Should My Kids Play Team Sports?

By Joey and Carla Link
March 10, 2021

When we first moved to Iowa 30 years ago, we were amazed that the school district respected churches enough that they didn’t allow extra-curricular or school events to be on Wednesday nights as most churches had services or kids’ activities that night. Coming from Southern California, this was truly astonishing and for Joey, whose job as pastor of family ministries was to oversee the youth program, it was a welcome change. That time is long gone. Over the last 30 years, the development of team sports has grown exponentially. 50 years ago, most high schools only had 3-5 school-sponsored sports. Today they average 15-20. All these different sports allow more kids to participate than the time of fewer sports would have. At the same time, kids try to be involved in too many things which stretches them and their families to the point of breaking. Add in travel sports leagues. Now not only are Wednesday and Sunday nights open to school or other-sponsored activities, kids are taken away on the weekends to play “on the road”. We offer you some insight on team sports to help you think through their value for your kids and family.  Negatives of Team Sports1.    Cost: All sports are expensive. A travel baseball team can cost $500-$3,000 a season for a kid to join the team. This does not include uniforms, food, hotel costs or your ticket cost to their games. Some sports like ice hockey can cost $3,000-$5,000 because of the cost of ice for practice and the games.What will you sacrifice financially for your kids to play sports?How will participating on these teams help your child academically? Spiritually?Can you afford your kid’s participation on travel teams? 2.    Time: Travel teams usually play weekend tournaments on 2-3 weekends a month for 3-5 months. They also typically practice 2 times a week minimum.What will your family sacrifice to get your kids to and from practices and games?If you have kids on more than one team, how will you keep family unity going or have family nights and date nights? 3.    Energy: We know many families who have kids in the same sport, but their age dictates they are on different teams. Moms are running kids to different practice fields, then turn around and go the other way to pick them up.What will you give up so you will have the excess emotional energy needed to keep track of your child who is on a traveling team? 4.    Moral Values Confusion: What will you tell your kids to do when their coach wants to be called by his first name and your kids call all adults “Mr./Mrs./Miss”? Swearing is a part of language coaches tend to use and other kids will swear to their heart’s content in front of your kids. What are you going to do about this?
Positives of Team Sports:1.    Respect: A good coach will teach kids respect for teammates as well as the game. They are encouraged not to speak ill of officials or players who make mistakes. Some coaches however, are out to play their own kids or to relive their childhood. Finding good coaches is essential to a positive team experience.If your child does not learn these essential respect character qualities from team sports where will they learn them? 2.    Winning and Losing: All kids need to learn to win and lose gracefully. Since no team will ever win every game, playing sports where you put all your effort and energy into an activity and still lose builds character. 3.    Socialization:  Sports give your kids a chance to spend time with their peers. Before you sign them up, we encourage you to explain to them other kids don’t live by the same standards you have in your home and if your kids are young, just say it is because of family identity, “You are the Moore’s and this is what the Moore’s do or don’t do.”  One other key element to evaluate is if your child should play on a sports team is how will it impact and influence them spiritually.Sports can take kids away from attending church on Sundays or take away the time to read their Bible and pray due to early morning practices.Sports can also become an idol in your kid’s life, replacing God in their lives during formative years when they need to grow in their faith.Being a good athlete can make your kids proud instead of appreciating their talent as a gift from God. On the other hand, sports can give your kids the opportunity to stand up for their faith and show their teammates the way God wants us to live. It was our family standard that only one kid played a sport a season unless the girls could be on the same team. You need to be an involved parent so you can see for yourself what is going on and how your child is reacting to it. Notice I didn’t say be a helicopter parent, hovering over your kid every minute, but an involved parent. If you feel you need to be a helicopter parent, then you are telling your child and everyone else you don’t trust him to handle himself in the situations that could come up. If you don’t, he shouldn’t be playing. We know teens who are varsity football players, run cross country and are in marching band all at the same time. Can you imagine the number of practices these kids have every single week? When the next season comes it is basketball, swimming and concert band. Can your kids play on sports teams every season of the year and continue obeying you as their parents and grow in their faith with Jesus as their Savior and Lord?