Written by Doctor G

Sports vs religion (#parenting)

Dr. G.  I read an article you wrote someplace about the importance of sports practice.  I agree that my 11 year old should go to his sports practice even when it is raining or cold or whatever, even if he doesn’t feel like it.  But he’s been missing a lot of practice lately because of religious holidays and I’m starting to wonder if we are undermining what we are trying to teach, about the importance of being on a team.  How can we handle this?

Shira, in St. Louis, MO

Shira, this is a great issue for you to consider.  As soon as you list your own priorities, I think the answer to this will be clear for you.

Sports involvement teaches you son great values.  He learns perseverance and discipline and strength.  He experiences failure and success, gets an opportunity to self-evaluate and to listen to his coach.  He supports teammates and works towards a common goal.

Religious observance is a world of great lessons as well.  Structure, discipline, faith and perseverance are just a few.  No matter what your religion, your family’s commitment to holidays and traditions and rules teach your son that you believe in a power greater than yourselves, that you hold yourself to a standard and hold him to it as well.

Life is filled with dueling priorities.  As an adult he will have to figure out if he puts family or work first.  Sooner than that he will probably juggle a job and education, which will often be in competition for his time and attention.  Valuing one over another is necessary, and doesn’t mean the slightly lower priority loses all importance.

Take this opportunity, after you figure out which one ranks higher, to talk to your son.  At eleven years old, he can absolutely understand the idea of competing goals.  The best life lesson in all of this is to evaluate your values and then put them into action.

One last suggestion.  Whichever comes in second, see if there is another way to further that goal that doesn’t conflict with the higher one.  For example, if you continue to observe your religious holidays, encourage your son to ask the coach for ways he can practice on other days or drills he can do at home.  The substitute practice will help him.  Even more importantly he will learn the secret of make-up work: when you ask for (and do) make-up work, you earn the respect of your mentor.


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