While sports can be a fantastic way to encourage a healthy lifestyle, as parents there are a number of things to consider when signing up for a league.
1. Can We Afford This?
It’s important to know all the costs associated with a competitive program before you get too far into the tryout process. Be sure to ask about the frequency of overnight tournaments. A dozen nights in a hotel can more than quadruple the cost of registration.
Has keeping your child in a competitive program been the reason you can’t give generously to your church? Did someone have to get a second job, or are you piling on debt as a family? If so, it has probably become an idol in your life.
2. Why Are We Doing This?
Am I trying to relive my childhood? Am I trying to pay for my retirement? Is my identity wrapped up in the athletic success of my child?
Those are all very bad reasons to put your kid in competitive sports.
But there are good reasons.
Competitive sports can teach your child that hard work pays off. It can teach your child that a healthy lifestyle is fun and exciting, and how to be a part of a team.
Perhaps the greatest benefit I have experienced is the relationship building during travel times. My teenage son has reached that stage in his life when he communicates mostly via grunt and scowl, but when we’re sitting in the car together on the way to a game—which can be for as much as three hours each way—the ice tends to thaw and the jaw tends to loosen quite a bit over the course of the ride.
I did not anticipate that when I got him involved in competitive sports, but had I known about it, I imagine that would have factored positively into my decision making process.
3. Will This Keep Us from Attending Church?
The rule in my house growing up was that hockey could never be the reason we didn’t go to church. And it never was. We used to do Sunday School before the service back in the day and there was a season or two when I had 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning practices and I recall vividly walking over to the church from the arena still dripping with sweat and reeking to high heaven—but there was no question about skipping. If something had to give, it would be practice, not church.
That was a hard and fast rule and I am thankful for it today.
It taught me that physical training was of some value, but training in godliness was valuable in every way (1 Timothy 4:8). As a pastor I have seen several families knocked out of the spiritual life by their over-commitment to competitive sports. What does it profit a family to have a kid in the NHL but to have forfeited their souls?
My main goal as a parent is not to see my son play pro. My main goal is to see him serve the Lord in this life and the next. Therefore we try to keep sports in its proper perspective.
4. How Will This Prepare My Child to Better Serve and Glorify God?
At the end of the day, I suppose the question is this: will my child’s involvement in this program make them more or less likely to serve and glorify the Lord? So far, I honestly think that our involvement in sports has been a net spiritual gain. My son has had to wrestle with how to be affirming and kind to people who are not as gifted as he is. We’ve had that conversation many times on the way home from a game. He has also had to learn how to rejoice in other people’s success.
If the program becomes a distraction from his spiritual development or a source of temptation to pride we would need to consider disengagement.
As a parent you have to keep your eye on the goal. The goal is not a professional contract or a university scholarship. The goal is a 25-year-old young man or young woman who loves Jesus and who serves him with all their heart.
That’s the goal and competitive sporting programs can offer some value in pursuit of that objective.