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Can Sports Help My Child Grow in Christlikeness? Part 2

October 27, 2016
By Mr. N. Ogborne

Last time we looked at how to disciple our children through obeying authority.  In continuing our look at Randy Stinson’s article 5 Ways Sports Can Disciple Your Child, we will be focusing on the second way sports can disciple your child through practicing self-sacrifice.  Sacrificing yourself is at the heart of what it means to be part of a team.  Each team member’s ultimate goal is to see the team, as a whole succeed. There are a wide variety of ways self-sacrifice can be manifested in sports, such as the following; putting yourself in harm’s way, spending hours in training, or even having a strict diet. 

Stinson rightly says that self-sacrifice “was at the heart of the life of Christ and is at the heart of the Christian’s life.”  Christ’s life and death is the greatest picture of self-sacrifice that the world has ever seen.  Mark summarizes the life of Christ when he says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  Paul summarizes the life of a Christian when he says, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1).  There have been countless men and women throughout the years who have demonstrated a life of self-sacrifice, but one of the most famous is Jim Elliot.  He gave up his life in pursuit of reaching the Waodani tribe in Ecuador with the gospel.  Jim has been quoted as saying, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

As parents, how can you disciple your children to have this mindset of self-sacrifice when they are playing sports?  Have you found yourself telling your children before a game things like, “Have fun, play hard, and I love you?”  What about after a game saying things like, “Did you have fun, I’m proud of you, and I love you?”  While these aren’t bad things to say, they are not the most intentional phrases to help disciple your child. David Prince, in his book In the Arena, challenges parents to use these times to disciple your children before a game by saying, “Enjoy the opportunity to compete and play in a self-sacrificial way that places your teammates and coaches ahead of yourself”, and after a game to say, “In what ways did you sacrifice for your team and were you others-centered?”

Are you glad when your child is sitting on the bench?  Prince sees this as a great opportunity to teach his children the lessons about human pride, grace, courage, and self-sacrifice.  Below are listed some of the strategies that he uses to help disciple his children when they are sitting on the bench

  • Be the loudest player on the bench cheering for your team.
  • Get out of your seat during breaks and greet and encourage the players who are in the game.
  • Be the first to volunteer when the coach needs something done.
  • When you get into the game, remember that you may not be the most talented player, but you can be the toughest and hardest worker.
  • Make the more talented players better by being tough on them in practice; challenge them, and make them fight for everything they get.