Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders When Sports Come Before Church: Tackling a Tough Topic

When Sports Come Before Church: Tackling a Tough Topic

when sports come before church

How do you react when sports come before church for teens and parents? Read on for one insider’s thoughts on this challenging subject.

“… and then we have a tournament Thanksgiving weekend. We expect everyone to be there.”

I turned to my wife. “Did he really just say ‘Thanksgiving Weekend’?”

Our daughter Ashley played “select soccer” for a few years. We’d heard that the commitment was a little crazy at times but had no idea the extent. Every girl on the team had accepted soccer as lord and savior at 5 years old…except Ashley. So when it came to the first few tournaments where we expected to miss a Sunday, we faced some resistance when we said, “We’ll bring Ashley after church.”

I’m glad Ashley loves her church and youth group and was a huge advocate of not missing. She received flak from teammates at times. Once she showed up late on a Sunday, having come straight from church. One girl jested, “How was churrrrrrrch?” (as sarcastically as possible).

Ashley retorted, “It was great. How was… (she made a sarcastic “yippee” gesture) …warming up for the game?” I tried to not laugh audibly.

Sports Schedules: At What Cost?

The commitment only grew as the team became more successful. The following year, the coach added tournaments, numerous Sundays, including a few holiday weekends.

This forced us to stop and think. My extended family has come together on Thanksgiving weekend for the last 20 years. Was this weekend history now? Not to mention our church’s Labor Day weekend campout, a time our kids always loved hanging out with other Christian kids. (And isn’t that what we want our kids doing?)

Our family had to decide whether and when sports come before church. Was this really the direction Ashley was heading? Does she have a shot at stardom? Even if she does, at what expense?

This year, both our girls play sports. Ashley runs cross country (does that give you a clue what we did with soccer?), and Alyssa plays water polo. This week alone, Alyssa has two games and a tournament this weekend. Both girls have had games and practices that interfere with church regularly.

Set aside church for a moment. Let’s just talk about kids’ overall well-being. Almost every report says teenagers need about 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep per night. And I’ve shared research about the importance of eating family dinners together. That’s hard when practice brings you home at 7:20 (and games even later).

When sports come before church for other people, what are we to tell our kids? I’m not saying sports are evil and you must “choose this day who to follow.” It’s not one or the other. But maybe parents need to think ahead when signing up. Families need to decide how committed they’re ready to be. They need to prepare for when sports come before church for coaches.

When Sports Come Before Church: 3 Tips

Here are three parenting lessons I’ve learned that helped me navigate sports and activities. I hope they help you maintain balance as well:

1. Set clear boundaries…and then keep your commitment.

What happened to the good ol’ days when practice was just 60 to 90 minutes, right after school?

Alyssa’s practice lasts between 2 and 5 hours. Last year, she came home at 8 p.m., showered, grabbed a quick dinner, and then started her homework. Not only were we all robbed of our family dinner with Alyssa, but she often was doing homework until 11. Then she got less than 7 hours of sleep (more than 2 hours short of what’s recommended). Is this all okay in the name of sports?

Tonight Alyssa decided she was going to leave practice early for church. Her coach flat-out said no. I sense a confrontation coming. And frankly, I’m struggling with what to advise Alyssa.

Here’s what I do know. As believers and followers of Christ, we need to keep our commitments. If we commit to a team, we need to truly commit to a team. This means finding out exactly what the commitment entails before making the commitment.