There are around 21 million youth involved in organized sports. Those youth have parents and coaches – you are likely one of them. If so, you have a tremendous opportunity to give those young people the chance to develop a foundation that will give them the base they need to truly be great in life.
Our culture has issues. Our young people have issues. I know, you and I have issues. The good news is, we also have opportunity.
I loved my time as an athlete, especially in grade school. I consider myself a better man for it. At the same time, I think I missed out on the fullness of the opportunity.
Opportunity. I am going to use that word a lot, because that is what we are talking about here. But it is not just a nice fuzzy opportunity…it is actually a critical opportunity, and the difference cannot be undermined.
In our youth, we learn. Kids are like sponges from day one. They just suction up every thing that crosses their paths – the good and the bad. Since our culture is off the charts in the negative lessons it is leaving for our young people, it is paramount to put them on the right track for building a foundation that is not on sand. The culture seemingly wants us all to have foundations of sand.
From relativism, to over sexualization, to anti-religion, to anti-family, we have a lot, as Christian people, to overcome. For young people, these themes are heavy and confusing. Many of them are surrounded by an overarching drive for self-fulfillment and instant gratification. The more exposure they get to the non-Christian values of our society, the more weight will be put upon their shoulders to succumb to them.
A young person involved in sports has the chance to be FORMED. His/Her life is standing at a fork in the road – it is the job of parents and coaches to lead them at this fork. As a microcosm of life, sport has a great potential to shape the life of a young person. The one thing hanging in the balance is whether or not they will be directed in this pursuit. You see, it is less likely that a young person, as in my case, will fully benefit from the opportunity sport provides if they are not led in this process.
This is where you come in – parents and coaches. Your opportunity to provide the young people in your care is, truly, a life changing opportunity.
How will you respond?
How will you give them the direction needed to harness from sports the formation it is waiting to give them?
One way to NOT do this is say nothing. Another way to NOT do this is to lead by a bad example, as is the case of the high school coach in Texas that ordered two of his players to “attack” a referee. (In case you missed that story, you can find it here.)
I hope we can rally around the need to use sports as a tool in the formation of our young people. For parents and coaches, the buck stops with you.
Please share this post with every parent and coach you know.
Let me know your positive experiences in forming young people through sports in the comment section. And please, never give up in this pursuit. Their future can largely depend on it.
Copyright 2016 Thomas Wurtz
About the Author: Thomas Wurtz is the author of Compete Inside: 100 Reflections to Help You Become the Complete Athlete and serves as a Catholic missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). He is the founding director of Varsity Catholic, FOCUS’ division serving college athletes and blogs for FOCUS and his own site, www.faithandathletics.com. He and his wife are expecting their third child this summer.