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The Fly in the Ointment of Youth Sports

  • Gordon Cloud Baptist Press Sports
  • 2009 3 Apr
The Fly in the Ointment of Youth Sports

CAIRO, Ga. -- "Get him, Sweetie! Take him out! I don't care if you get kicked out of the game."

I turned around and listened incredulously as the petite soccer mom a couple of seats down urged her 12-year-old son to take out an opposing player.

It was at an all-star soccer tournament in which my son's team was playing where this occurred. The team for which the woman was cheering was down by several goals late in the game. She blamed it on the officials and was convinced that they were letting the other team get by with what she considered to be cheap shots.

Unfortunately, this type of behavior is increasingly becoming the norm in stadiums and ball parks across the country. It is amazing how easily mild-mannered parents can become transformed into raving lunatics when their children are involved in competition. As a former official, I have experienced everything from being yelled at, cussed and booed, to having objects thrown at me and even being physically threatened.

While this obviously is not healthy behavior and clearly sets a bad example for the kids, I fear there is an even greater harm being perpetrated through these actions. I am referring, of course, to damage that is done to the testimony of Jesus Christ when His followers forget who they are and participate in such outbursts.

How easy it is, in the heat of competition, to forget that we bear the name of Christ. When we see an opposing player get by with a dirty play, when the coach doesn't give our child enough playing time or when the officials seem to be blind, the temptation to pour out anger and venom becomes difficult to overcome.

The problem with this is that those sitting around usually know that we are believers and are often forming an opinion of our Savior based upon what they see in us.

I have heard Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, describe a testimony as being, "…a very fragile thing. It takes a lifetime to build one and it can be destroyed in a matter of minutes." Solomon likened such behavior to a fly that causes the ointment of the apothecary to stink.

May we never forget that our testimony is constantly on display before the world. Anyone can act in an unseemly way at a contest, but may God help us to be Christians who are more conscious of the souls of men than we are the scoreboard. May we be more concerned about the reputation of our Lord than we are about whether our child gets to be the star of the team.

1 Cor. 10:31 admonishes us, "Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." I can't help but think that this would include how we behave at ball games.

Gordon Cloud is pastor of Pine Park Baptist Church in Cairo, Ga.
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Original Salem Web Network publication date: April 3, 2009