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Christian education - Sports, Gender roles

Boys and sports

Why moms should want their sons breaking tackles and snagging rebounds **** Yes, you read the header right. I really am writing a column about why sons should be in sports. And, yes, this is a column for wives and mothers, not for husbands and dads. I feel qualified to address this subject because I put in hundreds (I'm not exaggerating) of hours in the bleachers. Soccer, t-ball, baseball, lacrosse, basketball, track, football (did I forget anything?) – we did them all. And I may as well mention it here: invest in one of those little cushy seats to take with you to all the games. Bleachers are very uncomfortable. I am one of those moms who is a strong proponent of boys in sports. Call me a cheerleader if you will (though I never had the pom-poms). I will tell you why: it is good for them. Sports can teach boys important things that Mom cannot teach them. And moms can learn a thing or two about their sons by having them involved in sports. But some moms are jumpy about their sons being in sports. It doesn't seem very spiritual for them to be tackling someone, or stealing a ball or a base, or hitting an opponent (or being hit) with a lacrosse stick. In fact, it doesn't sound very spiritual to have an opponent! Well, let's think about these things like grownups. I'm going to give you three (or four) good reasons for boys (your sons in fact) to be involved in sports. I'm sure there are many more reasons, but this is a short column, and I will lay out my own motherly thoughts on the subject. Learning to take a hit First of all, the way I see it, boys need to learn how to take a hit. Christian men need to be fighters. After all, in Christendom there is a battle going on. For starters, they need to be tough, not whiners, moaners, wimps, or shirkers. In sports they learn to take a hit. And I learned how to take a hit from my vantage point in the bleachers when my son took a hit. (Third and thirty-five against the defending state champions. Screen pass. He met three defenders at the marker. Went on top, through the crowd cable, into and then under the bleachers.) We do not want the church populated with men who cry when they fall down. If they are pushed around on the basketball court, they will learn how to "suck it up" and "blow it out," as my son-in-law says. When they look at the gigantic size of the other team and see how completely understaffed they are, they will find courage to overcome. Men need to be protectors and fighters. Sports are a good way to introduce them to the idea. It is not a real war, but it is good training for the real ones. Pushed to their limits Secondly, competing in sports requires discipline, and discipline is good. Boys need to run and run and run until they don't think they can run any more, and then they need to run some more. This is why it is such a blessing to have a coach who thinks boys need to do this. If a coach allows them to take a little breather if their side hurts, they won't do so well in the world of real fighting. A good and godly coach is a huge blessing. Moms don't make good coaches because they want to have cookie-and milk breaks, and they want to call the boys inside when it starts to rain. (We make far better cheerleaders and far better cookies.) My son had to get up early to make it to six a.m. basketball practice every morning in the dead of winter when it was cold and very dark. He was tired when he went to bed at night. He had two-a-days in football in the heat of August, and he slept very well. He had to learn to do what his coach told him to do, no matter what he thought of it. This is a good lesson for a son to learn. Sports teach sons the discipline of obeying authority and pushing their bodies to do what they are told even when those bodies are tired. Revealing the inner man But sports do more than this. They also teach your sons how to work with a team, how to submit to authority, how to encourage the slow guy, how to hit hard. And they teach patience. Time on the bench can be sanctifying too. This can teach humility and endurance, just so long as the time on the bench is not for poor conduct. But that can be a lesson also. I love a coach who will not stand for any slackness. I love a coach who calls a player to the bench who is not doing what he is told. I love a coach who will not let a kid play who was late for practice or who was show-boating on the court. That is a great coach. Sports are also very revealing. You see how your son is doing spiritually. And you see how you are doing spiritually. Is he throwing a tantrum when he doesn't get to play? Are you? Is he a crummy loser? Are you? Is he crying when he falls down? Are you? Is he kicking the ball in anger when he misses a shot? Is he passing the ball on the court or is he trying to get all the points himself? Is he playing dirty or giving the ref a bad time? Sports can show you all too plainly where your son's weak points really are, in front of you and everybody. Finally, sports can give your son something to be proud of and something for you to be proud of as well. That's right. There can be a godly satisfaction and delight in catching the fly ball, in passing the scoring touchdown, in running a really good race. This is the way God made us. Created different And one last thing. Moms, don't treat your sons like they are daughters. I am with you when you say you don't want your girls playing football. But a son is a totally different animal. Overprotective mothers can end up destroying their sons. We want our sons to be tough and strong, able to handle heavy weather without being snapped in two. If we keep them in the temperature-regulated greenhouse of home, they will not grow up to be like "saplings grown up in their youth" (Psalm 144). This article is reprinted with permission from Credenda Agenda Volume 15/4. Credenda/Agenda is published by Canon Press (www.canonpress.com). Picture credit: Aspen Photo / Shutterstock.com ______________________ Questions for discussion Would non-Christians object to this article? Why might they? Should we care? Do some of the author's points apply equally well to why our daughters should play sports? Which do and which do not? The author describes a particular sort of coach. Would this be a good type of coach for girls too? Why or why not? What is the author’s main point? Do you agree? God has given men and women different roles, but are the genders' different roles something that has implications for the sports field? Do our schools use sports to encourage boys to be fighters? Lots of people fight, but what is a Christian fighter? ...

News

Australian rugby player won’t back down

Editor's note: After this article was posted, it was suggested that Israel Folau might be a Trinity-denying (and thus, heretical) Oneness Pentecostal, and he did make a Jan 18 tweet that does sound like that is what he believes. But he is reported as attending the Trinitarian denomination, the Assemblies of God. So, that makes it a little less clear what he believes. We will let you know should we get clarification. **** In Australia there are four main “football codes” (i.e. sports that fall under the general heading of “football”): Australian rules football, soccer, rugby league and rugby union. Recently, one of these, rugby union, had a major problem on their hands. A player had responded to a question he had been asked online, and his response was causing outrage both on and offline. Through it all, the player, a young deeply Christian man called Israel Folau, stood tall. Lets consider what he did, and try to summarize his response using some of his own words as you can find them in his April 16 article, “I’m a sinner too.” So what happened? Twenty-eight-year-old Folau currently plays rugby union for the Waratahs club in the Super Rugby competition that has teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. He also plays for his country, the Australian team known as the Wallabies. This very talented sportsman has played professionally in three of the four football codes, having previously played rugby league and Australian rules football. Earlier this year he was ranked in the top ten rugby union players in the world. (Speaking of rankings, 105 countries play rugby union. New Zealand is ranked number 1 in the world and by quite a margin. Australia is currently ranked fourth, the USA fifteenth and Canada twenty-first.) Folau had injured his hamstring quite badly in a recent game and was likely going to be sidelined for some time. Folau wrote: “…that afternoon I put up the following Instagram post, referring to James 1: 2-4: ‘Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, because the testing of your faith produces endurance … so that you may be lacking in nothing.’” He continued: “In the comments section of that post, I was asked a question by somebody about what God’s plan is for gay people. My response to the question is what I believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings, specifically 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10…’Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.’” This response created a furore, and not only in the media. Some key Wallabies sponsors, such as Qantas Airways and Asics sportswear, threatened to withdraw their financial support. Many fellow players also condemned him for his position, and there was a strong implication that he shouldn’t be allowed to hold his view, at least not publicly. Sports commentators were very strident in their condemnation of Folau and called for him to be sacked or resign. Rugby union governing body, Rugby Australia, tried to diffuse the situation and issued a statement that Folau had been spoken to, and that he would tone down his message. Folau denied ever agreeing to this, and reaffirmed his opposition to same sex marriage, and same sex relationships. This is what the world has come to: a man stands up for God and for his faith, and he is railed down. You might expect that he would back down. Not Folau. In a meeting with the code’s hierarchy he told them that if they “…felt the situation had become untenable – that I was hurting Rugby Australia, its sponsors and the Australian rugby community to such a degree that things couldn’t be worked through – I would walk away from my contract, immediately…I would sooner lose everything – friends, family, possessions, my football career, the lot – and still stand with Jesus, than have all of those things and not stand beside Him.” Folau is not without support and supporters. In fact, his stance has gained the attention of many international teams who would be willing to pay considerably more than he is currently receives. It is a shame that so many of our politicians don’t have the same backbone and willingness to openly live and declare their worldview. Bill Shorten, the leader of the main opposition party, the Labor Party, is one among quite a number of Australian politicians who claim to be Christian, but from whom we see no actions or words to back it up. If only they dared to be a Daniel, or that they took a lesson from Israel Folau, then perhaps integrity may return to the corridors of government. Now we might question why Folau chooses to play professional sport, which includes much time away from Sunday worship. We could assume that we might disagree with him on other things as well. But would any of us be so open, so courageous and steadfast when the pressure is put on? Folau started his column with a confession, “I have sinned many times in my life. I take responsibility for those sins and ask for forgiveness through repentance daily.” Quite the start! Then he continues: “But I would like to explain to you what I believe in, how I arrived at these beliefs and why I will not compromise my faith in Jesus Christ, which is the cornerstone of every single thing in my life. I read the Bible every day. It gives me a sense of peace I have not been able to find in any other area of my life. It gives me direction. It answers my questions.” Like us, Folau believes the Bible to be the truth, and sometimes the truth can be difficult to hear. “If you see someone who is about to walk into a hole,” says Folau, “and have the chance to save him. He might be determined to maintain his course, and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. But if you don’t tell him the truth, as unpopular as it might be, he is going to fall into that hole. What do you do? In this case, we are talking about sin as the Bible describes it, not just homosexuality, which I think has been lost on a lot of people. There are many sins outlined in that passage from 1 Corinthians and I have been guilty of committing some of them myself. No man or woman is different from another – if you sin, which we all do, and do not repent and seek forgiveness, you will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Folau clearly holds some very traditional Christian beliefs about sin, heaven and hell, and homosexuality. In a supposedly free country, surely Folau should be able to express his genuinely held religious beliefs, especially when asked to do so? It is clear that it is getting more and more difficult for a Christian voice to be heard. Sadly, this episode joins so many from around the world that indicate we are steadily losing our rights to freedom of speech, conscience, and religious belief. As Folau noted, freedom of speech means that sometimes people will say things that others find disagreeable. So we should, firstly, stop trying to silence those who offend us. We cannot argue for these freedoms if we don’t allow them ourselves. We are heading into a new world, a new kind of tyranny, where contra opinion is muzzled, and dissent is howled down and crushed into submission. This is what we need to highlight, to raise our voice of concern on the silencing of opinion and freedoms. Secondly though, it is one thing to fight for these freedoms, it is a bigger challenge to honestly and openly use them and express God’s truths, our worldview, just as Folau has done, and continues to do. Are we, and would we be, willing to do the same? Would we be willing to actually exercise our diminishing freedoms? Would we be willing, for example, to stand up and openly call out homosexuality as a sin? We can hope and pray that Folau’s message has struck a cord in some ears that should be listening. A version of this article first appeared in the May 19 edition of Una Sancta. Photo is adapted from one by David Molloy and used via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license....

Christian education - Sports

A Good Coach is Crucial: the potential and danger of school sport teams

“They’re nice, but not a priority.” Ask Reformed parents about our school’s sports teams and that’s a response you’re likely to hear. It's an understandable answer. With all the effort that has to go into finding and hiring good teachers, and developing curriculum, and fundraising school building projects, there may not be much energy left to think through how our sports teams can best be put to use. However, sometimes that means that the coaches are simply whoever is willing. And being willing is a good attribute; that's a virtue, certainly. But what other qualifications should we be looking for? If we're going to have sports teams in our schools they need to be a priority. And that's because these teams can be a potent force for good in our schools, or just as potent a force for evil. Without proper guidance, school sports teams may do more harm than good to our sons and daughters. Sports are good Sports can do harm? That may strike you as a bit over the top. After all, one of the arguments frequently used in favor of having these teams is that sports are said to build character. There’s a lot of history to this argument. 2400 years ago Plato insisted that physical activity made a man both physically and mentally tough. A little more than 400 years later the apostle Paul linked perseverance (Heb. 12:1), and self-control (2 Cor. 9:25) with athletics. In the 1800’s the Muscular Christianity movement promoted physical activity across North America believing that good Christians could be created by developing good athletes – the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was started by those that believed sport developed character. These last two groups thought that sport was intrinsically moral. They believed that just by playing a sport you would pick up character traits like teamwork, daring, discipline, cooperation, courage, perseverance, loyalty, and self-restraint. Sports are bad The biggest problem with this approach is that these character traits don’t make you moral. Sure, many of them would be useful to a Christian, but how many of them would also be equally useful to a mafia bodyguard or mob hitman? Teamwork, daring, discipline and cooperation? Those look good on anyone’s resume. These traits themselves could be seen as morally neutral. It’s what you do with them that counts. The fact is, rather than being intrinsically good, sport has a tendency to reinforce negative behavior. Without guidance, sports can teach kids that winning is all that matters. Athletes may learn that cheating or cheap play is only wrong if you get caught – kids will even learn how to retaliate without getting caught. They'll start dehumanizing their opponents by viewing them primarily as enemies to be conquered. And left on their own, kids will learn they can get away with griping about the refs too. After all, authority figures only deserve respect when they get the calls right! Sport’s potential This dark side to sport is why it needs a higher priority in our schools. Sport is a moral quagmire for even the most upright players. There are moral challenges every time a student steps out onto the court, field, or ice. Yes, students will be confronted with moral challenges in other areas of school life, but many will be of a more black and white variety. In any of their classes they will have to decide if they are going to do their own work, and their own test…or whether they'll cheat. It’s black and white. Even the students that do cheat know what they’re doing is wrong. They might still succumb to sin, but they don’t have to figure out whether they’re sinning. But in sport there are vast areas of gray. Kids have to contrast caring for their opponent with figuring out how to get past him to score the winning goal. Jostling is involved in most team sports, but how much physical contact is too much? Or for that matter, too little? Just how far do you go to win the game? It is this grayness that makes the playing field either one of the most potentially useful environments for character development, or one of the most harmful ones. An attentive and intelligent coach will force his players to work through these challenges, and will guide them back when they make the wrong decisions. He will bench his best player even if the ref didn’t notice the player’s cheap conduct. He’ll allow players to respectfully query the ref, but nothing more. He’ll explain that without opponents there is no game and won’t tolerate any bad sportsmanship. He’ll sit his team down to discuss the gray moral areas and the challenges present on the playing field. He'll encourage them to fail boldly, to get back up after messing up, and to stop caring how they look. He'll teach them that it really is how you play, and not whether you win or lose that gives God the glory. He'll talk about what it means to be a supportive teammate, and be others-focussed. He’ll teach them to turn the other cheek even when the opposition is playing cheaply or the refs are missing calls. A good coach will brag about how many good sportsmanship awards his team has won. He won’t leave them on their own, and he won’t let them learn the bad lessons of sport. But a bad coach…he'll just let the kids play. Conclusion Sports teams are a lower priority in most Reformed schools and that has to change. It isn’t so much that every school should have countless sports teams but if we are going to have them, then we need to be mindful as to how we are going to run them. It's important enough that if we can't find enough quality coaches, we should consider having fewer teams. Left to its own devices sport can be pretty bad…but in a Christian school, with an attentive Christian coach, it can also be an awesome means for young men and women to develop and grow athletically and spiritually....

Christian education - Sports

Sports teams are important for our Christian schools

Sports teams in a Christian school are sometimes seen as an expendable extra that requires a lot of time and effort. Some may even argue that the energy spent on these extracurricular programs detracts from the Biblical instruction that is our focus. However, team sports can be a very important part of a Christian school and their benefits should not be underestimated. For example, they provide an excellent means to teach Christian living and build Christian characteristics in the personalities of the students. Through these activities, athletic talents and abilities can be developed and recognized publicly. Sports teams can also be an effective way to build a sense of community by enhancing relationships between students, students and teachers, and the school and supporting families. The larger community can also be enhanced through school sports teams as athletics can serve as a method of witnessing. Implementing Christian principles Interactions on a playing field can be a great place to put Biblical principles into practice. The different scenarios that arise supply ample opportunity for teaching moments, especially lessons aimed at attitudes pertaining to a Christian lifestyle. During the sports action, attitudes such as caring for the opponent, playing honestly, and smiling under pressure can all be encouraged. Coaches can instruct their players to keep unwholesome talk from their mouths, to speak truthfully, and to say only things that are up-building to others (Eph 4:25-29). It is one thing to teach these in a Bible class and another to put them into practice in a pressure situation. Sport teams provide a controlled, supervised environment in which to monitor and encourage these proper Christian attitudes. Being a part of a sports team enables students to learn the art of losing gracefully (not trying to place blame on others, not making excuses) as well as winning gracefully (congratulating the other team, giving praise to God, not boasting). Overall, the athletes can be encouraged to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Phil 1:27) and make their faith evident to all. The teaching of respect for sport authorities is especially relevant for young Christians who are in the process of understanding the act of submitting to the authority of God. They can practice this attitude through interactions with coaches, referees and others in such positions. Respect in the sport domain includes following the command to do "all things without arguing and complaining" (Phil 2:4). What a teaching opportunity to put this into practice when the referee makes a call we do not agree with! Being on a Christian team will also help keep the stress of competition in perspective. Students will be taught that winning is not the most important aspect in athletics and definitely not a goal to obtain using means such as cheating or dirty play. Here also, students may enjoy the fact that sports teams in a Christian school will not pressure their athletes to play and practice on Sunday. This is an obstacle that young people face when they participate in community teams which frequently incorporate Sundays into their playing schedule, especially at the higher levels. Nurturing athletic talent Another benefit of the inclusion of sports teams in Christian schools is the development of athletic talent. We believe that we are all given gifts and abilities by God. For some, their strongest talents lie in athletics. When we instruct students to develop their gifts to the fullest, we should strive to provide a means and support for doing so. Sports teams are one way to grant such an opportunity. Public recognition of these athletes is a way to praise God for His wide diversity in granting abilities. This recognition is especially important for students that may excel in the sports arena, but struggle in other areas of school, such as academics. Celebrating athletic talents is also an important lesson for spectators to learn. Sports is a venue where students can be taught to compliment each other and look for the abilities, not the disabilities in their classmates. We must all learn to speak positively about each other and put our emphasis on building others up. Building relationships The third thing that school sports teams do is build a sense of community. This is evident primarily between the students themselves. Sports teams boost peer interaction by providing an avenue for fun. As opposed to class-time, which is primarily for working and being attentive, sports allow for a time of release and downtime. During this less-structured time at school, friendships can be fostered and peer pressure can be motivated towards a positive, wholesome goal. Sports teams also allow for unique interaction between teachers and students that may not arise in the classroom setting. Rules in the extracurricular arena are not as strictly defined, and the teachers and students have an opportunity to get to know each other on a more personal level. These friendships can build mutual respect that then transfers back into the classroom, promoting a very positive learning environment. A third area of the community that is strengthened by sports teams is that of parents and school. In our parental schools, this bond is an especially important one to foster. By being involved and supporting the school teams, the parents can stay in touch with activities at the school. Parental involvement also sends a supportive message to the teachers who often dedicate a lot of extra time to these activities. Parental support of the sports teams is also an excellent way for parents to strengthen the bond between themselves and their child. Supporting your child's team shows interest in his or her life. Watching your child play opens many doors for communication. For instance, you can discuss different plays, acknowledge accomplishments and analyze upcoming games. Increased communication, such as this, can only serve to strengthen the parent-child relationship and form a bond between the generations. Witnessing through sport Besides building up our own Christian community, school sports teams can serve as a way to reach out to our neighbors. For some people in our larger community, interacting with the athletes from Christian schools is as close to church as they will ever come. These people see the name "Christian" on our jerseys and scrutinize closely to see if our athletes, coaches and fans behave differently from them. What an opportunity to let our light shine! Our athletes must be taught to put Christian principles into practice and show exemplary sportsmanship. Coaches should discipline themselves to be even-tempered, positive and respectful. The coach can often set the tone for the team and proper Christian leaders should be encouraged to become involved to do this mentoring. A final aspect of our witnessing through sports involves the spectators. The command to say "only what is helpful for building others up" (Eph 4:29) applies especially to this group. Things such as coarse language, constant criticism and disrespect for referees are unacceptable for a Christian spectator. We should be careful to send the right message and let God's love shine through us! There are so many ways to praise God, and opportunities to focus on Him in the realm of sport. School sports teams should be supported by the community so that Christian teaching does take place and proper Christian leadership does occur. It is very important for Christian teachers and parents to become involved. In this way we can instruct and encourage our youth in ways that are pleasing to God. There are many benefits to the physical training that accompanies sports teams and if we maintain the proper focus in our Christian schools, then we can use these means to also promote godly training (1 Timothy 4:7b,8). Let's take the challenge and strive to run the race, not only physically, but also spiritually, so that we may win the prize of the imperishable "crown that will last forever" (1 Corinthians 9:24,25). This article first appeared in the May 2000 issue of Reformed Perspective....

Culture Clashes, News

ESPN.com Embraces Nudity

Sports Illustrated has been featuring near nudity in their swimsuit edition for years now. Pictures from that annual issue were also featured prominently on their website, so if a fellow wanted to follow the happenings of his favorite team, but didn’t want to see barely clad women, then he’d best idea head to rival sports website, ESPN.com. But no longer. On July 5 the front page ofESPN.com featured a nude picture of Mixed Martial Arts fighter Conor McGregor. The picture was from The ESPN Magazine “Body Issue” in which prominent athletes pose nude. ESPN started the Body Issue in 2009 as competition to the Sport Illustrated swimsuit issue, but until this year the nudity wasn’t front and center on the website. Conor McGregor’s exposure was a departure and the website’s Public Editor, Jim Brady, heard from annoyed and disgusted readers. So is ESPN.com going to listen and stick to reporting on sports? Nope. Brady noted that while he had heard a lot of complaints, they seemed to be exclusively from people over 40. And when he polled friends and co-workers he found that no one he knew under 30 thought the pictures were offensive. SoESPN is going to show flesh. And if you’re offended, they’re sorry you’re such a prude. So what’s a sport fan to do when the continent’s two most prominent sports websites are selling sex? Well, there are still other options. In Canada there’s TSN.com, which, while it has ties to ESPN (ESPN has a minority stake), doesn’t have links to the Body Issue on their website. But nudity isn’t the only problem. With the NBA moving their 2017 All-Star Game from North Carolina because the state didn’t want men in women’s washrooms, and the NHL embracing homosexuality with promotions like “pride tape,” and the NFL putting on half time shows that we don’t want our children to see, it’s clear that professional sports are, overall, embracing evil. I love my NBA. But if this league, and the NHL, and the NFL and so many others, and the media that reports on them, are all intent on shaking their fist at God,is it time to tune out? And if not now, when?...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

The Farm Team

by Linda Bailey 32 pages / 2006 The Farm Team is about a bunch of chickens, pigs, sheep, and one cow, who love hockey and want to bring the championship trophy back home. For the last 50 years, the Bush League Bandits have always come out on top, but this year the Farm Team has a great goalie and they think they have the right stuff to get it done. One problem: the Bandits are cheaters! When the score gets tight their porcupine drives for the net and punctures the Farm Team's porky goaltender. How's the Farm Team going to handle it with their best player injured? Never fear, coach Clyde (a Clydesdale) will think of something! Parents could use this book to teach children a little about sportsmanship – the Farm Team are great examples of hardworking and clean playing good sports. But the real value of this book is in just how fun it is to read out loud. There's lots of action, some good twists, and some very fun play-by-play dialogue to shout out. It's the kind of book that is so well written it made it easy for me to become quite the performer. My kids loved it, and even my wife, who was busy making supper as we read, really got into the action. So a good dose of Canadiana and a great big heaping of fun....