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  • Writer's pictureBrandon 'b.Side' Alvillar

Time Suckers! Managing The Chaos Of Youth Sports

I saw a meme the other day on an Instagram feed, that’s had me thinking a lot. While thinking about it, I realized that it’s a BIG TIME factor that can cripple the spiritual temperature of any family. The meme said:

Instagram meme of a church sign with sports statistic and scripture

“There is a 0.0296% chance that your child will become a professional athlete. There is a 100% chance that your child will stand before Jesus. GET THEM TO CHURCH – Mark 9:42”

In this article, we’re going to look at this issue. It’s not a reality that we like to think about, but as men that are called to lead our homes in Godliness, it’s one that we NEED to consider, especially in the context of the scripture that they referenced. I would encourage you to take a second and really think about God’s perspective here. Compare God’s perspective, to the demands of youth sports. Youth sports can be "time suckers." Youth sports can be a source of chaos for our families. Manage the chaos. Let’s break this down a bit, and see how serious the issue is, or isn’t.

First, the statement gives a pretty compelling percentage about kids that play sports. There are a few things we have to make note of though. There is no source reference. I have no idea where this percentage came from. After spending a few minutes trying to find the source of that particular stat, I did find some other stats, that are just as compelling. For example, if you just Google search:

“What is the chance of a kid becoming a professional athlete…”

The first answer that pops up, is from a website called “TeamSnap.” The article is old (from 2016), but the numbers are actually much worse! TeamSnap posted an infographic from the NCAA, to come up with these statistics for football:

- There are 1,093,234 high school football players in the United States

- 71,060 guys will play college football (only 6.5% of the high school football population)

- The NFL draft allows 224 college players to be drafted

- Only 0.00075% of high school football players turn pro

- That percentage translates to 1 in 1,282 high school students turning pro

Football player sitting by himself on bench next to his helmet

Personally, I think the percentage is probably worse now. Since 2016, sports have become so much more competitive. Kids of all ages have access to exceptional year-round training opportunities to play, giving players practice reps in volumes they’ve never had before. Kids are bigger, faster, stronger, and way more skilled. Sports are so much more popular at the international level too now. Now college kids in the United States are competing with international athletes for spots on pro rosters in the U.S.. That’s a relatively new thing. Add that, with the threat of injury, and it’s probable that it’s even harder to go pro today than back in 2016 in ANY sport.

Here's the catch though. With all of the kids playing sports, not all of them are playing with the expectation to turn pro. Just because a kid plays soccer or baseball when they're 8, doesn’t mean their parents are already envisioning how to spend the kid’s signing bonus. That’s not really the point of that message though. The point of that meme was to communicate the issue of time management. Here’s what I mean…

Whether or not a kid plays sports with any expectations at all, there is no denying that kid’s sports, even at the youth level, take A LOT of time! Even youth sports can take up anywhere from 6-12 hours of our time per week, over a 6–8-week timespan. When you think about the demands for time in all areas, those are very precious hours. They have value. Oftentimes, that value is pretty obvious based on how much money we spend to put our kids in their sports programs. When you consider that we all work within the same 24-hour timeframe, after sleep, school, and basic stuff like eating, showering, and homework, there’s not a whole lot of time left in the day. The point of the meme was, where is the LORD in all of that?

If we all have only a few hours left at the end of each day after we’ve done the things we NEED to do, are we spending them on profitable things or worthless things – spiritually speaking?

When you think about how valuable time is to all people, we need to be careful in how we spend it. Since almost nobody playing sports as kids, makes it to the pros to make their time-investment financially profitable later in life, then what are we spending all that time for? Then you have this compelling truth that we all have to deal with.

EVERY SINGLE PERSON will have to face the LORD Jesus Christ in judgment one day...

The problem is, no one knows when that day is. Our last day on Earth can come at any time, and kids aren’t exempt from that rule. While that’s a terrible thought to have in mind as a parent, it’s also a sobering one. As parents, we care about setting our kids up for success. Do we have the same sort of concern for their salvation? If so, how are we teaching our kids that our relationship with the LORD is the most important thing? Do sports programs compete with that lesson?

Now here’s something that I have to admit. The answer is not, “Get them to church.” That might sound weird coming from a pastor, but I’ve been in ministry long enough to know that there are plenty of church youth groups out there, that are just as spiritually worthless as the most secular youth sports programs. Sometimes the church stuff is worse! Sometimes we get a false sense of spiritual security. Just because our kid is at church, doesn’t mean we’ve done our job to raise them up on the LORD.

Kids coloring together and doing crafts

But let’s unpack that for a moment because the meme did have a scripture reference at the end, to keep things in a certain context. The verse was Mark 9:42. Here’s what the Bible says there…

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”

The issue here is about causing a kid to stumble. What does that mean? The context of Mark Chapter 9 describes “stumbling” as any sort of lifestyle that discourages another person from doing the things that God commanded. We can simplify this by just looking at “The Two Great Commands,” that Jesus referred to. He said the greatest command is to love the LORD God with everything we’ve got. The second command is to love the people around us with the same quality of love. Causing a kid to stumble, would be to prohibit them from doing those things, or gaining the benefits of these things, in some way.

The principle of “love” as it pertains to these two commands, is Biblically centered on worship. The 10 Commandments give us practical points to think about as “commands,” that help us understand what God expects from us as “love” and “worship.” The first three commands deal with our focus on the LORD, and our affection for Him. We’re not supposed to have anything in our minds and hearts that takes priority in our lives since God is supposed to be our priority. We’re not supposed to make things in our lives into idols, where we spend our time, energy, and resources engaging with those things to gratify ourselves, rather than serving the LORD’s spiritual and eternal purposes. We’re not supposed to take the LORD’s name in vain; which means that we’re not supposed to consider His holiness, righteousness, and glory, to be common by comparing it to the things that we do and make here, in this life.

Think hard about this now. Is it possible that the sports programs our kids participate in, cause them to stumble?

Are we teaching our kids that the LORD and His righteousness needs to be our first pursuit in life, or do our commitment to sports programs make that idea confusing? Look, we all know that sports schedules often dictate the regiments of our lives. Should it be that way? Is it possible that we’re teaching our kids to worship something besides God, making sports and “fun” into idols that distract us from the LORD? That kind of stuff might be making our kids stumble, which REALLY ticks Jesus off! We need to think seriously about this and repent where necessary.

Now I’m not here to discourage everyone from participating in kid’s sports programs. Yes, youth sports can be "time suckers." There are plenty of families out there though that have learned how to manage the chaos of youth sports though. I am saying that we need to spend more time thinking about the effects of our involvement though.

Be honest with yourself: Is their involvement helpful or counter-productive to their walk with the LORD?

How about this one: Do your kids even care about playing sports as much as you think?

Back in the day, I spent a lot of time in football, coaching, training, and preparing players at high levels. People assumed that my son would be a football guy. He wasn’t, and the LORD really convicted me about that. The LORD reminded me that the kid I call “my son,” is actually His son. I’m just a steward. My kids are God’s creation, which makes them His possession. As a dad, of course, it would have been dope to train my son and prep him for some high-level football, watching him excel to greatness. But my job as a dad wasn’t to mold him into the image that I had in mind for him. My job is to mold him into the image of God, according to scripture, using the spiritual tools the LORD has provided. I don’t need sports to do that.

Guys, when it comes to our families, we all have the same job. So, when it comes time for sign-ups, these are the things we should think about. No kid ever died from sitting out of travel ball for a bit. On the other hand, many people have been distracted by things such as sports so that they were totally indifferent to God, forfeiting salvation in the process.

Kids playing soccer

As a dad and a husband, I constantly have to weigh how something might affect available time, and whether it’s going to compromise or stifle our relationship with the LORD. Is it going to stress my wife out, and is that necessary? Are my kids going to have any energy left for the necessary things they need to do? How can I give extra effort to equip them for success, and can I reasonably offer myself up that way, without slacking in other areas? I’m always asking myself if certain things are worth the spiritual risks. The good news is that my kids do plenty of things, but they don’t do everything. More importantly, the LORD has been faithful to help. When we have to say no to something, my kids understand why, and value the decision. Then, when we say yes, and they’re able to participate in something, it’s all the more exciting for them. Something to think about…

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