Over the last 15 years youth sports, particularly basketball and football, have been a significant part of my life. I have four boys, and all of them have been involved in one sport or another since about third grade. Through the years I have watched hundreds of games and spent uncounted hours in bleachers. During this time with my boys, I have had the opportunity to watch boys grow into adults over each season. Those precious little tikes become awkward middle schoolers and by their senior year have beards.
Through the years I have noticed a fundamental flaw in all youth sports. I rarely hear anyone talk about it, but I think it is worth considering if you have children walking this path. I believe youth sports give children a wrong concept about their value and worth at an early age.
On one side we have the group of kids who excel when they are young. They are faster than the other boys, maybe a little taller or possibly physically stronger. As a result, they get the starting position and are thrust into the role of team star. I especially notice this when a boy gets his “man body” earlier than the rest of the children. Do you know what I am talking about? That one boy who is over six-foot-tall when the rest of the boys are barely four-foot-tall. Suddenly they are a big deal, and quickly they begin to feel there is something special about themselves. Many times, their parents even buy into the hype. They talk about how talented their child is and how hard they work when I want to point out that their child is just bigger than everyone else their age.
On the flip side is another group of kids who flounder in team sports. They usually fall into one of two subcategories. There is one section of kids who are small. Their bodies are behind everyone else, and they are not as fast or strong. The other group is those who grow but are very awkward in their new body. Either way, there is a group of kids who feel inferior simply because of the changes their body is going through or not. They can quickly get down on themselves and feel a sense of failure for things they cannot control.
The other day I watched a boy playing basketball. When he was in sixth grade, he was bigger than everyone else and scored 30 points against our team to beat us. Now, everyone else has grown up and passed him. Suddenly he was no longer a star, but a reserve. At one point I could swear I saw the look of disappointment and confusion on his face.
I write this because I worry about our teens. I work with them every week, and they are either overconfident or have feelings of worthlessness. Many times, this has been the result of involvement in youth sports.
Now, maybe more than ever, our young people need to know their value and worth do not come from what you do with a ball. They come from being created in the image of God and being redeemed by his son Jesus. That truth is not affected by how tall, fast, good or bad you are at a game. Please be sure you impress this into their lives today and every day.