In our five years of marriage, my wife and I have talked about our children and sports a fair amount—and especially recently, because two of our children are at the age where they could potentially begin playing sports. It’s that level where kids run up and down a field, or pick flowers, as a soccer ball lays in the middle of the field with no one to kick it. But, they have so much energy, they climb on things that are going to hurt them, and they jump from couches to tables—so they need something to do. Their kinetic energy might as well be channeled into something productive and healthy.
Sports and recreation are important. I believe that our bodies are a gift from God, and we should do everything we can to take care of them. It’s widely accepted that physical activity and your health go hand-in-hand. So for me the question isn’t, “Should everyone be involved in some form of sports or recreation?” The question is, “How much time should it take in our lives?”
I see a lot of parents who have 5-year-olds playing in leagues that require participation multiple times a week, year round. And for the most part, I think they enjoy it. I would have enjoyed it. But I wonder the impact that has on a child long-term. Does it cause deficits in other areas of life? What if all the practice is motivated by a parent who’s telling them, “if you work hard you’ll be the best,” only for them to be devastated when they fall short of ‘being the best’ later in life? I don’t think these concerns are extreme. They may not be the norm, but it happens more often than people think. At least it does where I grew up.
My parents didn’t let me play football until high school. This might have been the leading cause of arguments between us. I ran track in grade school, I was the fastest kid in my grade for years, and I wrestled in middle school. But football was where my heart was. It’s the greatest sport to exist. I can’t deny the violence of the sport, but it’s so much more than that. And my parents not signing me up for a team never stopped me from playing. Every Saturday you could find my friends and I at some field playing football. But of course there was a slight problem with that: I’ve always been injury-prone.
I can’t think of a single year when I didn’t hurt myself. The worst part is I never would have imagined the long-term toll it would take on my body. I have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and the disease runs in my family. Even though I was diagnosed only a year ago, I can’t help but think that the disease had something to do with all of the joint pain and injuries I had as a kid.
I see my sons and I wonder if they have the disease too. My parents had no idea whether or not I would get RA, but I’m somewhat grateful that they kept pads off of my shoulders for a few years. Should I be as cautious with my children?
The reality is that RA would have shown up in my life at some point. It could have been on my sixtieth birthday, but it came right around my thirty-third. Sports could have played a major role in the disease, but looking back I would have done it all the same. Even with this disease that is painful everyday, I go to the gym. I don’t try to bench press 300lbs anymore, but I’m still fit. It doesn’t take too much of my time, I take days off, but it’s important.
When I look at my kids, I know that it’s important for them too. They won’t be in multiple leagues at a time, and I won’t fill them with false hopes, but they’ll do something. It won’t bother me if neither of my sons wants to play football, and I pray that I don’t have to sit through hours of baseball games. But they’ll have to spend some time appreciating the beautiful gift of a body that God has given them.
This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on sports from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.