This is not quite timely, but somebody left a comment on my original post, and it “Inspired” me to write down some thoughts.
My original post:
I was saddened to hear a few months later that Mr. Armstrong finally had to admit to using performance enhancing drugs. Yes, he did cheat. He ran a crooked game and finally got caught. It doesn’t really surprise me. These days, the world of Professional Sports is so muddled, and there is so much money involved, that it is likely very difficult not to cheat. The pressure is enormous I’m sure.
My son tried all the sports when he was young. My daughter tried Volleyball and Soccer as well. There seems to be a lot of pressure placed on young people – even at those early ages! I think about the pressure I had when I was young, and all I did was swim and in High School I played Water Polo. My mother wasn’t the “Pressuring” kind of parent, she was just always there to drive us to swim practice, or swim meets or whatever. But when I was real little, my dad would come to swim practices, and watch us swim up and down the pool. I can still see him – in my mind’s eye – clear as a bell, drinking his coffee and watching me swim.
As I got older, I vowed I would not do that to my children. But the parents who do, I sometimes wonder if they’re trying to live vicariously through their children’s success. To some extent that must be the case, but there is little doubt that they are proud of their children all the same. The number of incidences in the past 20 years or so where parents get into vicious arguments with referees and other parents has also increased, which means that the parents are the ones bringing the pressure into youth sports. That kind of pressure is not needed, since I can tell them and many parents also (I’m sure) that you can always be proud of your children whether they are sports stars or not. I am very proud of mine, and they are both fine young people.
The pressure in sports is real though, we must acknowledge that. The statistics are not with most making anything out of their sporting career. Most in fact, should be considered to be in sports for the fun of it. A friend sometime back pointed out (he was coaching Little League at the time) that he would tell the parents that he was going to coach his way, which was to play all the kids in all positions, and give everyone equal opportunity to bat and pitch and all of that. He said, that given the odds the kids were facing about making it into Professional Sports or even High School Sports, he felt that the kids were all there to have fun and get a little moral development. I liked his perspective very much.
That, is the essence of sports to my mind. If you feel the pressure so much that you think you have to cheat to win, then why are you doing it anymore? Is it the money? The power? The prestige? Is it really about those things rather than the fun and enjoyment of racing or competing and being competitive at something?
As in all things, let me try to put a Christian perspective on this. When we make our lives about us, we are often doomed to failure. We will make it about our wants and desires, our “Vanity” as Solomon said. We are apt to try to use any means available to puff up our egos and to try to make ourselves somehow “Better” than others. In the eyes of God, we are all the same, however. What God desires is for us to elevate each other. My best example of that happening is a story from the Special Olympics.
My son, Stew, was in the Boy Scouts from about 2002-2005. During those years, the Scouts were encouraged to join the Special Olympics and become partners with the “Special” kids in a sport called “Broom Hockey.” They had weekly practices with their partner kids on teams, and they would get together and have some fun. Eventually, they did go to the Special Olympics and compete – as a team. I will never ever forget, nor would anyone else who was there that first year, this one “Special” kid scoring a goal in a game.
The whole audience and all the players erupted in screams and applause and cheering. It was just tremendous. And if you’d seen the look on this kid’s face, you would know, that’s why they have the Special Olympics. It was like he scored the winning goal in the final game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs – the place was that loud and he was so proud of what he did. We all were proud of that young man. In that moment, in that “Victory” he wasn’t a “Special” kid or anything like that either, he was just a kid, like all the other kids, only he did something that made us all better that day, and we all of us had helped make it happen.