Academics, Athletics, & Spirituality


I have been a high school football coach for nearly 40 years now. I have seen the highs and the lows of youth sports. This question might seem to be a little strange coming from a crusty old coach like myself, but here it goes:

We spend billions of dollars on the ”academic” and “athletic” development of our youth, but what about their “spiritual” development?

Is it possible that many of today’s troubles with young people might have been caused by us overlooking their spiritual development? I this where the solution lies?

Think about all the time we invest in the academic and athletic development of our youth. What if we spent an equal amount of time helping them develop their spirits?

Academics continues to look long and hard for new solutions as our testing continues to show that our system is going down the tube.

Youth sports has become less a tool to educate children about sport and life, and more often a place where parents go to be entertained by their kids.

Parents pay lots of taxes, sports fees, and equipment costs, add tons of chaos to their lives, and spend their valuable time sitting in parent teacher conferences and travelling far and wide watching their kids play sports. When the product they see in the class room or on the field does not live up to their perceived notion of the value of their investment, they get upset at the kids, the teachers, the coaches, and at the schools. They want their money’s worth. They want what they believe that they are entitled to, but they are not willing to invest their own time in spiritual development of their children because these conversations can get “uncomfortable”….fast.

Now I know this will upset some people who read this. They will say that they would do anything for their kids, that they happily spend their time and money for their children. I believe them. But usually they are not talking about the spiritual aspects their young person’s education.

If we want to put more emphasis on the spiritual development of our youth, parents can start by asking themselves a few simple questions about their child’s school and sports experience:

  1. Is my child having fun or do they seen stressed out?
  2. How much time does my child spend on homework and athletics every week?
  3. Are the school/athletic events serving the needs of the children, or are they serving the needs of adults first?
  4. Have youth sports become more important to me or my child?
  5. What is my child learning from his/her academic and athletic experiences, and does it match the emphasis and time commitment we spend helping them develop their spirituality at home?
  6. Is our family keeping our priorities in order (family, church, school, vacations, sports, finances, commitments, etc.)?

School and Youth sports are giving us exactly what the adults are asking for, namely a perverse form of satisfaction for adults instead of a balanced academic, athletic, and spiritual education for our kids. Three out of four young people are telling us by quitting sports or school that it is not what they want.

This is our wake-up call.