Confessions of Sports Dad
Originally posted on the CSRM BLOG February 24, 2016
I feel blessed that over the years I have had the pleasure of watching in person my sons participate in their sporting endeavors. From the days of Little League baseball and soccer to school sports, travel basketball, and travel volleyball. One of the best things my father gave me was his presence at all my events. My dad’s presence was stronger than most of what others tried to communicate to me about the way I should play the game. It was his presence that built confidence, a sense of genuine care, and that it was ok that I made mistakes and that he was present if I needed to talk about it or learn from it. The best part about my dads presence was that I was the most important person in his schedule for that time, not just another athlete he happened to see play when he could. The demonstration of my father’s commitment to my athletic endeavors created that desire to provide for my own children. While I have coached both of my sons on different occasions, I have found it most rewarding to simply be there….be there to watch them grow in character…be there to watch their sport development…be there to watch them experience the enjoyment of playing a sport of their choice.
Through the years I have often arrived at games with much excitement for the game and my child’s performance in the game. There have been times I knew my child would play well against a particular co-competitor and there were times when I was anxious as to how he would respond. Of course, the times in which I knew he would do well meant for a better mental and spiritual process for me. It was the times in which he struggled that created more “begs” to God than He probably wanted or cared about over a sporting match.
Recently, I was unable to travel with my son’s team. It was a back-to-back weekend travel schedule and I was there for the previous weekend, but due to work schedule and weather, I was not present for this series of games. What we know about being present is that the unknown is removed. You are aware of the game day operations, the teams participating, the refs, the coaches, and the interactions of the players and fans. It’s as though you can control (at least attempt to) what’s going on during the process. But, when you are absent, the mental faculties go crazy. You spend most of the time trying to create specific scenarios, interactions, and reasons for good or bad play. It really becomes an anxious event for you (the reason is its your child!). The unknown creates worry of failure while playing, fear of disrespecting officials and players, and the made up emotion of hurt for the team if they loose. There is also the emotion of a false sense of joy, excitement, and adrenaline that we create as we daydream about them winning. The unknown really created a roller coaster emotional experience.
On this particular weekend, I felt as though I was calm on the first day of the tournament. I awakened, prayed and asked God to bless the team and give them a great experience (of course He knew I meant wins). As the day went on, I would hear reports of the team losing one match, a second match, a third match that did include a win, and finally a fourth match. What happened? After all I prayed for God to bless the team. And by the sounds of my sons voice that night, he wasn’t experiencing any blessings.
Where does a father (parent) go from here? I wasn’t able to help him process all the events that would have caused such mishap. While he did share some wisdom with me regarding reasons for the losses, I found myself hurting that night for him and his teammates. The best I could do at the moment was go to my ever-trusty sports motivation quotes and send him two quotes to think about and tell him I love him. Meanwhile, I lay in bed praying to God for his experience the next day.
The next day arrived and I was up and ready. As a father struggling how to integrate my faith in Christ and sport, and share that with my son, I found guidance from bible regarding the mercies of the Lord being new everyday and sent it off to him in social media format. Just letting him know that today was a new day and we are reminded to put yesterday behind and enjoy the processes for today. I then jumped in, as many of us do, with prayers of blessings again for the team and his playing performance…only to be quickly stalled in the midst of my prayers. It was then the question of “what am I really praying for” came to light. While I can have multiple dialogues on whether God cares who wins or not during a sporting event, I was convinced that I was praying in a selfish manner. You see, in actuality I was praying for the selfish reasons in regards to performance such as:
His skill would be displayed
His attitude would be good so he wouldn’t be a discouragement to team or coach
His team would win so they wouldn’t be discouraged
His team would improve so he / team wouldn’t have altercation with their coach
His team would play better so that he / team members wouldn’t want to quite
The referee would make the right calls (meaning the benefits for his team)
The reasons all these prayers were selfish were they worked toward a goal of removing adversity and growth. My prayers were centered on being answered so that non- confrontational issues would arise. My prayers had become more focused on performance levels and desired behavioral outcomes.
As I continued to pray, I realized the need to re-focus. Sure, God does care about performance levels and behavior, but more importantly, God cares about His glory. When we pray for the glory of God to be displayed, just like it was in scripture (both with the first Adam in Genesis and the second Adam of Christ) we can do so as modeled by Jesus when he said, “Father, not my will but yours.” It’s then glory that can be revealed and create an altering transformation. Praying now for the team and my child was altered to:
Create a desire within him to glorify you with his gifts and talents, not for his glory
May his attitude towards his teammates, coaches, and co-competitors represent Christmanship over Gamesmanship (win at all cost)
Despite losses, may the team learn how to work together as a body, much like the body of Christ
Through trials and multiple losses, would the team learn their weaknesses and how to overcome them. For success is fun, but reveals little like adversity does. The Apostle James speaks of trials and tribulations being growth points.
Though I lived in a continual state of prayer on this day with anticipation of hearing about their matches, I am pleased to say that they responded to trials and placed third in their bracket out of sixteen. In final conversations with my son, we could dialogue about learning through the experiences. Learning how to communicate with teammates in difficult times, learning how to “play through” life’s disappointments, and learning how to lose and win in a Christ-like manner.
Most of all, I was thankful for the processes that God led me through that weekend. It caused me to re-focus on what’s most import – learning to pray for my child during his sporting events. While my son was facing struggles of competition, I too was facing struggles. Struggles of not being there physically to try to control the outcomes, struggles of wanting things to go their way so adversity wouldn’t be a factor, and struggles of how is it I’m to pray. Through my own adversity, God transformed the way in which I would pray for my child and his team. Not only does his performance need to reflect God’s glory, but also my prayers need to do the same.
The next time you’re at your child’s sporting event, ask God to show you how to pray for them and their team. It’s a learning curve we will all face.