Sports Practice, Spiritual Practice

three grade school age kids in jeans and summer tops run barefoot across a field with trees' long shadows in background

Weekends can find Unitarian Universalist families torn.

In family worship or religious education, a child has unique opportunities to grow in faith, compassion, justice-seeking, and wonder. However, a swim meet, soccer practice, or playoff tickets can entice you to make non-church plans.

You can make sports part of a child’s faith development. Find teachable moments that connect sports activities with spiritual growth. For example: You observe your child on the field or in the pool, fully focused, mentally and physically, on what they’re doing. Later, ask them how that moment felt. Offer them some words for that transcendent experience.

Maybe your child receives an “assist” (a pass) that enables them to score or a coaching tip that strengthens their skill. Mention it later. Slide the word “gratitude” into the conversation. Invite your child to find a way to thank their teammate or coach.

We try to win at sports, but sometimes we lose. You will have plenty of chances to support a child through a failure. Take on this ministry. Assure young athletes that although failure feels painful, they will have another chance. Praise a child for effort, bravery, and a supportive attitude toward teammates. Sports can build self-esteem for all children, not only the ones who show natural talent or score the most points.

Is your family watching, rather than playing? When we root for a team, we experience the drive and focus of the players right along with them. That’s empathy. When we whoop with delight at a last-minute, tie-breaking score or a powerful tennis serve returned with grace and accuracy, what better experience of wonder and awe?
When our team loses, some fans experience a spiritual crisis. How do we honor these feelings? Do we curse and blame, or, reflect on lessons of spirit and technique the team could apply next time?

How can family time involved with sports become part of living your Unitarian Universalist faith?

Where does your child have opportunities to act on their values, in sports?

What attitudes and behaviors do you model, as a sports fan?