervousness, the busy schedules, the holy-cow-I’m-gonna-have-a-heart-attack moments – all of these things can lead parents into places where we forget who we are in Christ. I’ve been there, and I’d like to share four important things to remember as you stand and cheer from the sidelines.
1. It’s just sports. We all have dreams of grandeur when it comes to our kids. We all want to see them succeed and we rightfully encourage them to pursue their dreams. At the age of 10, my son dreams of becoming a WWE competitor. We go to events together and put the “smackdown” on each other on the trampoline, but the problem starts when WE PARENTS start living through our kids’ dreams. It’s just sports! Let your kids have fun playing a game. Let them learn how to win and how to lose.
2. Let them leave it on the field. In my years of coaching, I’ve noticed kids have the ability to leave their wins and losses on the field. The moment they step off the field, they can go back to being kids. The parents are often the ones who struggle letting it go. It’s healthy to replay game situations to learn and improve, but only at the appropriate times. Be mindful of approaching moments when you’re upset or when your child is emotional – it’s OK to let things cool off so that you can have a healthy conversation later.
3. Invest in things worth investing in. I’ve seen parents invest all their time, money and efforts into a child’s sport. With aspirations of scholarships and pro-level playing time for their children, parents can unintentionally push their kids away from having fun, experiencing other important events in life and worse – learning about Christ and how to walk with Him. It’s a shame to see a child reach a point of feeling burnt out and have no other identity. Support your child’s talents, but not to the detriment of their faith. Make the big investments in eternal pursuits.
4. Remember who you are. Our responsibility as parents is to instill faith in our kids, and sports can be the best metaphors in teaching. When Paul said to throw off everything that hinders and run the race marked out for us, that clicked with me because I ran track through high school. Because of that personal connection I experienced, I’ve used sports analogies with teams, student ministries and my own children to help them connect to the larger truth of Jesus. As followers of Jesus, everything we do reflects Him.
Keep this in mind when you practice. Be an encouragement.
Keep this in mind when you’re in the stands. Be a cheerleader.
Keep this in mind when you interact with other parents. Reflect happiness for each child.
Keep this in mind for your child’s coach. Be a supporting friend.
Sports can be such a life builder for your children and can help them see Jesus in a way the world doesn’t. We as parents just have to be intentional with sports and remember to keep them in their proper place.
Joe Smith is a veteran of youth ministry, having served as lead youth minister in multiple churches over the past 20 years. He’s also served as a senior minister and preaching minister of churches in Florida, and currently serves on the ministry staff at Shift Church in Gainesville, Florida. To contact Joe, send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.