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Competitive sports demand a lot of today’s youth. At the high school level and even before it, young athletes are practicing daily, and in some cases, multiple times daily. These athletes work hard toward personal and team goals, and they learn many important life skills as a result.
Athletics can be a positive part of your child’s life, but parents should also consider the costs of competitive sports. These costs vary by child, and they may need to be reevaluated as your child undergoes changes in his or her life.
Cost #1: Time
This cost is about both your time and your child’s time. Depending on the sport and your child’s level, you may need to drive your child to practice multiple times per week or travel for games or competitions. This cost of time can also affect your child’s other priorities, such as school, extracurricular activities, or hobbies. As you count the cost of time, help your child prioritize. There’s nothing wrong with competitive sports being one of the top priorities, but you and your child will need to determine that together.
Cost #2: Money
The financial cost of a competitive sport depends on the sport, but for many families, competitive sports takes a toll on their finances. Anyone whose child plays competitive sports should take the financial cost into account in budgeting.
Some parents hope that this cost will pay for itself in the form of scholarships, but statistics show that outcome is unlikely. 5.7 percent of high school boys and 6.2 percent of girls play in college. According to the same source, prospects for playing at a Division I school are even slimmer: only about one percent of high school athletes will play for Division I schools. If your child hopes to someday earn a sports scholarship, make sure you have realistic expectations.
Cost #3: Emotional Investment
Sometimes competitive sports can lead to pressure to perform or comparison to other athletes. This pressure can affect your child’s identity or self-esteem. Regardless of your child’s skill level, don’t allow your child’s identity to be wrapped up in his or her performance. Keep this principle in mind after a game when you praise them or offer any suggestions.
Have the Right Perspective
As a Christian parent, your goal is to is to teach your children to know and love Jesus. Whatever you decide as you count the costs of competitive sports, your decision should reflect the greatest commandment:
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
As this passage illustrates, our decision to love God with our whole lives should be obvious to our children. This has implications for each cost of competitive sports. Jesus’s words speak to how we should view the financial cost of sports. He says, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21). Keep in mind that spending more on competitive sports than you give to church shows your child what is most important. Helping your child pursue God should be your primary goal as a parent. Imagine your child pursuing God as passionately as many young athletes pursue sports.
Sports cost time, money, and physical and emotional energy. As you parent and decide on the role sports should play in your child’s life, keep the most important goal in mind: to model and assist in a lifelong pursuit of God.