The news coverage of parental fights at their children's sports events is not diminishing.
My daughter has played on teams since grade school, and now plays at the college level. Though sports events are exciting and offer opportunities for "face time" with your kids, I wasn't always thrilled about soccer matches because of the sometimes ugly atmosphere, focused on winning at all costs.
My model over the years as I've supported my daughter from the sidelines is this statement of Jesus': "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). As I've worked with the ideas in it, it'sstopped me from focusing only on my own child and helped me see the good in everyone – players, coaches, and parents.
Early in my daughter's involvement with soccer, one particular father served as the catalyst for this study.
As I listened to him berate his child, the referees, and the other team game after game, I began to dig into this statement by Jesus. The first thing I noticed was that it is a command, yes – but it is also something we can choose to do. Looking around, I noticed that not a lot of parents were choosing to see God out there on the field – and that was making for a lot of angry and unhappy parents and kids. I made a different choice.
Instead of two opposing teams, I decided to see God expressing Himself, and I began with my daughter. Seeing her as God made her, I understood that all that she did on this team – practicing, sitting on the bench, playing in games – were opportunities to express her divine nature as God's child (see Gen. 1:26). So as I watched her play, I elected to see her expressing God's strength, intelligence, gracefulness, love, joy, and the economy of His direction. Each move was filled with God's purpose, each "high five" acknowledged God's goodness, purpose, and accomplishment. I began to love watching her play, seeing God's love being expressed.
One day as I was thinking along those lines, an idea from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, came to mind. She wrote, "Mind's infinite ideas run and disport themselves" (p. 514). It struck me that this line was written in the plural; all God's children on that field were expressing the strength, coordination, and love that I was so appreciating in my daughter's play.
Suddenly, the games took on a whole new character. I saw that both teams were filled with coordinated efforts reflecting God's grace and purpose. Each child worked with another to produce a unified outcome. The coaches instructed players with a reflected divine intelligence, and the refs enforced rules that protected the play.
And the parents. Sometimes it took more effort to seek the kingdom of God there! But I persisted and embraced the complaining parents as also being in God's kingdom. They weren't left out of His purpose or expression of love any more than were their kids.
I made a special effort to sit next to the dad who had been so vocal and chose to see him and all the kids as I'd been learning to – as God expressing Himself in teamwork, intelligence, and brotherhood. I made sure that every comment from my mouth was positive – an observation of goodness and the divine presence on the field.
Soon I heard more positive comments from the sidelines than negative ones. That father's point of view became less dominating. The sidelines became a fun-loving place to be. Parents seemed more inclined to see the good in all the children, not just their own.
And the winning? For me, the definition changed over the course of those early seasons. "Winning" came to mean progress, camaraderie, and the step-by-step increase of skill and teamwork. How many games my daughter's teams won became less important than what we were all expressing about God's love, direction, and purpose.
With that view, everyone wins.