by Michael Kelley
Here we are again – another season starting up. For our family, it’s basketball. I suppose it could be any number of other sports for you and your kid especially with year round travel leagues and all. Because the season is starting up, it’s time for me to remind myself of a few things. The reason I need to be reminded is because I see the tendency in myself to be “that dad.”
You know who “that dad” is, don’t you? He’s the one who can’t sit in the bleachers to watch because he’s too nervous about his son’s performance. He’s the one constantly pacing and giving direction even if he’s not the coach. He’s the one who might not yell at the ref the whole game, but he’s certainly not above a well placed verbal jab or two. I see these things in myself, to my shame.
Along with these in game habits, there are the other thoughts and feelings that simmer below the surface. The pump of the blood when I know there’s a ballgame. The feeling of comparison when my child gets out there with the rest of the team. The desire for him to be the best that could erupt into anger if he doesn’t perform well. All of this over 8-year-old basketball.
Yeah, those things are there too. Again, to my shame.
Maybe you can relate.
But because I know these things about myself, this is the time of yearly reminding. And if you see these things in yourself too, then maybe these reminders might be a good word for you today as well. Here are three things that as Christian parents, we should try and remember as our kids play sports:
1. Let’s remember the end game.
I love sports. And I love that my children love sports. But the end game for the vast majority of us as parents cannot be that our child gets a division 1 scholarship. Because they aren’t. Most of them are going to play in the rec league, maybe in high school, and then they’re done and off to continue the circle of another generation of moms and dads watching their own kids play.
So if the end game is not the scholarship, what is it? Simply, it’s the same end game in sports as it is in school, with friendships, and in everything else. For Christian parents, the end game is for our children to know they are loved by God, to love Him, and to commit themselves to service in His kingdom however He sees fit. That’s what we’re after. If we keep the end game in mind, then it tempers our enthusiasm for the sports they’re in, and it also focuses the substance of our communication as they play. Things like effort, sportsmanship, improvement, and satisfaction rise to the top as we parent our children.
2. Let’s remember who’s watching.
Let’s not only remember the end game; let’s remember who’s watching. And I don’t mean who’s watching the game – I mean who is watching us. Those watchers consist of two main groups of people, and we should remember both of them.
First of all, our friends, neighbors, and other parents are watching. Even if they are watching the game, they’re also watching the other parents around them. I know they are because I’m doing the same thing. And if these folks are watching, it means we have an opportunity to communicate something about the value system of our families as they do.
The other group that’s watching us are those kids who are playing the game. Oh, sure – they’re watching the ball, but it’s foolish to not know they’re watching us as well. Those kids are watching us even if they don’t know they’re watching us. And what’s truly terrifying is that in their watching, they are learning. They are learning about what’s important, about respect, about anger, about excitement – they’re picking up all these things from us during these games.
3. Let’s remember who we are.
Finally, let’s remember who we are. Let’s remember that yes, we are parents. And yes, we are community members. And yes, we are the supporters of the Red Sox or the Marlins or the Panthers or the whoever’s. But we are first and foremost the children of God and ambassadors for His kingdom. And as such, here is another environment we have been given to steward. Here is another chance we have to be salt and light.
That doesn’t mean we don’t cheer. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to win. It doesn’t mean we aren’t vocal. But it certainly means at least that when we do and feel those things, we do and feel them from a distinctly Christian point of view.
So, sports parents, if you feel many of the same things I do, don’t just feel them. Remind yourself of what’s true. And as we sit in the stands alongside the other mom’s and dad’s, let there be something a little different about us.