Parade magazine recently did an article on the history of Little League. The article talked of the beginnings of the game in 1938–involving a lilac bush in Pennsylvania! Entitled “The Perfect Game,” the article focuses on the fact that children have a safe place to play a sport, and to dream, through the game. Today, there are 160,000 Little League teams around the world.
Participation in sporting events has its roots in biblical times, and they are an important part of childhood for many children around the world today. Though the sport may be different from one country to another, the character-building and strengths developed through sports are the same. As a spectator at many sporting events, I have seen the value of participation in sports in our 3 children’s lives. From girls volleyball, basketball and swimming, to boys varsity baseball, basketball and soccer, we have watched many competitions play out over the last fifteen years.
Athletics have value in promoting health and physical fitness, but the benefits go far beyond the physical realm to the lessons taught in the field and on the court. One character-building area beyond the physical is fairness, and the bible has something to say about athletes choosing to be fair in their competitions. II Timothy 2:6 says that no crown is earned by the athlete unless they compete “fairly, according to the rules.” All is not fair in the arena of athletics, but every participant has the opportunity to make right choices.
Another character-builder is integrity, and this trait will make an athlete stand out among peers. Some young people choose to quit a team after making a commitment if they feel they are not receiving the playing time they deserve, or if another teammate gets the coveted position. But integrity will cause that player to keep their commitment and see the season through.
Athletics also gives the opportunity to do your best work. Training takes perseverance, and reaching towards a goal requires pushing one’s self beyond previous ability. The bible even compares the athlete and their ability to train and persevere for a temporary crown to our mandate to see our service to God through to the end for an eternal crown. The Message Bible puts it plainly: “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs, one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard.” (I Corinthians 9:24-25)
Beginning when our children were little, being a part of a team was a fun, rewarding, character-building experience. I am thankful for all they were able to take away from being part of those teams. And although many of our children, mine included, won’t make it to the Majors–it is fun to dream!