Posted tagged ‘Children sports’

The New Sanctuaries: Gyms, Fields, and Rinks

May 10, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 May 10, 2016


The Colorado spring weather has been as predictable as a confused moose wandering in a downtown business district. Sunny…cold…snow…hot…sleet…sunny, and that’s just one day!

The weather has played havoc on spring sports schedules. Between them, my two soccer-playing grandkids had five games this past weekend. Snow-outs got rescheduled for Sunday. Whereas, my daughter and son-in-law keep a pretty good perspective on the priority of Sunday church worship over other things, it’s getting harder…especially when it comes to a team sport. It is a challenge that will only get more difficult as their children get older. Sports organizations have minimal, if any, concern about disrupting Sunday worship services. That’s because the families and participants in their sports contests have made the venues of soccer, baseball, softball, and basketball games the new sanctuaries.

The Methodists and Lutherans are no longer the competition to the Baptists. They are in the same boat together…and losing the race! The Christians are in a rowboat. Youth sports organizations are in a speedboat!

Parents are more excited about little Johnny’s base hit than they are with the moving of the Spirit. Try to find a parking spot at the soccer complex at 11:00 this Sunday morning! Chances are, if there is a church nearby there will be plenty of open spaces to use. Families will find a church with a Saturday evening service, rather than disrupt a all-day Sunday baseball tournament for ten year olds.

One of the reasons sports venues are the new sanctuaries are because of the lure of future rewards. Whereas followers of Jesus are promised the future rewards of walking the heavenly streets of gold, parents are willing to give up a lot of gold for the possibility of future college scholarships. It is amazing the size of the “offerings” that parents will hand over in anticipation of future awards. Jenny could get a full ride to Big U for volleyball in a few years, but she will need to play about 55 weekends a year for that to happen. In other words, Jenny will need to be really dedicated. Parents are willing to take that chance. The thing is…there is a greater chance that Jenny will never want to touch another volleyball by the time she’s sixteen then there is that she will be playing after high school. Kids burn out…even when their parents want the flame to keep flickering.

“The new sanctuaries” are places where Mom and Dad get to replay their childhood dreams through their kids. In essence, their sons and daughters become the new focal points of their worship. The contest is packaged in a neat one hour time slot where the young participants can be applauded, be praised, and watched in admiration. Relationships with other worshiping parents offer the fellowship factor. Starbucks’ cups tell of the pre-game family visit on the way to the worship center.

God should get such attention!

Watch parental reactions at youth contests. When Johnny gets whistled for a foul because he clobbers another player there is often righteous indignation. When was the last time that people rose up in righteous indignation because children in various places can’t get a piece of bread today?

What to do? Here’s the hard decision. Families need to decide what their boundaries will be. I draw back from making it a hard and firm line in the sand, but perhaps a realistic perspective on what is important and what they will talk through before making a decision. At the beginning of a sports season a conversation with the coach, letting her know of your family’s priorities, would be helpful. Is the spiritual health of your family, and your children, more important than Tim’s batting average? In a few years will these parents you’re standing on the sidelines with be walking with you as you deal with a serious illness, or will it be those you are in community with as a part of a church fellowship?

And what will be your son or daughter’s perspective about your spiritual relationship when they get some distance from their childhood? Will they see depth and clear priorities, or will they be confused about how they should parent the next generation?

Playing Big With Little People

April 15, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      April 15, 2012

Saturday morning I was at the soccer game that the daughter of my nephew was playing in. She’s in third grade, which translated means that most of the parents there had cups of Starbucks coffee in their hands, or coffee staying hot in a thermos. (I waited until after the game to go to Starbucks! Willpower!)

Gracie had a great time playing, as did all of the kids. No one had told them yet that “This is serious business…so wipe that smile off your face!”

Meanwhile, something else caught my attention. On the field right behind us a game involving four year old’s was taking place. One of the coaches was an African-American man who was so big he looked by a tree house that the kids could climb on. I’m guessing…and I believe I’m quite accurate on this one…that he played football. He was so big that he could have played Right Guard…and Left Guard …on the same play.

And he was having a ball! And because he was having a ball the players on both teams were having a ball! One time I looked over and he was dangling a young boy upside down. I’m not even sure it was a player on his own team, but the boy was laughing and in a moment of “life delight!”

The coach congratulated and high-fived players on both teams. He helped little girls who tripped back on their feet. He shouted encouragement.

He played big with the little people. He inspired me!

As a coach I get the tremendous privilege of influencing young people, helping them improve their skills, learn from their mistakes, mentor them in life lessons through the lens of a game. I fan the flame of their passion for the game, while not losing sight of their youthfulness.

Although I’m not as big as the soccer coach of the four year old’s, in some ways I get to play big with the little people. I get to guide them in having fun.

In the youth sports culture we’ve lost most of that.

Like the coach who has his sixth grade girls’ basketball team press their opponents full-court even though they are up by thirty at the start of the fourth quarter.

Or the coach who plays his main group and then when, because of a mandatory league rule, he puts the last kid on the bench in to pinch hit, he commands him not to swing at any pitch because the player never makes contact. He robs him of the sound of a baseball meeting wood, because he’s short-sighted.

Or the coach who had no success as an athlete growing up, so he’s going to win at any cost with the youth team he’s coaching now.

Or the two coaches who get into a fight after the game in front of their players, who all stand there with mouths wide open in shock.

The list could go on for pages. Somewhere and at sometime we lost the thrill and sheer joy of playing big with the little people.

The joy of playing children is a sign of the blessing of God upon Jerusalem in the Old Testament book of Zechariah (chapter 8). In The Message paraphrase of Zechariah 8:4 it says, “And boys and girls will fill the public parks, laughing and playing- a good city to grow up in.”

I love that! I pray that we regain that scene.

I hope I run into “the man child” again at the next soccer outing. I’m going to tell him how he inspired me, how he brought a smile to my face, how his “playing big” brought a little glimpse of God’s delight!