Updated: Nov 14
Sports: A Fan of Family?
Our weekends, weeknights, and pocketbooks state the obvious, sports are a priority. Athletic events have become a daily routine for many families every day of the week. Sporting events bring people together, build energy, motivation, and community! We are all fans of a team or athlete in some way shape or form. Extracurricular and athletics are a great place for our kids to build friendships, develop both hard and soft skills, grow in the understanding of team dynamics, and learn discipline. Teammates can become lifelong friends, and sporting events are a great family activity to experience together.
I am a huge fan of athletics, however, this question needs to be asked: Are sports a fan of the family? Parents discuss putting 7-10 year old's into a year around sport so they can “get ahead of the game.” Youth athletics alone has become a booming business that reaches deep into the wallet and family budget. As a former college athlete, coach for 13 years, and now a mom of elite swimmers this topic hits close to home. My concern lies in the fact that I have seen athletes and athletic events take over the calendar, finances, and become the primary focus of family life.
The challenge is to evaluate and question whether or not sports and extracurriculars are a fan of the family. Short answer, I think they can be. There can be a lot of wins for families in the area of sports and athletics, in contrast some of the losses are significant and get us to question if it was even worth it. Let's take a look at a few things that can help bring balance and perspective when it comes to the family.
The family calendar
One of the benefits of technology is the family calendar. It has details and colors that help us know where to be and when. We can all add and see events happening that impact everyone on our own personal calendars. I love a day that is just empty and all I see is white space! Our three kids have grown up on the farm, there are plenty of things to do that do not exist on the google family calendar, when there is white space that leaves room for so much! Do your kids have white space? Time to be nowhere and enjoy just being a kid? As adults we have responsibilities, things that have to be done, bills to be paid, however, the scheduling of our kids has started at a young age. There is no free play, no time to learn, imagine, and create.
“The Power of Play” and the American Academy of Pediatrics helps us see how important free play is to the younger generation. “Despite its many benefits, statistics show that the amount of time children get to play has been declining for decades. Tightly structured family and school schedules, fewer safe places to play and rising media use and screen time are among the reasons. To help keep play a key part of childhood, pediatricians may begin writing a "prescription for play" at every well-child visit.”
Have we really gone so far that doctors need to write a prescription for our kids to have free time?! Let’s evaluate, ask ourselves what is driving us to fill the calendar? Are we crowding our lives so full with sports and activities that there is no white space? Downright honest ...Winning is fun, a championship run is exciting, it feels good to hear that your child has potential. However, we need to seek compromise, adjust, set margins, and boundaries for the health of the family. Thoughtfully and prayerfully our family has adjusted and set boundaries so that the family isn’t sacrificing for the sake of sport. We don’t always get it right, but the majority of our life isn’t chasing down the dream, it's living the daily moments together.
Know your why
Your “Why” is a statement of purpose that describes why you live the lifestyle you do. Set some time aside as a family and talk about your values, your “why.” Establish a family mission that brings clarity and focus, a set of standards that helps everyone make decisions and stay focused on more than just themselves. This mindset and thought process is more about choosing to live intentionally. When we say yes to something or someone, we are saying no to something or someone else. When you have a family mission and know your why you can do your research on the said activity and lead your kids well. Truth is most kids love to try new things! Sports are fun! Parents instruct and lead your kids, don’t be swayed by popular opinion around you. Do your homework on the culture of said activity, meet the coaches, look at the schedule, then decide if said activity fits your family and stays within the boundaries and standards you have set, and then be consistent and stick to it.
"When you know your WHY, you'll know your WAY.” - Michael Hyatt
Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Establish an end goal
As a parent is your end goal making your kids happy, or nurturing a healthy adult? If it is making your kids happy, good luck! The key in setting an end goal is understanding that nurturing and discipling your kids into healthy adults takes time, attention, and intentionality. How does this apply to athletics? We have to change and rethink and see athletics as a catalyst. A catalyst spurs change and growth, it’s not the end result. For our girls swimming competitively was never the end goal. All 3 kids started swimming at a young age and our goal was for them to swim well enough to save themselves or someone else from drowning. We had a pool, a lake, and a pond that we spent time around as a young family. Dan and I wanted the kids to be safe around water. When Grace was 10 she asked to join a swim team. As you may have guessed we said yes! In all humility, she is now a D1 college athlete that understands her goal as she trains and competes is to be better in body, mind, and spirit - everyday. She has a few years left of her career at Notre Dame and when she says goodbye to the sport and becomes a “swammer” she will have learned what discipline, teamwork, adversity, failure and success look like. Most importantly she has learned to properly prioritize physical, mental, and spiritual health all the while caring for those around her on her team and in our family. Together we have made some tough calls over the years, said some hard no’s, took time to evaluate what was best for our family life, and made consistent choices to be healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually. It takes a longview to continue to invest in a sport that asks for so much. That longview is never on the sport, it is always on the person that they will become.
Fight for your family
"I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying." - Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan’s documentary on Netflix was fascinating to me. It documents his failures, his triumphs, but most importantly all the times he kept trying, going against the odds, all the while striving and fighting not knowing he would become one of the best basketball players of all time.
What do you fight for? What do you give your all for? I challenge you to fight for the health of your family! Reality is we are going to fail and not get it right all the time. Reading this article you may feel overwhelmed, over committed, and living in FOMO, the fear that if I don’t say yes my kid will miss out. Why not flip the script and instead of being driven by things out of your control begin to fight for your family. Anything, not just sports, can get in the way of our relationship with Jesus and our family. An idol can come in the form of an over-attachment to something that is, in itself, perfectly good. Athletics and extracurriculars can be perfectly good for our kids and our families, however, when we let it dominate, consume us, and take over it becomes an idol. Let’s not fall prey to the culture of keeping up, doing more. It is ok to say no, sometimes that is your best yes. Build a family that has time together, knows their why, and has a proper perspective.
Fight for your family. Fight for what God commissioned us to do as parents ... .be a family who lives out Deuteronomy 6:5-9, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Some of those talks about life and God may be in the car on your way home from practice or a game, whatever it may be that can be a great time to gain perspective and maximize the moment.