2 Ways to Encourage Our Sport-Playing Kids

As we were driving to a baseball practice not long ago, my son began asking me about my own experience with sports. Because there is a tryout for a team he’s interested in playing on that’s coming up, he wanted to know how I had dealt with being cut when I was younger. I told him that I never had that experience.

His eyes got big and he looked at me the way he used to when he was a little boy, but just for a second, because I had to remind him that the school I went to and the school he is going to were very different.

I didn’t get cut because nobody got cut. The best I can remember, I showed up on the baseball field one day and someone threw me a hat and a uniform. No questions. No tryouts. Just fielding a team. And it’s not that way any more. 

His school is bigger. The competition is greater. And unfortunately, the pressure is larger. When it comes to sports, he is dealing with things I never had to deal with, and part of that is knowing how to respond when, inevitably, something doesn’t go his way on the field.

So how do you encourage a child in that situation? When you really don’t know what it feels like? And even more so, when you see the value in sports, but at the same time, do not want your child to fall into the trap of bowing down and worshiping those sports as so often happens? Perhaps in two ways:

1. Remember what you can’t control.

There are all kinds of factors in sports we cannot control. We cannot control the talent level on the field. We cannot control the attitude or decision-making of a coach. All of this is ultimately completely out of our control. Now why is it important to remember that?

Well, because we as parents must remember what our chief aim is in sports. It’s not to raise great athletes; our chief aim is to raise young men and women who love the Lord and other people and serve Him in all they do. By remembering what we can’t control, then, we are putting ourselves in a position to trust the Lord, even when we don’t understand exactly how He is engineering the circumstances around us. Remembering what we can’t control, then, leads us to actively trust in the Lord. It’s a subtle way of emphasizing that we must:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones” (Prov. 3:5-8).

2. Remember what you can control.

Yes, there are a lot of things out of our control when it comes to sports, but not everything. Some things he can control. Namely, he can always control his effort, and he can always control his attitude.

Here again it’s helpful for us to remember the end game. We are not raising athletes; we are raising people. People who will not play sports forever, but people who will always in every circumstance have the chance to control their effort and their attitude. These are the things that last a lifetime, and, in the grand scheme of things, are actually the most beneficial parts of sports. They teach us to give our best. To be a good teammate. To not give up and persevere when it’s difficult. These are all matters of attitude and effort.

The Bible, too, wants us to remember that in the midst of all the things out of our control, we can still think on that which we do control:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2).

Attitude and effort. We can always control where we are looking – that’s our attitude. And we can always control how hard we run – that’s our effort. 

How will sports go for our family in the future? Time will tell, but by God’s grace, at least they will go like this: that we will remember what we can’t control, and at the same time, remember what we can.

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