Well, we have survived yet another football season and we are now getting ready for the transition from basketball into baseball/softball season.
The Recreation Department and schools countywide do their very best to provide a haven for athletes and sportsmanship. Sports here in Bradley County are as alive and well as they have ever been.
Parents and grandparents in the tri-state area spend countless hours running/watching their kids from practice to games to practice to games, etc. It is a never-ending circle that consumes our time (a 2-3 hour practice for an hourlong game, complete with a 30-minute warm-up and 15-minute postgame summary meeting), our money (from gas spent running to food bought at drive-throughs to jersey costs to playing costs to the concession stand), and our sanity: Did you see the ref blow that call? Why is the coach such an idiot? Can I be in two places at once if I can jump the Space-Time continuum?
And yet, we love it. Why? Because we are built to compete. It is in our nature (albeit a fallen one) to be better than others at a particular thing. The surgeon wants to be the best in the land and known worldwide. The engineer wants to design the safest structures. The athlete wants to be the MVP of the championship. The lawyer wants to win the most cases. The politician wants to be the one who brings about the most “change.” The scientist wants to discover a new phenomenon.
There is a stark difference in these and other professions and our city/county sports. It takes years and years for these professions to produce results which will impact children’s lives and probably even more time to affect an entire community. However, a coach, ref, parent or grandparent of participants in our local sports can cause a drastic effect in a child’s life and even affect an entire community in just a matter of seconds.
Think about it. A coach says or does something they shouldn’t. Assuming that there are 12 players on the team and each player has two parents, two grandparents and one sibling, that coach’s error has negatively affected 60 people. That’s just during practice! If it happens during a game, the coach has just influenced 120 people for both teams, and that doesn’t include other fans or families where a player has stepparents and such.
As you can see, our influence can go a very long way in our community in a very short matter of time. In one instant, lives can be changed both positively and negatively. We better watch what we are doing and what we are saying or else our children and our community will suffer for it down the road.
Now we all know that everyone makes mistakes, because we are all sinners. That’s just facts. But think about what effects our actions can have. A referee ignores a foul/penalty on purpose because the coach has been running his mouth. The players/fans all learn that referees don’t have to be impartial and can let their emotions change the outcome of the game. A coach loses his temper with a ref and players/fans learn that leaders do not have to have respect for authority. A coach loses his temper with a player and the players/fans learn that a leader can replace compassion and encouragement for cruelty and hurt.
A player purposely fouls an opponent because he gets frustrated. The coach learns that the player can’t take the pressure of the game; the fans learn that the player has an anger issue, and the opposing fans learn that the player has a bad attitude and shouldn’t be playing. A player fouls an opponent simply because his parent tells him “not to take it anymore” or “get aggressive,” and the coach learns that the parent is a moron because now a penalty has been called, hurting the team. The fans learn that the parent is a bad example for their kid and has taught the kid to act that way. The opponents learn that the parent is a thug, and most importantly, the player learns that rules can be ignored and morality can be forgotten as long as Mommy or Daddy is satisfied.
It is a vicious cycle that produces players who are willing to win at any cost, coaches who hate refs, parents and other coaches, parents who hate refs and coaches, and refs who hate coaches and fans. Is this sports or a TV drama?
What would Jesus do if He were involved in Bradley County and Cleveland sports?
Now some may think that Jesus was too meek and mild. But, meekness is strength under control. Remember when Jesus ran the money collectors out of the temple with a whip that He had just made Himself? He used strength under control and He didn’t sin in the process!
We can play aggressively without breaking the rules of the game or morality. We can coach to win without sacrificing sportsmanship and without creating players who become a detriment to the game. We can cheer our team on without hoping the other team’s players fail. What if that were your child that other people were wanting to fail? We can encourage our children to become better athletes while at the same time see them become better people.
You see, the truth is the majority of our children will never play professional sports. We have more than 10,000 county students and over 5,000 city students. Considering only the “Big 3” professional sports … of our 15,000 students in our local sports, statistically only 13 have a shot at playing baseball professionally, only six have a shot at the NFL and only four have a shot at the NBA/WNBA.
So, 14,977 out of 15,000 students in our county and city will be doing something besides sports for a career. But, the lessons and examples they learn during these years of playing in our rec leagues and middle schools and high schools will be things that they take with them into their careers, relationships … in short … their lives.
What would Jesus want us to teach our children? In Proverbs 23:15-16 (KJV), it states, “My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine. Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.”
We understand that we can have true fulfillment as parents and grandparents if our children turn out to be wise and if they speak right things (i.e. they do things right with morals). So, why should we spend our time and energy trying to get our children to be the best at these sports while sacrificing their morals and our own? Push them to be the best that they can be at sports, but don’t push them in the process away from becoming good people.
I am not saying that sports are bad, because they are not. They teach valuable lessons (when taught right) and they encourage physical fitness. But, when we allow sports to change us into people who do not honor God with our actions and words, then those sports have become our idol.
So many parents sacrifice church attendance for a ball game or a ball tournament. They allow their kids to play on teams who are gone all weekend and miss church. Now, if you choose to make those trips your family vacations, that’s one thing. But to just choose sports over God is idolatry!
Deuteronomy 6:7 teaches us that we should use every opportunity to teach our children the Word of God. It reads, “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (KJV). ”
So, what are we teaching our kids when we let them miss church for ballgames? They are learning that sports are more important than what God has to say. Hebrews 10:25 tells us, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” In other words, sports have become our idol!
If sports is what you worship, I feel sorry for you. Football, basketball, baseball, etc. will ALL let you down. But Jesus never will let you down!
I once refused to allow my son to attend two baseball games because we had revival services at our church that week. His coach wanted to come pick him up and then drop him off after the game, but I wanted my son to learn that being in God’s house, hearing from Him, is more important than a ballgame.
I have gotten a lot of things wrong in my life, but that one … I got right.
In Colossians 3:17 (KJV), “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Everything we do should honor the Lord. Have I always done that when being a fan or a coach or even a player? Nope, and I’m ashamed of that. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a responsibility to change that right now for the betterment of my children and our community’s future.
You see, I have seen with my own eyes a local youth pastor get into a verbal altercation with his son’s basketball coach and then continue the argument after the game. Ridiculous. I have heard with my own ears a girl’s basketball coach take the Lord’s name in vain during a tournament game because her girl was out of position and they were winning by 10. Unacceptable. I have heard multiple moms and dads “coach” their kids from the stands to, “Put an elbow in him!” Or, “She pushes you again, knock her on her butt!”
Really? This is leading by example? This is teaching our kids to play the game with integrity, with class? I don’t know about you, but I want my children to grow up to be citizens who treat everyone the same and who conduct every decision in life with determination, with drive, with intensity … but none of those without honesty, morality and integrity … FIRST!
So, from now on, when you go to a game as a fan, a coach, a ref or a player, ask yourself this question, “What would Jesus say if He saw how I was acting at this game right now?”
You know what? He IS watching!
— Jason Hooker