Teaching Character through Sports

by Jennifer Dryden

My husband and I spend a lot of time (like many of you probably) at sporting activities, either at practice or games. Recently my youngest child was on a team that had a pretty good season and was competing in the playoffs. Often I got quite caught up in the game, and my focus was on winning. However, I realized there are numerous opportunities in sports to help build character. Here are a few things to consider in raising your children as it relates to good sportsmanship:

1. Teach kids to follow the rules ALL the time.

2 Timothy 2:5 
Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.

We live in a culture that says, “Win at all costs.” As believers raising kids for God’s kingdom, we have to shift our thinking and realize that winning at any cost isn’t God’s way.

2. Teach self control.

1 Peter 1:13-16 
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Often we see athletes on TV taunting, talking trash, and participating in all types of ignorance. Christ followers must be different. We should raise our children to have self control (even on a field or court), and we should have self control also.

3. Teach respect for authority.

Romans 13:1
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Encourage children to obey and respect authority even when they don’t understand. We confuse children when we as parents yell at referees or say that a call was bad, but expect them to respect authorities in their lives.

4. Teach humility.

James 4:6 
Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Encourage your children to win without gloating and without rubbing it in. Also, it is important to teach children to lose without making excuses and to learn from mistakes.

In a world that is highly focused on sports, I pray that we can be examples of good sportsmanship for our kids. Although I mess up many times and sometimes let my emotions get the best of me during games, there are also many teachable moments that I can use to help shape the character of my children