“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” — Ecclesiastes 3:1
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Reminding my wife at the end of October that it is not quite yet time for Christmas music is a challenge. Golf and college football year round would be great, but they each have their season, just as other sports have their seasons, too.
However, professional and college athletics have become year-round endeavors with constant training and preparation for the next season. Unfortunately, youth and teen sports in many ways have followed a year-round pursuit as well. This can be both time consuming and expensive, among other things.
And it can be detrimental as we raise our teens to be Christ-followers. As a parent, how much is too much?
My Sunday school teacher, a financial advisor, says, “Let your checkbook be open to others and they can tell what your priorities are on.” Youth sports is a $15 billion per year industry, according to a Time article from 2017. Equipment, uniforms, hotel rooms, gas and fees are all expensive — even more so for an elite club. There is peer pressure for teens to have the newest cleats, bats, clubs, etc. This certainly does not teach contentment.
The number of hours put toward these endeavors are also astronomical, putting a strain on family meal times and bonding. This also does not address the strain that can be put on the parents’ marital relationships. The above-mentioned Time article cited several parents spending 10 percent of their income on their child’s sports. Does spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on sports show we are good stewards of our finances?
Year-round sports not only generally take your teen away from church, but you as the parent are not generally able to serve either. While parachurch organizations (FCA, Young Life, etc.) are certainly great for teens, they are not a replacement for regular worship and service within the local body of believers. I am not saying a teen should never miss a Sunday because of sports, but certainly sports should not replace worship for teens. What does this teach our teen about the priority of weekly public worship and serving? Is this helping to further His Kingdom?
Notably, throughout the Gospels, Jesus Christ went away to rest and recover physically, mentally and spiritually. Teens miss the needed mental and physical rest when they are constantly participating in sports without much of a break. This is in addition to the demands of school 10 months during the year. Without mental breaks, it can be difficult to balance other demands of being a teen, such as friends, chores and academic work, which could lead to mood swings or depression. Physical injuries to shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and backs become evident as teens often specialize in one sport without adequate rest.
But please don’t misunderstand the positive role sports can have on your teen as well as the Kingdom. Certainly, Paul in the New Testament used numerous athletic examples to share spiritual truths, and sometimes scriptures are quoted by moms and dads at the local YMCA trying to finish their workout.
So what can you do with this information? Certainly, have a conversation about the positive effect sports can have or potential benefits of sports. During that discussion, make clear that you are supporting their desire to pursue sports, but within limits that include financial and time boundaries, as well as a commitment to church. When signing up for a season or sport, discuss with coaches and your teen the expectations and above-mentioned boundaries. Without a plan in place, you will likely be caught off guard and commit to more than you had originally intended.
In the words of Paul, the goal is to “Press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:14, NLT).
— Sawyer Nix, mental performance coach/sports counselor
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