Sports Spectrum Daily Devotional: Thursday, July 4, 2019

“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. ” — John 14:27 (NLT)

We Don’t Need This Stress

I had the best view in the house for arguably the most important event in the history of sports. Legends on and off the field were on hand to witness the clash of these two titans: the Kennesaw Generals 9U and East Cobb Astros (Navy) 9U pool-play game in a recent travel baseball tournament.

While it’s certainly preposterous to put this game in the realm of the world’s most important competitions of all time, by the way the parents, coaches and players carried on, you’d have thought it was life and death. And I was the home plate umpire.

When you make the transition from player to coach, them from coach to umpire, your eyes are opened to so many aspects of the game you were oblivious to before. Some of the more alarming facets include the following: how coaches “talk” to and treat their own players; how uncivil parents and coaches are to their opponents’ fans and coaches; and finally, how coaches, fans and players alike mistreat umpires. But, having said all that, one overlooked yet equally unsettling part of today’s game is the amount of undue stress and pressure 7-, 8- and 9-year-old kids endure on the field of “play.”

As I crouched down for each pitch as it was delivered in this game, I couldn’t help but empathize with the poor little lefty hurler who had been brought into the game. His predecessor was struggling mightily — walking batter after batter, and he was brought in to stop the bleeding. But the bleeding continued. The poor fella couldn’t find the strike zone himself, and the more he struggled, the more anguish was written across his face.  He circled the mound, muttering to himself, while shaking his head and slamming the baseball into his glove.

I kept thinking, “This is a 9-year-old boy! He doesn’t need this stress in his life!”

I genuinely cannot recall seeing the boy smile. It’s summer and he’s playing baseball, and he’s behaving as though he won’t get fed supper if he doesn’t get this last out of the inning!

You know why that little boy was acting that way? I believe it’s because that is what has been modeled for him by others, likely his parents and coaches. When things don’t go well, it’s best to demonstrate frustration and dismay, so others will know failure isn’t welcome here!

Perhaps what’s worse is I don’t recall a coach calling time out to walk out to the mound to calm the little guy down, or — better yet — tell him a joke to get him to laugh and shake off this burden he’d been carrying out there on the bump.

Jesus left this earth 2,000 years ago, but He left us some gifts and reminders of His presence and His power. Among them are the gifts of peace of mind and peace of heart.

Coaches, you need this peace. Parents, you need it even more. Not only for yourselves, but so you can share this gift with your players, teams, sons and daughters.

Baseball is a game of failure, but the last thing we want a kid to believe is that he is a failure just because he didn’t get the hit, didn’t get the out, didn’t make the play.

When kids have peace — and confidence that they can rise above personal defeat without feeling like they let everybody down — true growth occurs. And, that’s something we can all cheer about!

— C.A. Phillips, NorthStar Church, Kennesaw, Ga.

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