I read this last week by Pastor Rick Sams and thought it worth posting:
SPORTS PROS AND CONS by Pastor Rick Sams
It’s been called the biggest upset of the Olympic games so far, compared to Tyson Gay outrunning Usain Bolt in the 100 meters (That did NOT happen). But US pole vaulter, Jenn Suhr, did soar to beat the perennial favorite, Russia’s two-time gold medalist Elena Isinbaeva.
I was disappointed former gold medal decathlete, Dan O’Brien, now a commentator, only gave a lite analysis of her win. When I complained to my wife how much more detailed he could have been, O’Brien being a former vaulter, she shot back: “But only old pole vaulters (me) would be interested in that. “ I just wish she wouldn’t have emphasized the “OLD.”
I have also been disappointed NBC hasn’t shown any Olympic basketball yet on regular TV (I don’t have cable). So I missed the famous cheap shot Argentinean player, Facundo Campazzo, gave Carmello Anthony. This nonsense only reinforces the negative stereotypes athletes often get (deserve?). The constant applause given to double amputee Olympian, Oscar Pistorius, and his endurance through hardship, shows some of the great values sports teaches.
Pastors are in a delicate spot when it comes to sports. Many of us have played them, love them, and watch them regularly (I’ve heard stats 90% of America does one of those each day). We see the good things they accomplish; teamwork, character from learning how to lose, hard work, sharing, and thinking of others instead of just yourself.
But we also see the negatives—SO many absences from church, even for the youngest athletes, because parents are sure sports are doing more for their kids than church (or Christ?). SURELY all these kids will land lucrative scholarships (the stats on this are bleak). Then there are the cheap shots, the selfish “me first, me only, and it’s all about me” attitudes that permeate the sporting world from the pros down to the littlest Little League.
So what are we to do?
First we all need to admit sports are neutral, like many other things (money, guns). It’s what we DO with them that makes them good or bad; able to redeem or wreck a life.
So how do we redeem them since they are here to stay?
Second, we should constantly teach the real-life stories of grace, selflessness and true sportsmanship to our young athletes as coaches AND parents. When gold-medalist Kirani James, of tiny Grenada, met South African amputee, Oscar Pistorius, on the track after Pistorius didn’t even place to trade numbers and hugs that was huge. When hurdlers from other countries helped 2004 gold medalist, Liu Xiang, off the track, consoling and hugging him after his Achille’s tore in a nearly identical scene as the 2008 Beijing games, that is more than a Kodak moment. It’s teaching time. When US Olypmian and gold medalist, Kerri Strug, sticks her vault in the ’96 Olympics to claim the team gold on a bad ankle, forgetting the fact it could (and did) cost her her entire athletic career…priceless!
We also need to highlight what happens on lower levels, like when the 2011 Ohio High School State 1600 meter winner, Meghan Vogel, running her second race of the day, ran out of gas. The junior from West Liberty-Salem High School stooped to help Arden McGrath who was clearly going to finish last. Instead of running past her to avoid that embarrassment herself, Vogel nearly dragged McGrath to the finish line, pushing her across ahead of her so McGrath would not finish last. Awe-inspiring, breath-taking and tear inducing, even from our youth.*
Why can’t we, as parents or coaches, “redeem the time for the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16) by using the incredible amounts of time we spend with kids in the car traveling to sporting events to do Bible stories or other character lessons like these? If you truly care what they are missing at church you will. How about using the time on the sidelines with other parents to teach positive things to them about sportsmanship instead of reinforcing all the bad stereotypes yourself?
(*”True Value Of High School Athletics,” Alliance Review, 6/18/12)