In my daughter’s senior year of high school softball, Eunice High hosted _____ Christian Academy in a non-district game. I don’t remember who won the game, because the score and the events that took place on the field were not that memorable. What was memorable, and sickeningly so, were the cheesy cat-calls, the degrading names, and the rude insults the _____ players’ parents in the bleachers hurled at the Eunice softball players on the field. Grown-up parents! And worse, grown-ups representing a school that proclaims the title “Christian” in its school name. That show was one of the most shameful displays of sportsmanship—or the lack of sportsmanship—I witnessed in over 20 years of regular attendance at high school and junior college athletic events.
I don’t mean to condemn that school particularly, and for all I know, the climate at _____ may have improved—I don’t mean to drag the school’s name in the dirt over something that happened so many years ago. Regardless, though, the issue the episode illustrates remains as crucial as ever for any school that wears the label of “Christian” or “Catholic” in its school name. Christ’s Kingdom and its followers’ witness is ever on trial before a worldly public that loves nothing more than to criticize and demean the schools’ Christian nature. For that purpose, church leaders and school administrators at Christian schools should consistently endeavor to orient and indoctrinate students and parents to standards of sportsmanship that are consistent with Christian values.
A few simple, practical measures can be implemented to ensure that Christian school supporters don’t embarrass the Kingdom.
- Clergy and athletic directors could speak at Booster and spirit club meetings regularly about the importance of sportsmanship. The role of clergy is critical, because they speak with God-given authority. Coaches are influential, too, because fans respect their leadership.
- Coaches should have parent sportsmanship orientation meetings at the beginning of every season for every sport. The coaches and their staff can stress the importance of Christ-like conduct at athletic events, at home or on the road, reminding parents and players’ family members who attend games that critical eyes are watching and critical ears are listening!
- Home games of the Christian school should always begin with prayer given over the stadium or gym public address system. For road games at public schools that don’t have opening prayers, Christian school coaches, players, and parent followers should meet on the parking lot or outside the game venue when they first arrive to have prayer and to remind parents and players that the school’s standards for sportsmanship are Christ-given, not man-given.
If such simple measures were enacted, Christ’s Kingdom on earth would be advanced. No, it won’t solve the problems of the world or convert the pagan world to Christianity, but the parents, boosters, and players of the Christian schools’ teams will glorify God’s name. That’s what we’re called to do!