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Part 5- What Do You Do With BOYS?

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The Boyer Blog: Part 5- What Do You Do With BOYS?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Part 5- What Do You Do With BOYS?

Boys and Sports

Let’s be honest about it: Sports have become a religion in our society. Professional athletes are among the highest paid people in the country. I’m not objecting to their incomes; they are drawing millions of fans to the stadiums and so their commercial value is undeniable. My problem is with the widespread philosophy that propels so many people to spend their money and time watching it all happen. That attaches so much worth to the playing of games. What does it say about our culture that we so reward people who don’t serve us in any serious way, but only entertain us? Athletes, like movie actors and rock stars, are people whose services we could very easily live without, when compared to medical personnel, police officers and even grocery store employees. At the same time, the moral character of people in the entertainment business—of which professional sports are definitely a part—is generally known to be less than exemplary. Yet they are worshiped and everybody knows their names. They are paid big money to endorse products. What’s wrong with this picture?

We are rapidly becoming a society defined more by our play than our work. That’s a far cry from the America of earlier days, when we gave the world the steam boat, the locomotive, the telegraph, the telephone, the automobile, the electric light and the x-ray machine and still more importantly, the world’s first lasting republican form of government. We were known for accomplishments that made the lives of millions better. Now we’re the country that gave the world Tiger Woods.

Home school sports leagues are springing up all over the country these days and parents are having to decide how much time, money and inconvenience they are willing to expend for the value of having their children involved. The Boyers say no, thanks. With all respect to the motives and the sacrifice of those who organize these events, and some of those people are dear friends of mine, it’s just not worth it. Why? Because time, like money, is limited. Every dollar and every hour you spend on one thing ceases forever to be available for the purchase of something else. Let the buyer beware.

When our son, Josh contracted leukemia, he was admitted to the pediatric oncology unit at University of Virginia hospital. The first sight I recall seeing when we walked through the door there was a little boy of about seven who was out for his daily exercise. That consisted of walking around the halls rolling his IV pole behind him. The sight of that little guy, his head bald from radiation or chemotherapy, stuck a dagger in my heart. It was a poignant reminder to me that this life we’re in is no Sunday School picnic. Later, the nurses told me of special hardship cases. One example was the young single mom who had a child on the ward, perhaps terminally ill, who wanted Mom to be there all the time. But there was another child, or two or three, at home who needed Mom also. And usually, there was a boss who needed Mom back at work. If you’ve ever spent any time in a ward full of very sick kids, you have to wonder how much time and energy you can really afford to spend on amusements.

So, when deciding whether to put your time and your child’s time into sports, consider what other uses you could be making of that same amount of time. Maybe there’s a sick kid and a desperate mom somewhere not far away who would be a better investment than a chance at a gilded trophy. It’s not hard to find needs you can meet, that is, if that’s what you’re looking for rather than games to play.

But don’t kids need sports—especially boys?

Yes, I believe they do. Everybody needs some play, some recreation. The issue is how much of it we need, and how much of a price should be paid in time and resources to get it. There’s a big difference between an hour of pick-up basketball or a neighborhood baseball game and the ultra-organized sports leagues many parents and kids build their schedules around. Is there really that much value in uniforms and trophies?

Kids have always played and competed. But the cumbersome phenomenon of sports leagues is quite new. Read the biography of any American hero who lived a couple of generations ago and you’ll find that his boyhood recreation consisted of hunting, fishing, swimming, climbing trees and mountains, playing tag, shinny and mumblety-peg, exploring caves and hunting for treasure. Tom Sawyer didn’t seem to languish for someone to organize games for him. Boyhood play in the old days gave its satisfaction mostly through the use of creativity and imagination rather than meaningless competition.

But don’t sports build character?
As Voddie Baucham points out, if sports built character very successfully, our pro athletes wouldn’t need drug testing and…too bad about Tiger. Ah, poor Washington, Franklin, Jefferson! If only they’d had Little League, they might have amounted to something.

But boys are after all, growing into men. Yes, I do think sports have some value. As did General MacArthur, who wrote of the value to future military leaders of lessons learned “on the field of manly sport.” But which sports? And how much time are they worth?

I’ll be the first to confess that I was a sports nut as a teenager. My junior and senior years in high school, I was in three sports a year. I wasn’t a gifted athlete, but I enjoyed it and I didn’t understand the value of the time I was investing and what other uses I could have made of it. I see it rather differently now. I’d do it differently if I could do it over, and my children have definitely done it differently. None of them have ever played in any sports league, though they have done a lot of playing. None of them has missed it.

If asked my opinion about boys and sports, I’d say keep it in perspective and priority.
No, you don’t have to be an athlete to get a scholarship. In fact, you probably don’t need college any way. But if you do, you’re more likely to get a scholarship for real life achievement than for either sports or good grades. I recently read that Harvard turns down four out of every 5 high school valedictorians in favor of young people who didn’t strive for straight A’s but who have done something worthy of real world significance. The Harvards of the world like to invest in a student who has written a book, started a business or done something else of real value. They know that here they have a young person who will someday make his mark on the world and bring glory to the old Alma Mater.

If your son wants to compete in sports, look outside the mainstream. Don’t run yourself ragged and sacrifice essential family time chasing around to two or three contests a week (in addition to practices). The assumption that “everybody does it” doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile from God’s point of view. Make your choices carefully.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t think of putting your son back in school just for the supposed value of playing big boy games!

I’d also recommend serious limits on the time invested in sports. Most sports are “me-centered” in that they don’t benefit anyone but the participant. How much time is it really worth per day or week? Please don’t let the playing of games dominate your life or your son’s life. True, there are lessons to be learned from sports. But there are more important lessons in other things.

~Rick Boyer



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Boyer,
Thank you so much for this post. Though our son has never participated in organized sports, our older daughter did play on a few leagues for a few years while we homeschooled.
Praise God that He showed me and my husband how much time was being wasted during the week and on the weekened traveling hither and yon so a bunch of girls could be yelled at like they were earning money for Nike endorsements or something. Besides the fact that they sometimes scrimmaged with boys during practices, which I thought was not right, but that is a whole other subject.
Now our children play in the yard and ride their bikes and hula hoop.
For this we are thankful. :-)
Again, thank you for the wonderful post and wisdom.

A mom working on "redeeming the time because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:16

April 1, 2010 at 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this! My father has seemed hurt because we do not have our kids in sports; he was really looking forward to watching them participate. I told him it was too cumbersome and didn't line up with our family values, but I was struggling to put into words the picture of it just not fitting into our family life. Your post has been really helpful.

April 1, 2010 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger Kidcraze said...

I want you to know that this post was an answer to prayer. I've always shared a similar viewpoint in regard to putting our boys in sports, but this past week my father-in-law strongly suggested we put our 13 year old son in an organized sport this year....ya know, so he can be socialized and know what it is to be under someone else's authority.
So, we've been prayerfully re-considering it and here is your post just in time to re-affirm our previous convictions. Thank you.

April 2, 2010 at 10:25 AM  
Anonymous missy said...

I can not express how much this series about boys has helped me. I already have a few of your books and really enjoy them also. Thank you for sharing with us! Missy in TN

April 2, 2010 at 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We currently have 4 children and 2 of our children enjoy gymnastic. When we looked at all the sports offered to children we had to decide what it was worth to our family.

Our decision was that 1 hour a week was worth it. Our other requirement was that all children participate in the same sport, on the same night at the same time. If that can't happen then none of them participate.

While they have been invited to join the competitive team we appreciate the complement that our children are "that good" but the investment is not worth it to us. Investment into our family is far more important.

So we will continue to allow our children 1 hour a week of this activity until it no longer works out.

April 3, 2010 at 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Amy Kimball said...

Dear Rick,
Thank you so much for your post. We Home School our 5 boys ages 16-6 yrs old. The boys played for a few years on a Christian Soccer League,never on Town Sports Teams. My sisters have their children involved in every sport they can,all of their time revolves around sports. My husband has at times wondered if we made the right decision not to have our boys in sports. It's such a blessing to hear that other believers feel as we do,and with out regret. We have pretty much stood alone in most of our decisions,not involved in youth groups,keeping our children with us in church. It's such a blessing to be reassured that will bless those choices,even when you stands alone. Thank you so much for sharing.
Amy K.

April 8, 2010 at 6:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is with great sadness that I share our story. My middle child wanted to go to public high school all of his homeschooling years. He had a great build for sports and wanted expecially to play water polo. I caved to the pressure from friends and family and so we sent him to public high school. In no time at all he had walked away from the Lord, refused to go to church and eventually got involved with the wrong kids and hooked on drugs. I know the Lord has plans for this boys life, but I feel such shame and sadness at having given in to peer pressure, and at my son's expense. Thank you for speaking on this subject. If you would be so kind please pray for my boy..his name is Brian.

Please keep this post annonymous!

April 8, 2010 at 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have seven children that we have been homeschooling since 1988....our youngest is 18 months old, so you see, we have a long way to go!! PTL! We have never put our children in any outside sports activities as we always asked ourselves what will this mean to our family/our child in 10 twenty.... We have focused on a life of service and encourage much time in building music skills in order to serve others. I have younger moms contact me occasionally asking about what I think about their participation in our local homeschool cross-country team. There are over 70 kids participating....the moms and younger siblings go to the practices, but during "season" they meet 2-3 times a week for practice and compete on Saturdays. For most of these families there is a travel time of at least 30 minutes one way for each meeting. I am flabbergasted by the amount of time folks are putting into this, but these are some of my best friends. I think the social scene is more important to them than the actual exercise. While I know the exercise is good for all of these families I wonder about the bonding that I am seeing within the children. Some actually cried at the end of the last season when they wouldn't see each other as often. I am praying that these families will learn to spend their time together as family, investing their lives in other pursuits that might bring glory to God. Not that the running is bad....It's just the time involved that I am concerned about.... Sorry so long!

April 8, 2010 at 8:12 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Thanks so much for writing this, Mr. Boyer. I agree with your whole-heartedly. I know so many homeschoolers who feel it necessary to get their children involved in as many extra-curricular activities they can, in part, (I think) to validate their homeschools.

Of course, there is also the huge cultural pressure and your analysis of that is dead on.

Some of our children have and do play organized sports, but only to a very limited degree and in a small town. It's easy and fun or we wouldn't be doing it. We have no problem NOT doing it either.

I will keep your blog in mind the next time someone talks to me about this common concern.

April 15, 2010 at 10:22 AM  

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