Most parents living in the Western hemisphere must eventually address the matter of their children’s involvement in athletics. This may seem a moot point for children who rank joining an athletic team only slightly higher than a visit to the orthodontist. Other parents are driven nearly insane by their children’s obsession with sports. But what seems to escape many parents is the reality that a child’s involvement in athletics is a weighty spiritual matter that demands skillful parental leadership.
Parents—and most particularly dads—need to actively steer their children’s involvement (or non-involvement) in athletics in such a way as to purposefully magnify the splendor of God. Parents who merely respond to what their children want to do (or not do) athletically are guilty of spiritual negligence. A child’s participation in sports constitutes a crucible in which a parent’s moral skill and loyalty to God are put to the test. We must proceed in the conscious fear of God or we will proceed as idolaters. As always, there is much at stake.
In an essay to follow, I address guidelines by which athletic participation may redound to the glory of God. In this article, I address only secondarily parents who enthusiastically support their children’s athletic interests. I speak more directly here to parents minded that athletics are a waste of precious resources and generally to be avoided. I address those who think the spiritual temptations and/or physical risks inherent in athletics render such involvement unjustifiable. I also address parents who simply respond to their children’s desires without consciously appreciating and strategically tapping the benefits of athletic involvement. To such readers I offer the following apologetic for children’s athletics.