3 Things to Remember when Your Kids Play Sports

As we sit in the stands alongside the other parents, let there be something different about us.

Here we are again - youth sports are here again. Because the season is starting up, it’s time for me to remind myself of a few things. The reason I need to be reminded is because I see the tendency in myself to be “that dad.”

Here we are again — another season starting up. For our family, it’s baseball, volleyball, and track. I suppose it could be any number of other sports for you and your kid, especially with year-round travel leagues. Because the season is starting up, it’s time for me to remind myself of a few things. The reason I need to be reminded is because I see the tendency in myself to be “that dad.”

You know who “that dad” is, don’t you? He’s the one who can’t sit in the bleachers to watch because he’s too nervous about his son’s performance. He’s the one constantly pacing and giving direction, even if he’s not the coach. He’s the one who might not yell at the umpire the whole game, but he’s certainly not above a well-placed verbal jab or two. I see these things in myself, to my shame.

Along with these in-game habits, there are the other thoughts and feelings that simmer below the surface. The pump of the blood when I know there’s a ballgame. The feeling of comparison when my child gets out there with the rest of the team. The desire for him to be the best that could erupt into anger if he doesn’t perform well. All of this over 8-year-old baseball.

Yeah, those things are there too. Again, to my shame. Maybe you can relate.

But because I know these things about myself, this is the time of yearly reminding. And if you see these things in yourself, then maybe these reminders might be a good word for you as well. As Christian parents, here are three things we should remember while our kids play sports:

1. Let’s remember the end game. I love sports. And I love that my children love sports. But the end game for the vast majority of us as parents can’t be that our child gets a Division 1 scholarship. Because probably they won’t.

So if the end game isn’t the scholarship, what is it? Simply, it’s the same end game in sports as it is in school, with friendships, and in everything else. For Christian parents, the end game is for our children to know they’re loved by God, to love Him, and to commit themselves to service in His kingdom however He sees fit. That’s what we’re after. If we keep the end game in mind, then it tempers our enthusiasm for the sports they’re in, and it also focuses the substance of our communication as they play.

2. Let’s remember who’s watching. Let’s not only remember the end game; let’s remember who’s watching. Those watchers consist of two main groups of people and we should remember both of them.

First of all, our friends, neighbors, and other parents are watching. Even if they’re watching the game, they’re also watching the other parents around them. I know they are because I’m doing the same thing. And if these folks are watching, it means we have an opportunity to communicate something about the value system of our family as they do.

The other group that’s watching us are those kids who are playing the game. Those kids are watching us even if they don’t know they’re watching us. And what’s truly terrifying is that in their watching, they’re learning.

3. Let’s remember who we are. Finally, let’s remember who we are. Let’s remember that we’re first and foremost the children of God and ambassadors for His kingdom. And as such, here is another environment we’ve been given to steward. Here is another chance we have to be salt and light.

That doesn’t mean we don’t cheer. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to win. It doesn’t mean we aren’t vocal. But it certainly means at least that when we do and feel those things, we do and feel them from a distinctly Christian point of view.

So if you feel many of the same things I do, don’t just feel them. Remind yourself of what’s true. And as we sit in the stands alongside the other moms and dads, let there be something a little different about us.

Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua, Andi, and Christian. He serves as the Director of Groups Ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats, and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life.