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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus

Prayer and sports: An uncomfortable pairing of Biblical proportions

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On the National Day of Prayer, let me state that I’m no fan of mixing sports and religion.

I don’t like Bible verses on eyeblack, Bible verses on banners, prayers over the loudspeaker, and prayers led by the coach in an optional ceremony that, really, you aren’t compelled to take part in, unless you want your ass nailed to bench like Jesus’ wrists. I was thrilled when the U.S. Supreme Court, no bastion of atheists, in 2009 refused to hear the appeal of a New Jersey high school football coach fighting his public school district so he could lead team prayers, especially because the court refused to swallow the glop served by friends of the court such as the American College Football Association:

There is a reason why persons are not typically moved to pray before playing monopoly, or bridge, or a round of golf with friends, but frequently are moved to pray immediately prior to or after playing a high school or college football game. It’s not just the violent nature of the sport and the ever-present possibility of serious and perhaps life-altering injury; it’s also the sense that these games are important signposts marking the road to becoming an adult.

I also will cheer when the rulings of that Supreme Court will be used to beat down a pandering bill passed in April in the Florida House that would would “bar schools from infringing on the First Amendment freedoms of teachers, staff or students unless they sign a written waiver of those rights,” basically a way to get around the ACLU’s victory over the Santa Rosa County (Fla.) School Board allowing its Christian fascists to run wild, practically requiring preaching at the public school.

For the record, technically speaking, I am Christian, having been baptized Catholic, confirmed Episcopalian, married Catholic, baptized my four kids Catholic, then jumped to the United Church of Christ. The latter denomination holds great appeal because I think it does what any religion can do best: evangelize not by loudly proclaiming how Godly you are, or how unGodly someone is, or how much you love Jesus you just can’t help but speak in tongues during a timeout in your high school basketball game. It emphasizes showing your spirit through, basically, being a good person and doing good things, and letting people catch on that maybe your faith has something to do with that.

No denomination or faith has a monopoly on that, of course. But that explains my mistrust of people and institutions that feel they must bash you over the head with their religion, demanding your participation and conversion lest ye be called a savia hata.

However, I (hopefully) am open-minded enough to realize that even when people are bringing forced prayer into places I don’t think it should go, sometimes the people who oppose them can be even bigger jackholes.

Case in point: a dispute over mixing prayer and youth baseball in Medford, Ore., where apparently it’s fairly common for coaches to end a Little League practice or game with a few words for The Man Upstairs. Given the Little League pledge — “I trust in God. I love my country and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win. But win or lose, I will always do my best.” — it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility for prayer to be involved.

As manager, I wouldn’t do it for my 7-year-old’s baseball team, not just because we’re not associated with Little League, and not just because we have at least one Muslim on the team, and not just because of my own prickly feelings about prayer and sport. It’s also because 6- and 7-year-old boys have about a 3-second attention span, so I would get only as far as “Oh God…” before someone told a fart joke.

Anyway, a Medford National Little League assistant coach, Mike E. Miles, didn’t cotton to the Jesusness of his manager Chris Palmer, who started with asking his players to take a knee after practice, then escalated from there. Miles told the Medford Mail Tribune that Palmer asked if anyone objected. But showing the youth sports political skill that got him on the league’s board, Miles told the paper, “As a parent and assistant coach, what do you say? ‘No, we don’t like Jesus or God’?” Miles’ antenna were particularly up because his daughter is on the baseball team — the only girl on the team.

As anyone associated with youth sports knows, reasonable people did not meet to discuss their differences to come to a mutually agreeable conclusion. Instead, Miles went to the board and called for Palmer to be fired. Instead, on May 2, a few days after his complaint, Miles was booted off the board, and he took his daughter off the team.

The board was full of Jesus people ready to smack down someone who wouldn’t pray on the field, right? Maybe. But Miles was making his own bed to shit in. From the Medford Mail Tribune:

The prayers continued. Miles remained silent — until Palmer questioned Miles’ integrity for teaching “cat and mouse” base-running techniques. Players are taught to feign injuries and stumble on the base paths in order to confuse the opponent — and score runs, Miles said.

“[Palmer] called me deceitful,” Miles said. “These are standard plays. Miles Field was named after my dad (Shorty Miles). He’s saying my father and the great coaches who taught me these plays are unethical. I went ballistic. I admit it.”

Palmer is right. And Miles is right. Palmer shouldn’t lead the team in prayer if everyone isn’t comfortable, and Miles shouldn’t teach 9-year-olds how to get an extra base by pretending to have a sudden knee energy.

If I may give myself permission to offer my own prayer, I pray these men see the error of their ways, and we can get back to sports with metaphysical conflict.

Written by rkcookjr

May 6, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Tim Tebow's parents teach you how to raise your own divine child

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With Tim Tebow likely trading his biblical eyeblack (now banned by the NCAA) for sitting on an NFL bench, how are we are mere mortals supposed to get our divine guidance as to what He (Tebow) would want us to do (unless he can plop a Bible verse on the back of a clipboard)? How can we learn to be more like Him?

Fear not, my sheep. A few hundred tickets remain if you want to learn from Joseph and Mary themselves about how to raise and nuture your child to become Tebow-like.

On Sat., April 17, David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., is hosting Bob and Pam Tebow to host a parenting seminar called “Bringing Up Tim Tebow.” Sure, Bob and Pam have four other kids, but can they run for a touchdown and heal the sick in one motion?

So what can you expect from Bob and Pam? Probably something heavy on the homeschooling, considering all the Tebow kids were homeschooled (and Tim’s allowance to play on his public school football team has inspired states to pass what are called “Tim Tebow laws” to allow other homeschoolers to play on school teams, which also makes him the only person not kidnapped and murdered to have state laws named after him). Lots of talk about their missionary work and ministry, given Bob is a minister himself, and both have traveled the world to spread their faith.

And, definitely, their No. 1 piece of advice in raising your own little Tebow: don’t abort him.

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If you’re among the 5,000 or so plunking down $50 apiece to hear Bob and Pam Tebow tell you how to raise your own golden child, your money might be better spent elsewhere. After all, the chance of your child being a Heisman Trophy winner/walker-on-water is probably pretty small.

If you want a parenting seminar that might be more practical to your child’s more likely future, I would advise you to sign up for “Bringing Up Ben Roethlisberger.”

Written by rkcookjr

April 16, 2010 at 12:25 am

Blessed are the meek, for they shall lead their teams to championships

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Today at my church, the pastor, as usual, brought the kids to the altar for a little conversation. She began by asking them if they played on any sports teams, and if so, if they would rather be the star, or the person in charge of carrying the equipment or some role other than star. Of course, the kids wanted to be stars, although I think some of the wiser ones, who didn’t raise their hands, knew the trick that when asked something by a pastor, the answer is always B) Not the One You’d Pick.

The reason she brought this up was that today’s lesson was about one of the Beatitudes, Jesus’ eight Big Statements from the Sermon on the Mount.

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“Blessed are the cheesemakers?”

The Beatitude in question is: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.” Now I’ve been sufficiently smart-assed about people using the Bible for their own youth sports purposes, but you don’t have to play Jesusball to see how this line, and my pastor’s lesson to the kids from it, fits in snugly with sports.

From the professional level on down, just about every coach preaches (speaking of pastors) that playing for your own glory doesn’t cut it. True success comes when, in whatever role you fill, serving your teammates. While meek might mean gentle, it doesn’t necessarily mean sitting back and saying nothing. In this context, meekness is about servitude.

If you want a rule of thumb of how to identify a championship team at any level before it actually wins a title, look for two things. Is the team’s best player a good teammate, trying to make everyone better and more confident, and complementing what the coach is trying to teach? And is the coach slow to credit himself or herself, instead working to improve his or her team and giving all credit to that team for any improvements? If the answer to both questions is yes, you have a team that already is in championship contention. Certainly, talent and knowledge help, but if your top player or the coach is only out for personal glory, as San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary famously ranted: “Cannot play with ‘em. Cannot win with ‘em. Cannot coach with ‘em. Can’t do it.”

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Samurai Mike’s infamous 2008 Vernon Davis rant, from which the above quote is taken. Given Singletary’s Christian bent, it’s safe to say he’s familiar with “Blessed are the meek,” though that might be argued by running backs he nearly decapitated.

It is very easy for me to figure out if a team I’m coaching is going to have a good season. Not necessarily a championship season, but one that at least the kids enjoy themselves and each other’s company. The simple formula rests on the team’s best player, and if you don’t think even first-graders figure out in a hurry who that is, you’re deluding yourself. They know. If the team’s best player has a good attitude, listens to his or her coach, and dedicates himself or herself to making teammates better, then it will be a good season.

A few years ago, when coaching my oldest son’s fifth- and sixth-grade coed basketball team, I had a kid who was a great, talented, hard-nosed player. One practice I noticed him talking to another kid while I was talking, and I busted his chops for it. Turns out what he was doing was relaying, in kid language, what I wanted so the kid could play better. Later on, midway through the season when one boy scored his first-ever basket, this great, talented, hard-nosed player was the first to run over to congratulate him. I just about broke out in happy tears right on the spot. That year we won our league championship, no doubt because every kid on that team knew their best player had their back.

By the way, referencing my chops-busting earlier, the key to whether a team reaches or exceeds its perceived potential isn’t just the best player being a good person. That’s a big load to put on a young kid, and I’ve coached kids who wanted to do this, but just weren’t ready to handle that kind of responsibility. But the other key is the coach also not being a glory hound. Early on in coaching, I made a mistake common to many coaches, a mistake that many coaches can’t get over — worrying about outside perception of my own genius.

When I started coaching, I worried about that not so much because I wanted everything telling me what a great coach I was, but because I didn’t want everything telling each other what a dope I was. That manifested itself into being way too concerned about discipline, too concerned that everyone marched in lockstep to what I was telling them. (I started at the late elementary levels — even I, in my deluded state, wouldn’t have been so worried about this had I coached first-graders.)

What I had to get over, and I’m not sure I totally have, is that I’m coaching kids who may or may not care, and that I can’t make them care, or make them great teammates, just because I demand they do. I’ve had to learn when to push, and when to back off. Like with the kid I mentioned earlier helping translate me to his teammate. Instead of worrying about OH NO SOMEONE IS TALKING ON MY TIME, I should have let it go. That’s because at that moment I was doing it because I was exerting my authority instead of serving my team.

At the ages and skill levels I coach, my job is not to worry about whether I look good because we’re winning, but to teach a sport to the best of my ability so the kids can make an educated decision as to whether they enjoy it and would like to keep playing it, or whether it’s not their bag. Would I like to be a star coach? Who wouldn’t? But a little meekness in that position can take a team a long way.

Tim Tebow teaches your kids how to selectively quote the Bible

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In his last game tonight, the Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is wearing, as he has so many games, a Bible cite on his eyeblack. (Tebow was Christian-home-schooled, and his name has been invoked in many states in legislation that would allow home-schooled students to play on public school sports teams, as his home state of Florida allows.) Tebow’s last choice was Ephesians 2:8-10.  The verses goeth:

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Hey, kids, and parents, remember that if you put Bible verses on your eyeblack, your uniform, or your banner, some smart-aleck is going to look at the surrounding verses to check for context and/or selectively quote in a way that makes you look bad. Especially with Ephesians 2, a very short New Testament book that reads a lot like non-Israelites yelling “nanny nanny boo boo” at the Tribe now that they have a savior that YOU DON’T HAVE, even if you become as good a quarterback as Tim Tebow.

So without further ado, Ephesians 2:11-13:

11Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

Please debate: Does this verse contain anti-Semitism, or are you too distracted by the image of Tim Tebow’s foreskin?

Written by rkcookjr

January 1, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Sports on Friday, Saturday and SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!!!!!!

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Alas, while we know Jan Gabriel invented “SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY” doing ads for the US 30 Dragstrip in Hobart, Ind., in the 1970s, it is still lost to history who invented “you’ll pay for the whole seat, but YOU’LL ONLY NEED THE EDGE!!!!!!!”

Following (way behind) Pope John Paul II’s admonition for kids not to play organized sports on Sundays comes a message from multiple Christian churches in Worcester, Mass., for leagues to stop scheduling, and kids to stop playing, games on the modern Sabbath.

From the local Telegram & Gazette:

… This weekend, pastors from 17 churches of various denominations in Webster, Dudley, and Oxford are imploring their congregants to set aside Sunday as “a time of rest and reprieve from a busy week.”

The pastors, many of them members of the nine-member Webster-Dudley Ecumenical Group, are also asking sports league officials not to schedule games or practice on Sunday mornings.

The Rev. Luke A. Veronis of Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Webster said the demands of today’s secular society have drastically cut in on family and church time.

“Some parents who want to spend time with their kids on Sunday and who want their children to go to church feel that they are the parental oddballs,” said Rev. Veronis. …

He said that kids are even feeling the pressure, noting that there are altar servers in his parish who are conflicted about fulfilling their spiritual obligations by going to church or playing sports with their teammates.

Rev. Veronis said he even had to face up to the issue, telling his 10-year-old son, Paul, that he could not play youth football because the schedule conflicted with Sunday church services.

“It was tough telling him he couldn’t participate. Obviously, he didn’t really understand. All he knew was that his friends would be out on the field playing ball while he had to go to church,” explained Rev. Veronis, noting that Sunday became less family-day friendly with the easing of the state’s commercial blue laws years ago.

He said it is difficult to counsel parents on the matter because many have turned youth sports into a “religion.” He said others give in to their children’s wishes because they don’t want their kids to view them as bad parents.

Complaining about the end of blue laws? Believing their followers see sports as a religion? Sounds like these men of the cloth are getting tired of getting the holy shit beat out of them by the competition.

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Hey, cut that out.

Written by rkcookjr

May 31, 2009 at 1:16 pm

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