"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."1
Once upon a time sports used to be sports. Kids would play together at every opportunity they had. When my boys were kids, they played roller-blade street hockey just about every evening for several years with the neighborhood kids—young and old, big and small alike—and rarely got into any scuffles. They supervised themselves without any parents pressuring them to score or win.
Later one of my boys played team ice hockey. Some of the parents were unbelievable. I even saw one father punch out another father. You've probably seen the same kind of thing as so many sports have become incredibly competitive—winning for too many has become everything.
If it weren't so serious, it would be rather funny or idiotic—or both. As Bill O'Reilly reported, "If there's one thing worse than a frustrated, would-be coach up in the stadium, it is perhaps an angry soccer Mom: Pattie A. of Greensboro, NC, really wanted her son to do well in soccer. Watching him play a game one day, she took offense at the referee's 'unfair' calls. She also took action: running out onto the field, she punched the official in the mouth. The official was ... 15 years old. Socking that kid didn't play well with the judge, who convicted this overeager soccer mom of assault. She was fined and ... banned from all soccer games for three years—a catastrophic punishment for a mother of this sort."2
It's sad that many sports today seem to have little, if any, character-building characteristics. Winning isn't everything. It's nice to win but everybody can't win. There are always losers and if kids don't learn to be good losers, they are going to be in for some big shocks as adults. What is more important is teaching kids to enjoy playing the game and working together as a team. The same principle should apply to high school and college athletes as well.
It's we parents and adults who need to set the example, for we are the ones who have pressured our kids to perform, and more often than not, just to boost our own ego. In God's book, winning is doing right, doing our best, and persevering in the face of opposition and discouragement.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to 'throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles me, and help me to run with perseverance the race that You have marked out for me,' and thereby be a true winner in Your sight. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Hebrews 12:1 (NIV).
2. The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly, p. 115. Cited on: http://www.esermons.com/.