I recently attended one of my daughters’ high school soccer games, and I have to admit that I was not on my best behavior. In fact, I’m quite embarrassed that I let some of the opposing team’s parents get under my skin, making a few snide and unnecessary remarks of my own. After watching a tape of the game, I came to the conclusion that the teenagers competing that night did not learn good sportsmanship from most of the parents watching in the stands. The girls on that soccer field, on that night, did not rely on sharp tongues and sarcastic phrases to establish their presence; they let hard work and sincere dedication speak on their behalf.
I’ve noticed that a lot of parents, myself included, need to spend a little more time working on being empathetic fans. High school athletes work hard to develop skills, teamwork, and endurance. They do not deserve to be surrounded my disrespectful fans yelling out negative comments. I admit that it is hard not to yell out a “Hey, watch the pushing!” or a “What about that trip, ref” whenever I feel that my team has been the victim of a sport’s injustice. In reality, bad calls, accidental bumps, and unintentional collisions happen all the time. An aggressive maneuver by a competitor does not necessarily mean that the player was intentionally trying to hurt an opposing player, though I’m sure sometimes that is the expected result.
Christians are expected to rise above worldly anger, calls for revenge, and a “must-win-at-all-cost” attitude. Christian athletes, competing under sets of well-established rules and regulations that govern the games we play, have an obligation to compete with an attitude which honors the Lord. Our faith does not stop outside of the “out-of-bounds” painted lines around the fields and courts we play on. Our “new creation” status (see 2 Corinthians 5:17,20) compels us to work as ambassadors for Christ. Retaliatory comments and actions are not Christ-like, and believers should always be thinking in a “Christ-like” manner.
It is indeed a difficult task to not reciprocate when other athletes play in an unsportsmanlike manner. I have been in this situation more times than I care to remember, and I always came to the conclusion that the best way to avoid confrontation when competing in an athletic event was to focus on giving 100 percent of myself to the competition itself, leaving no room for my mind to become centered on negative thoughts. God does not want his people, his athletes, his teachers, or his ambassadors to concentrate on unconstructive behavior. And negative attitudes and unsportsmanlike conduct have always fallen into that category.
I will never forget the way I failed to control my words at this recent soccer game. Likewise, I will never forget the way the teenagers on the soccer field were able to keep their frustration and anger in check as the game progressed on that memorable night. Often, today’s teenagers can teach a lot of adults an important lesson in attitude and good sportsmanship.