A couple of weeks ago I did a post titled "The Game Comes First" commenting on an article in the Long Island Press about the conflict between church attendance and children's sports.
Well, the October 23, 2008 edition of the Press features a letter to the editor from a reader named Sandra Plate, who writes:
"I find it very disheartening every Sunday morning while on my way to church to see entire families out on the soccer field instead of worshipping the Lord. If only they knew what they were truly giving up. If your church observes on a Sunday, you should be there. The Bible specifically states that man is to congregate together for worship. It's a commitment to God. The sad truth is that people have gotten so far away from the Lord that they make sports the idol they worship."
Oh, the horror! Families together on a soccer field! And after soccer is over, they probably go to Friendly's for lunch and ice cream. Why we're on the verge of witnessing the complete moral collapse of society!
So, because Sandra Plate chooses to believe that she needs to go to church every Sunday, therefore it becomes incumbent on all of us to be right there in the pews with her. And note how she refers to sports as an "idol they worship." Utterly lost on her are the positive benefits that children can derive from participation in sports. Below are some excerpts from this web page.
Fortunately for parents, as research can attest, exercise and sports are rare institutions that offer tremendous social relationships, physical challenges, and honest competition. There is even evidence that sports can increase a child's self-esteem and academic performance while decreasing the likelihood of disease and drug use.
According to researchers at the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University, kids that play sports actually do better in school and have enhanced social skills. Sports also help prevent drug and alcohol abuse, and children that participate in sports are less likely to smart smoking and, if they do smoke, are more likely to quit.
The Women's Sports Foundation has also found that females participating in sports are less likely to become pregnant as teenagers and they suffer less depression. Furthermore, there is evidence that athletic activity can decrease the likelihood of developing breast cancer and osteoporosis.
The social benefits are almost too many to count. How can you possibly measure the value and satisfaction derived from working hard and mastering a skill? We've all done it, and the feeling is exhilarating, regardless of age. With sports and exercise, a child has the opportunity to experience this on almost a daily basis. On the same note, proficient skill acquisition allows children to value the accomplishments of their body and mind, making further challenges all the less daunting. These are attributes that simply can't be measured. Neither can developing a sense of community through sports, bonding with new friends and teammates, and improving relationships with adults. Sports also allow children to take on leadership roles, handle adversity, and improve their time management.
But for the Sandra Plates of America, it is more important for people to be cloistered in a building on Sunday mornings to pay homage to her invisible sky daddy. Sorry m'am, but some of us have better things to do with our time.