Sports, kids and life

Jonathan McNair
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As summer ends and school begins, many parents take a deep breath, close their eyes, and take the plunge into the next hectic chapter of life.

Parents assume the position of the beleaguered policeman directing traffic in the middle of a busy intersection. What books does Evan need for science class? Where can we buy the skirt for the school uniform for Julie? When can Everett schedule a physical exam so he can play on the school soccer team?

Now is a good time to blow the whistle, stop the traffic and give some thought to what we've learned over the summer.

One of the challenges of summer that a lot of us face as parents is dealing with sports. Summer is time for baseball, soccer and beach volleyball.

Sports are great for kids. They learn physical coordination. They learn to exercise, and how good it feels to be in shape. They learn to build teamwork. They also face challenges that preview situations they will face later in life.

For example, let's talk about coaches.

Coaches can be a great influence. Coaches are mentors – teaching, encouraging and inspiring our kids. You probably remember at least one positive coach from when you were young. Maybe he helped you learn how to hit a baseball or fine-tune a swimming stroke. Or perhaps they encouraged you – praising you for your swimming or your hustle. An encouraging coach can have a powerful, long-lasting impact on a young person.

In the Bible, we read how Paul spoke encouraging words to Timothy. In 2 Timothy 3:10, Paul told Timothy that he admired his faith and that he had confidence he would remain loyal when others did not.

But there are other coaches that are poor examples, and worse mentors.

This morning, I read an article on MSN.com about coaches. The author related how one coach in Pennsylvania paid his players $25 each to bean one of their teammates with a ball. The coach thought the boy, who is autistic, was dragging the team down.

The lesson that the team learned from this episode would not be included in the top ten true values of life. But it does bring out another lesson that kids can learn from sports, and from coaches – even poor coaches.

We've all had coaches or bosses who were difficult to work with. How did we cope? Did we complain to everyone else on the team? Did we let everyone else in the office know that we disapproved of the boss's actions or decisions? Did we make ourselves and everyone around us more miserable?

Or, did we do our best to cooperate? Did we try to perform our duties in the way that the coach or boss would prefer?

There is a lot we can learn from a poor coach. We can bear his or her negative attitude, without becoming negative ourselves. We can learn what not to do when we are in a position of leadership and authority.

This is the lesson that Peter was teaching in his first epistle.

  • "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God, one endures grief, suffering wrongfully" (1 Peter 2:18-19).
  • "Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives" (1 Peter 3:1).

Take a few moments to contemplate the last few months. For us, summer means Little League baseball. Maybe it's soccer or another sport for your family.

For kids, sports teach life – as long as they learn what they're supposed to learn. With a good coach, some important lessons can be learned. But with the right coaching from parents, they can even learn from a coach that won't make the hall of fame.

  Originally Published: 12th September 2006