In my experience..
One of the hardest parts of a Sports Minister’s job is dealing with behavioral issues. Whether it’s angry coaches, arguments with referees, or parental issues – these are situations that have to be dealt with.
Having been involved in sports outreach for over 20 years now, one observation I’ve made is that most of the behavioral issues I’ve had to deal with involve believers, not non-believers. You think it would be the other way around but it’s not (at least in my experience). When these issues happen, we spend a good portion of time discussing why the behavior was wrong and what redeemed sports can look like. These type of conversations need to happen.
However, I wonder in the midst of these situations (and perhaps more proactively in pre-season meetings and one-on-one conversations) if we shouldn’t also address the believer’s behavior in the terms of an apologetic.
Sports as Apologetics
‘Apologetics’ is the discipline of defending a position. Large quantities of Christian books have been written toward this endeavor, helping to prove or defend the faith of Christianity.
What I’m suggesting here though is for sports ministers to cast the vision to believers in their ministry that sports is their apologetic.
The way believers coach, spectate, and play sports communicates something about their faith. What are we communicating to a lost world when we coach/spectate/play sports no differently than the non-believer? How are we “bearing witness” when we argue, complain, yell, etc.? What does that say about our God? Or about our relationship with God?
Non-believers are always watching
Let me stress, I don’t mean for this to be a guilt tactic. This is just another topic to address, either proactively or in the moment, with a believer who is struggling in their pursuit of sports. Yes, talk with them about redeemed sports and what that looks like. Address with them their attitudes and how it affects their teammates/kids/etc. But also, address their attitude as a witness or lack thereof to non-believers.