What we (and our children) need to remember at Sports Day
What we (and our children) need to remember at Sports Day

Amongst all the emails that come in from our son’s school, the one we open quickest is the one about sports day. Check the date, clear the diary, not to me missed!

School sports days present a brilliant opportunity to celebrate the great gift of sport, but how do we avoid turning the day into something it’s not?

Sports day is a big day for any budding young sportsperson, my son included. He’s seen his classmates recognised for music, literature or other successes throughout the year, but this is a chance to show some of his sporty skills.

Not only is it a big day for our children, it can also be a big one for us as parents. How will my child fare against their peers? Whose child looks to have a sporting future ahead of them? How do I measure up amongst the other sporty parents?

Sports day is a day to be enjoyed by everyone. Children get to maximise the gifts God has blessed them with and adults get to cheer the local school children on as they give their all, but we need to think wisely about how we approach the day as followers of Jesus and parents to our children.

Sports day is a day of celebration not reputation

The temptation for our children is that they base their identity, worth and value in the sporting success of one day at school. Striving to win is not a problem in and of itself, but if by winning they seek the acceptance of their friends or the praise of us as their parents then suddenly it changes its purpose.

How we talk to our children about sports day is crucial in helping them manage the success or failure of the day. What we pray with them the night before. What we say as they leave the house. Our words really matter.

In the message of the gospel, we find a God who unreservedly declares his loves for us whether we achieve or fail. In fact, his love is so great for us it causes him to send his one and only son to rescue us from our wretched and rebellious ways. The gift of being declared a “child of God” comes to those who look to the record of Jesus and not their own.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

Does your child know how much you love them before sports day even gets put in the calendar? When was the last time you told them or demonstrated your love towards them?

If they only see our love, happiness and affection towards them when they’ve crossed the finish line in first place, or worse still, if they see our disappointment and frustration when they come second or less, then what do you think this communicates to our children? Our words and actions will contribute to the way our children form their identities, and how they view us and the God we are trying to point them towards. How can we help them find their value and true worth in Christ and not in how they perform in one race?

A treasure not a trophy

This is not always easy to get right as parents, especially competitive ones. Despite our best intentions, we are still capable of getting things wrong. Therefore, as we support our children through the highs and lows of a sports day, lets’ point them towards the ultimate giver of love and mercy.

Your child’s sporting performance is not a ‘trophy' to be lifted amongst the parent pyramid, neither is it something to be ashamed of when they don't perform well, rather it's a treasure to be savoured as they delight in the thing they love to do.

If we look for words of affirmation from a parent or the cheers of the school pupils to bring us fulfilment or assurance, then we're looking for it on the wrong places. Though we are responsible for the raising and nurturing of our own children, their sporting performance is not the measuring stick we look to for our worth as parents.

We too can share in the desires Paul has for the church in Thessalonica when he said:

“we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

1 Thess 2:11-12

We need to be explicit here. We are called as parents to raise our children to know Jesus (as far as we are able to) more than we are tasked with helping them be the best sportspeople they can be.

And what about our time to shine in the parent's race? As you sneak that quick energy gel in on the walk down to the school field remind yourself of what really matters this day. Crossing the finishing line in first place is probably not the way to prove to our children we're cool or successful (even if you do manage to win it in your work shoes). Why not show them the joy you find in running, throwing or jumping.

Pray, Play, Say

My Son and I don’t need to be watching motivational videos as we munch on our cereal the morning of sports day. Rather, what we both need are the reassuring words of a God who promises to love both of us however the day unfolds, and who gives us his Spirit which enables us to live like Jesus amongst the other families around us.

Pray with your children and ask God to shine through you both as you worship him in sport. Encourage each other to play and compete to the best of your God given abilities . And speak of the goodness of Jesus together and to others, as you live for him at your local sports day.

Dave Hampton
Dave is a staff worker in Scotland. He coaches rugby at Stewarts Melville FP’s Rugby Club, and Heriot-Watt University and is a member of Christchurch Queensferry in Edinburgh (a plant of Charlotte Chapel.)

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