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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Do we want Jax to be David Beckham?

Jax just finished his soccer season.
It was fun! It was interesting! It was entertaining!
But Jax wasn't that into touching the ball. He was really into socializing on the field. He wasn't into scoring goals (he didn't), but he was into smiling and waving to his fans on the sideline, giving them the thumbs up as the ball passed him by.
I love this boy!!! He has such a way of melting my heart.
Jax has played one season before, and it was pretty much the same.
He asked if he could play again, so we agreed. But I'm pretty sure he was solely into it for the snacks. Anytime anyone asks him about soccer, that's what he talks about. There were some pretty elaborate snacks last year when we played, so that could explain it.
I know that Jax is gifted by God. He will be really good at something, and it will be useful for the Kingdom. I don't know whether team sports is his thing. But I have observed the children's sports culture a bit, and it makes my stomach churn.
One game this season, we had a serious soccer Dad on the other sideline, coaching his son the entire game. He wasn't the team coach, just his son's personal coach. He yelled instructions the whole game, strategies, gave one-on-one pep talks at every break, and despite the fact that this kid scored about 16 goals on our little group of soccer misfits, he had to run plays with him on the field afterwards to correct his mistakes.
I'm not kidding.
This is the league for five-year-olds.
I don't think I was hiding my disghust very well. I felt sorry for this kid beyond words. I think we hugged Jax all the way to the car and told him how proud we were of him for having fun out there, and being a good sport.
I watched the poor boy look to his father's face when he did something good for the nod of approval, and did not get it.
I wanted to cry! And then chew this guy out! And then disband the soccer league until further notice!
I know this guy surely loves his son, but this was the worst possible way to show it.
It got my brain going fast. It's not something I haven't thought about before, but want to discuss further with other parents.
As Christians, what do we want for our kids?
Truly, what do we want?
There are some Sunday School answers here. But I think as God has grown me over years past, my answer has definitely changed.
If we could choose professional athlete, which seems to be the driving force behind so many American families, or missionary to the nations, which would we choose?
If we would say missionary, making his whole life about sharing the gospel, how are we expressing that goal into the translation of our time spent, words said, the "I'm so proud of you's", the activities we commit to, etc.?
I think looking at what I know about professional athletes, I'd rather them be anything else in the whole freaking world. It's scary. I think maybe we ought to ban sports in our home on the off-chance that they COULD become too good at them, and end up running dog fights and have many STD's.
(Obviously, those are two polar opposite choices. Our kids could be a million things in between that honor God and fulfill His purpose for their lives.)
I know I haven't finished thinking about this.
I don't think extra-curricular activities outside of the church are wrong! Of course! I don't think our kids enjoying activities they are passionate about is unspiritual!!! Quite the contrary!
Like Emma is in love with horses. She was born in love with horses. We let her start riding, granting her the joy of her heart, a little more than two years ago. It's been so perfect for her! The whole family goes together on Wed. afternoon and enjoys watching her. She's getting so good, and it's amazing to watch her skills progress.
When does it cross the line from that to crazy soccer Dad?
When do we parents lose control and perspective?
How much time is too much, especially when it gets to older kids, tournaments, weekend trips, etc?
When we choose sports over church on any given Sunday or weekend, what are we saying?
What do you guys think?
Parents and former children alike, what are your thoughts?


Katy said...

Good post! I went to one of my little boys soccer games the other day and I heard one of the Dad yell at his son saying "Don't you remember what I told you in practice." I just wanted to run up to the Dad and remind him that his child was 5 and most of my kids in my class can't remember what they had for breakfast by 10am much less what they did a day or two before. Some people definitely go overboard.

On a different note, I was one of those kids that played club volleyball and I missed church on Sundays 1, 2, and sometimes 3 times a month. My parents never made me play volleyball, I chose to play. I was very involved in my church and was even on a leadership team. I always went to church or an acticity anytime it didn't conflict with volleyball. My youth minister understood when I was gone.

From an outsider looking in, it did look like I was choosing a sport over church. But can I just say that club volleyball was one of the best things I could have ever done in high school. The girls that I called my friends were not doing the right things on the weekend. Some of these girls were even girls that went to my church. Club volleyball was my way of staying away from things I shouldn't be doing. I made some wonderful quality friends through my club teams and also got to show Jesus' love to some lost girls on my team.

I have no idea where I'm going with this, but I just wanted you to hear my story about being really involved in a sport. I think volleyball never got in the way of my relationship with the Lord so it didn't' affect me in a negative way, but I do think that some people can definitely go overboard with sports.

Ok that's all I'm going to stop now!! haha

Anonymous said...

Well., as a child of a father who was the Varsity soccer coach at our high school, as well as a club coach on the side. Soccer was always apart of our lives. I love sports. I love to play them and I always had a passion for them from the day I stepped onto the field when I was 5. I was on every club team I could be on. I even played on in-door teams. I loved the sport and so did my sisters, as well as my parents.

ONE thing I can say is that my dad never coached a soccer game on a Sunday. He never held a practice on a Wednesday night, and if my coach held a game or practice on those nights.... I was not there.

I think that you can have a passion for something, and love to play a sport and be involved. But that passion... if it over rules your passion for the Lord, your passion to fellowship and meet with other believers, then it is TOO much of importance in your life.

My dad just retired last year from coaching at our high school for 24 years. The school district threw him a big banquet to honor him. My dad was such a Godly man that truly had a passion for God, a passion for his family, a love for high school kids as well as soccer that it showed through his coaching. The banquet was PACKED... with teams from 24 years ago. To see the joy in my fathers face and to see the impact he made through this sport called soccer, left such a lasting impression on more people than we would have even imagined.

Many of my family’s oldest friends are people we met playing soccer. My best friend from childhood, I met on my soccer team when I was six.

Taking your children out of sports for the fear that it will become there ultimate passion is to me, silly. If you have established in them the truth and the wisdom of God and taught them what is truly important in life, sports can just be something they love and something they are able to use for his glory. Our nation is enthralled with sports, and professional athletes. YES they are losers…. many of them. But what if your child were to make it to the big time show.... would it not be great to see them stand out in the crowd? If that is the talent the Lord as given them, then they could use it in so many ways.
We used soccer 3 years ago to spread God's word in Egypt. My dad has been 3 times now.
I guess after all my ranting on and on... my heart is that I love soccer, but I love the Lord way more. When I look back at my years on the soccer field, it was not how good I was, or how many goals I scored... but the friendships I made, the lessons I learned, the funny stories I now have from eating oranges on the sidelines, and the lasting image of my dad coaching soccer...as well as leading MANY people to the Love of Christ. Why can't they be connected?!

I love sports and the Lord...I think if any family can do it correctly, it would be yours!


Simone said...

I'm new to the world of blogging, but I loved your post, so I'm going to take a stab at commenting!

I didn’t stick with any traditional sports, but I was a ballerina for almost 15 years. Even though I was really involved in church, towards the end of high school, I realized it was an idol.

I was raised to know that my relationship with the Lord should be my first priority. So after trying unsuccessfully to destroy this idol in my own strength, I knew I needed to quit.

My parents supported me during all those years, but when it came time to decide which was more important, they let me choose because they knew they had raised me to value godliness first.

The Lord gave me the opportunity to perform in church several times after that, and I was able to understand what it meant to dance for the Lord alone, for His praise and glory.

Raise your kids to desire the Lord’s glory above all else, and you can be confident that whatever He has gifted them in He will use to make His name famous!


Brooke said...

here's a little note from a missionary and a sister of a pro-athlete:

i wish all of yall could have a peek at my world.

everyday i get to see 400 kids--- 350 of them being children of missionaries.

i babysat this weekend for one of the families which included saturday morning soccer mom duty. it was a blast!

hundreds of kids at our school play sports everyday.... yet their families are giving their lives full-time for the glory of Christ in Asia.

this post reminded me of this story--- a couple months ago, about 10 of our MKs went to Cambodia to play soccer and volleyball on military bases. they were kicked off of one... and ended up at a different base. at this base they were able to share about Christ as well as play sports. at those meetings was one man from the base our kids were banned from. that week they were able to touch many lives that were desperate, without Hope. what our kids found out a couple weeks later is the man who was snooping in on the meetings at the second base went back to his base and told the masses about what he had learned about Jesus. we just received word that 80 men from that base accepted Christ and hiked for many hours in order to find water to be baptized in. the Lord used 10 boys who love sports--- who are great at teaching sports b/c they've practiced and played a lot--- to go and play with some cambodian guys. they were a huge part in bringing glory to Christ in Asia.

after being on the mission field for a year and four months, my life will never be the same. but i know that wherever i am it's my job to use my passions for the glory of Christ. each of us are in places everyday that are unique from our friends around us. soccer players need Jesus. doctors need Jesus. orphans need Jesus. housewives need Jesus. target employees need Jesus. i for sure need Jesus... being a missionary shows me that even more each day!

growing up there were sundays that we missed church for sports. this wasn't a consistent thing--- but it was understood in my family that church wasn't just a sunday thing. we grew up learning that church was the body of Christ. missing some church services didn't make the end-of-the-world list in our family. i don't know what the answer is to your questions about missing church... but i do know that even in the midst of it happening some in our family, the importance of worshipping the Lord and gathering with believers was not diminished.

in the missionary world we're constantly looking for ways to make natural connections with non-believers. i wake up in the morning thinking about how i can share Jesus with the people i do life with... the "normal" places i go and things i do. i'm constantly looking to expand the places i go and things i'm involved in to build more bridges. i say if jax is a natural and ends up a pro-soccer player i would be ecsatic! only a limited amount of people get to be in that world. how sweet it would be to see him bring them the love of Jesus.

i could go on and on with stories from my little world over here.... but today as i heard of a friend praying for her father (who is the witch-doctor for their village) to accept Christ, i was reminded that NOTHING is impossible with the Lord.

so all that to say being an "M" or a pro-athlete to me is irrelevant. teach your kids to show Jesus, share Jesus, be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever He leads. the bush in Africa or ESPN.

Anonymous said...

I think balance is the key is many things we do. Sports can be a very good thing for children and adults to participate in. It's good exercise and team sports can also provide an avenue to learn cooperation, compassion, healthy competition, etc.

We have 4 children ages 18 to 8. A boy and three girls. Our son has played soccer at various times as well as running cross country and taking taekwondo. All three of our girls are black belts in taekwondo as well. (Not a bad skill for girls to know these days!) While taekwondo is mostly an individual sport, when sparring, the whole object is to work with your partner in making each other look good! My kids instructor (and mine too for awhile until a shoulder injury sidelined me) is incredible to say the least. I have NEVER heard him utter a negative word to a student or even raise his voice. He is a great encourager and a very positive role model for all of his students. His forms are near perfect and he practices constantly. Each month, there is a different theme which is discussed at each class session. Things like perseverance, courage, determination, goals (short and long term), teamwork, compassion, etc. This instructor attends our church faithfully and makes a point to speak to the children there. It was wonderful for them to know that they had an instructor who took an interest in all they did. They've moved on to other things now, but are still very close to this instructor.

Our youngest daughter (8) has just started to play hockey. Mind you, we live in North Dakota where children are given ice skates at birth! We moved here three years ago. I grew up in Florida so ice skating is foreign to me to say the least. People eat, sleep and drink hockey here. We live in Grand Forks, the home of the Fighting Sioux. The largest building in the city is the hockey arena and the school out for the state hockey championships each year. Big stuff this hockey game here. Our little one is a beginner to say the least. However, she has two wonderful coaches who truly love the game, but love the kids even more. She had her first game last week. Two games actually. Score was not kept and every player was on the ice for an equal amount of time. I sat near the family members of a child on an opposing team. The grandmother asked me which child was mine and how long she'd been playing. I pointed her out and this family began to cheer for Mary as she tried her best to skate and keep her eye on the puck! It didn't matter one bit that their son was on the opposing team and had scored many goals already! I was truly humbled by their genuine show of affection for ALL the players, regardless of how well they played or even what team they were on!

The coaches and parents can make all the difference in the world. Try hard to be positive and cheer for the kid whose dad is constantly on his back. Approach him afterward in the presence of his father and compliment him on his game and his efforts. You will make a difference in his life and possibly help his father realize what he's doing is crushing his son's spirit too.