Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Sunday

Is youth sports your God?

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Wyman Richardson, a Baptist minister in Georgia, is asking some questions of his fellow Christians so they themselves can discover what they value more: their faith or sports.

The objection doesn’t seem to be against sports, per se. Richardson prefaced his questions with this statement: “Athletics are good, build character, and help children grow. If our kids commit to a team, they should be taught to stand by their commitments. I played sports in school (albeit, poorly!), and am glad I did. My daughter plays, and I’m glad she does.”

However, Richardson and the late Pope, my old Catholic priest and my current United Church of Christ pastor have the same concern, as spelled out by the Georgia Baptist: “[M]y point is simply that there is now an observable, verifiable shift in priorities among Christian parents that is overall damaging to our kids, to the body of Christ, to our corporate and individual witnesses, and to our and our children’s spiritual development.”

As you might have guessed by the foreshadowing in the previous paragraph, Richardson is hardly the first Sunday-oriented religious leader to notice that the pews got a little emptier whenever youth sports kicked into higher gear. Of course, Christianity for years had the advantage, unlike other faiths, of blue laws to mandate there was nothing to do on Sunday but go to worship, so until recently it hasn’t had to deal with the competition.

Pope John Paul II, so much of an athlete that he’s under consideration to be the Catholics’ patron saint of sports, in 2004 felt the need to remind his flock that Sunday was God’s day, not just another day for sports and entertainment (youth and otherwise). Inspired by that message, the priest at the Catholic church affiliated with my basketball league stopped us from having games on Sunday, even though attendance by men, oh, quadrupled because they would show up with their hoopin’ shoes for a little pregame Mass, when otherwise they would have not shown.

My own church’s pastor has led movements to keep Sunday event-free, and she isn’t Baptist or Catholic or Dutch Reformed (the faith of one of my 10-year-old daughter’s softball teammates, who never plays on Sunday). She’s with the United Church of Christ, where they’ve let gays be pastors since 1972.

Of course, Christianity for years had the advantage, unlike other faiths, of blue laws to mandate there was nothing to do on Sunday but go to worship, so until recently it hasn’t had to deal with the competition.

The demands of travel sports, the fear that missing a practice could mean the end of the college scholarship dream, or the simple joys your child has in playing a sport — Richardson gets that. “My point is not that your child should always choose a church event over an athletic event.” What he’s wondering is, hey, parents, are YOU getting so much of a rush out of your child’s sports that you are unwittingly sending the message to your child that sports is the most important thing, that the sports tail SHOULD be wagging the family dog? The questions Richardson asks demand soul-searching for your answers, no matter whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i or Richard Dawkins.

Among Richardson’s questions:

What percentage of your child’s ballgames do you attend?  What percentage of church services do you attend with your child?  Which is higher?  Why? …

For what reasons would you allow your child to miss practice?  For what reasons would you allow your child to miss church?  When you compare those reasons, how are they alike or different? …

How excited are you about seeing your child excel in athletics?  How excited are you about seeing your child excel in Christlikeness?…

Which is a more exciting thought to you:  your child receiving an MVP award for his team or your child leading a friend to faith in Christ?

How excited do you get about the big game?  How excited do you get about corporate worship?

If your child routinely asked to stay home from practice, would you speak with him/her about “commitment”?  If your child routinely asked to stay home from church, would you speak with him/her about “commitment”?

There is an easy answer to a lot of these questions: if you miss church, there’s always next week for the rest of your life. If your child misses sports, that narrows an already small window of opportunity. But is that really the right reason?

Richardson’s questions, even if you’re comparing, say, music with school rather than sports with church, do raise a little spiritual food for thought about how healthy it is for you and your family to tie your schedules to your child’s pursuits. Particularly if you have, even in the back of your mind, the thought that this is all going to lead to that magic scholarship or pro career, despite the overwhelming odds otherwise.

After all, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than your child to go pro.

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Listen to me! (on NPR)

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While I’ve been away from blogging, I recorded a commentary for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered about the recent death of Jan Gabriel, the Chicago-area auto racing announcer and promoter. He’s the guy who invented one of the biggest cliches in motorsports hucksterism — excitedly repeating the date of the event. Note for nothing was he known as Mr. Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Appropriately enough, he died on Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! (Jan. 10), and his memorial service will be, what else, Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! (Jan. 17).

You can find audio to the piece, which ran Wednesday! Wednesday! Wednesday!, here. If you want to know if Jan Gabriel really invented Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!, here is some proof below, from an Aug. 26, 2004 piece on Gabriel on WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight.”

[youtubevid id=”IMqhq67xei0″]

What does this have to do with youth sports? Not a damn thing. But I’m told that, after breaking my six-year absence from the NPR airwaves, I will have the opportunity to do more, and some certainly will have a youth sports bent.

Plus, it would be wrong of me not to pass off this chance for cheap self-promotion.

Written by rkcookjr

January 14, 2010 at 2:07 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