Extreme Sports

I come from an active family. Seriously, our two-car garage was converted into an exercise room with one of those huge gym mirrors, exercise equipment…the whole nine. My mom taught aerobics classes out of it, and eventually opened her own old-school gym. My dad taught Martial Arts out of it, eventually expanding and passing the business down to my brother, Luke. He has since transformed the business into a Mixed Martial Arts Academy. You would find interesting items in this exercise room, like a bucket full of corn. Isn’t every one looking for the perfect way to strengthen their fingers and knuckles? Thrusting them into a bucket of corn will toughen them up for sure. Luke and I entertained ourselves by handcuffing each other (my dad was also Secret Service) to a piece of workout equipment that was just out of reach to the bucket of corn. The key to the handcuffs was buried deep in the corn. We were left to tap into our inner MacGyver skills to escape. Good times. American Ninja Warrior is nothing new for us. My dad would turn our backyard into an obstacle course for all the neighborhood children to compete. He would time us, and as we completed the course, tell us that we beat the last person by one second. That would pump us up to run the next round even faster. I married an athletic guy. His first love is baseball. So naturally, we have raised our kids with a love of fitness and sports. But lately I have wondered if things have gotten out of hand. Having three kids with a three-year space between each has proved to be a challenge in the world of organized sports. You might think you are signing your kid up for a season of fun on the ball field, but you are potentially handing them over to a bunch of over-zealous ex-ball players who want to turn these little kids into professional athletes. (This is not a fair assessment of all the coaches, my husband is one and he is great. But it only takes one “extreme” coach to leaven the season). The season becomes a job. The next thing I know, dinnertime is subverted by practices and games every night. I’m finding myself driving 45 minutes down the road for an away game on a school night (meaning we will not be home until 10:00). This is particularly the case in the world of softball and baseball, where the games can be lengthy. This year has proved challenging to my attitude on the whole thing. Driving all over tarnation and watching my kids play has made me complain about the lack of family time we have to go on bike rides, hikes, and other active fun together. But the light at the end of the tunnel was coming at the end of the season, and we could have a lighter schedule for a summer of family fun. And then my 10-year-old made the All Star team. Sure, it’s an honor to be selected as the best of the best. But Hedgesville All Stars is no joke. My husband talked me into it, with the persuasion that Zaidee will be getting the instruction and experience she needs to improve her game; and the first regional tournament was only a mile and a half from our house. They wouldn’t likely make it to states. We regrettably signed away our daughter’s summer. She has had 3-hour practices every evening, in sweltering heat. Some of the coaches have put incredible pressure on them to perform. Softball, particularly their daughter’s excellency in it, has become their identity. Matt actually had to take a stand for one of the other coaches daughter’s as she was throwing up from heat exhaustion and he was telling her to clean it up. Of course, there is also a ‘good ol’ boy’ mentality that gives extra playing time and positioning to daddy’s darlings. That is something hard to explain to your own daughter, who is just as talented, and working just as hard. As you have probably foreseen, we are now on our way to the state tournament. The light at the end of the tunnel is now all the way in Berkley, WV, almost 5 hours away. And now along with the practices, fundraising has kicked in. There’s nothing like standing in front of the Wal Mart in 102 degree heat, watching your daughter solicit money from strangers. This article could go in many different directions (I was actually considering the impact of the automobile on backyard sports), but I think I will steer it in the direction of idolatry. All the pressure was getting to my Zaidee. She would come home from these games with a horrible stomach ache from her nerves. I’d have to calm her down with a heating pad, and momma comforting. While Zaidee is proud to be an All Star, and looking forward to this trip, there is something Matt and I have been teaching her to combat the mentality that we’ve unfortunately submersed her in. Her meaning and her value does not reside in her performance on the softball field. Zaidee’s identity is hidden in Christ. There is all kinds of good that being a part of a sport’s team can offer: work ethic, conflict resolution, fitness, developing a skill, following through with a commitment, working with others whom you wouldn’t pick as a friend, discipline, and the list goes on. But they are not ends in themselves. In the good times and the bad times on the field, Zaidee needs to remember who she is, and that effects how she handles all situations. She is not out there to glorify herself, or the team, or her parents. She is already found approved and worthy because of Christ’s accomplishments on her behalf. All of her meaning and value stems from this glorious fact: In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:9,10). That puts everything else in perspective.