As we approach Super Bowl weekend, there are mixed feelings among Christians about the impact of sports on society. We hear both sides pretty ardently. Some say that sports are overrated. They give the example of millionaire players cry-babying about various issues in society. Others say that athletes should use their platform to make the world a better place to live. Some say that these players are spoiled and think they can do and say whatever they want. Others believe that the athletes are examples to children and young people. As someone who has coached for most of my life, there is good and bad in most everything, but to me, with sports for children the good far outweighs the bad. Here's why.
Last week at the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fl., I had the opportunity to work with a film crew interviewing young people, parents, coaches and referees at the NFL Flag Football National Championships. Girls and boys ages 8-14 from across the country and even a team from China competed to see who was the best in the nation at flag football. My interest was what playing football taught them about life, the values they could share with others that came from football. The answers were amazing. Where you might expect "kid" type answers like "It's fun," these young women and men really understand the value of sports, and in particular, football in their lives.
One of the girls said, "Flag football gives us the ability to compete with the boys and show them that we can play, too. This gives us confidence that if we can compete with the boys, we can accomplish anything." Another girl said she learned "time management" from playing football. She said that playing football helped her learn how to balance school, studying, football, and other activities, and she thought this time management would help her throughout the rest of her life. Another young lady said that teamwork was a valuable tool that she is already applying to her life. Still another said that football has taught her how to be a better leader by encouraging her teammates, and being encouraged.
Several of the young black men independently said that football was teaching them to be men. When asked what that means, there were varying ways to say the same thing: "Football teaches me that when things don't go my way, that I will need to do better. When my teammate makes a mistake, I tell him we will make it up on the next play. When I get knocked down, I get back up. I always try to do my best." The parents, coaches and officials also said similar things. They all believed that the lessons learned and the values taught far outweighed the risks. There is so much more I could write here, but the bottom line is Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." These are our leaders of the next generation and they are being trained through sports.