Dec 062018 8 Responses

Should a Parent Go to Every Game?

Most games, but not every game.

Caitlin Gallagher pens an excellent piece, Parents, Going to Every One of Your Kids Games Matters More Than You Think. She makes an important point that in the midst of busy lives, parents must show (not just tell) their kids that the kids are a priority to their parents. I applaud the point. It convicts me as a parent and echoes in my heart as a pastor. Parents need to value their kids and prioritize them over other things.

However, attending every sporting event doesn’t accomplish that goal.

Like Gallagher, I grew up in a home with hardworking parents, a home that valued sports, and a home where my parents never missed a game. From the first time I put on a uniform in preschool until I ended my college athletic career, my parents were there. They supported me, loved me, and never gave me a second to doubt that I was a priority in their life.

Why You Shouldn’t Attend Every Game

While my parents never missed a game–the only time I remember both of them not being in the stands was when they had to divide and conquer with one watching me and the other watching my sister–my wife and I have chosen a different course. (See: Sometimes It’s Better Not to Play)

Like my parents, we want to show our kids that they are a top priority in our lives. However, attending every sporting event is not necessary to make that point. As a matter of fact, attending every event no matter the cost, might actually send our children the wrong message.

Attending Every Game Idolizes Kids

Two generations ago, the greatest threat for a parent was failing to prioritize their children. Too often, children were not recognized, seen, or understood. It wasn’t uncommon for children not to be allowed to speak unless spoken to. It’s not surprising that a generation who grew up somewhat ignored would make a concerted effort to prioritize their children.

While this threat is still present, it’s not the most pressing danger for most parents. Today’s generation faces a different temptation. Rather than being ignored, today’s kids run the risk of being idolized. Instead of being pushed aside, they are being pushed to the center. Too many families put the children’s desires, schedule, and life as the defining element of how the family operates.

Attending every game could further the idea that the child is more important than the family. Aren’t there some things more important than a child’s game? While it’s vital to love and support a child, there are times in which the child must remember that they are just one person in the family. Other family members have activities and responsibilities which don’t necessarily trump what the child is doing, but the child’s activity isn’t necessarily more important either. (See: Three Things Parents Should Do From the Stands)

Our kids must know that they are important and therefore what they are doing is important. But we have to be careful to make sure that while making our children a priority, we aren’t idolizing them in the process.

Attending Every Game Idolizes Sports

Not only does attending every game possibly confuse our children about their place in a family, but it can also easily miscommunicate the value of sports. If an entire family’s schedule is dictated by a game or practice schedule, a child can rightly conclude that sports are the family’s highest value.

Society overvalues sports. The highest paid state employee in my home state is not a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital or a world-renown cardiologist at the state’s flagship medical school. It is the football coach for the state university. Fame, money, and influence are far more in the hands of the athletic in today’s society. Sports are great, but they are overvalued in our society.

Attending every game furthers this myth that sports are greatly important. Aren’t there some things more important than sports? Shouldn’t our kids understand that while we want to support them, at times we have to choose more important things than their sporting event?

If my wife is scheduled to volunteer at the Salvation Army on a night my son has a soccer game, shouldn’t she choose service over sports?

If a church member is put in hospice at a time when my child has an event, shouldn’t I serve the family that is suffering rather than being in the stands?

Of course, if I always skip the games, something is wrong. Yet if I never skip a game, I’m likely valuing sports over neighbors, friends, service, and love.

Reduce the Pressure on the Kids

Every kid wants to be the centerpiece of their family. When we are in charge, everyone else has to revolve around our wants and desires. (See: The First Step to Effective Parenting)

However, when we actually become the center of a family’s attention what begins as fun ends with a great deal of pressure. Too many kids control the well-being of their parents. They feel the pressure of making their parents happy. They fear that if they don’t perform, they will be a disappointment to their parents.

When we idolize our kids and sports, we create a dual threat to the well-being of our children. We heap upon them a pressure they don’t deserve. I once asked a high school football coach about the pressure dads put on their sons to play ball. He laughed and said in his setting its the moms that are the problem. If the son quits football, the mom loses a sense of identity as a football mom and the social equity that comes with it. Imagine being a high school boy carrying the weight of your mom’s social life on your shoulders.

It shouldn’t be that way.

Thankfully, when we value sports a little less and put our kids’ schedules on equal (not less than or more than) footing as others who are in the family, the result is not children who feel undervalued. Instead, it’s children who experience less stress and pressure. Life is hard enough; kids do not need to feel the weight of their parent’s happiness, purpose, or life on their shoulders.

A Valuable Part of the Family

A goal of parents should be to make children feel as though they are a valuable and integral part of a family. Children need to be seen, heard, understood, and valued. They need to be prioritized, but they do not need to be idolized.

In our family of four, each of us has equal value. No one takes precedence over the other. As such, there should be times in which my schedule is greatly altered because of the performance or activity of our children. At other times, the schedule for my son or daughter should be influenced by that which is going on in my life. (See: Parent for Them Not for You)

So in most cases, we will all be at the game. In almost every situation, we will all attend the school performance. But on occasion, we will miss. In part, because it’s just a game. In another part, because a child is just one person in a family.


How will you:

Model for your children that sports are just a game, not the defining factor of life?

Teach your children that they are an equal part of a family, not the most important member?

Prioritize your kids to make them feel value without putting pressure on them as though your well-being is dependent on their choices?

What have I overlooked or not thought about? Leave a comment or let me know your opinion.

8 Responses to Should a Parent Go to Every Game?
  1. Luke Reply

    Great piece Kevin, thanks

  2. J. Parker Reply

    My two cents! I did not attend all of my children’s games, or other events. And I think they’re healthier for it, because it made them realize that their world was the only world. If I had a scheduling conflict, many times I would ask if they wanted me to attend and allow them to express their desire. (Yes, I watched for more than their words, because they might say one thing and their nonverbals tell a different story.) If it was important to them, I shifted my responsibilities and showed up. If it wasn’t important, I took care of other business. If anything, this approach allowed my sons to feel like their activities were their own, not fueled by parental fandom.

  3. S. Nelson Reply

    This is the mind set of my soon to be ex spouse. One of the many inconsistent reasons of why she wants to dissolve our marriage is that I didnt make the kids the center of our universe. I didnt immerse myself in the kids. Baseball, band, sleepovers, school functions, dr. appts. I was there for it all but not to her exoextations.

  4. J Lee Reply

    You know the song “You’re gonna miss this” by Trace Adkins? Well, it’s true. We are empty nesters. Our children are 26,23 and 21. There were times when there were work conflicts, or 2-3 kid events the same night and we conquered them by each attending one or getting grandparents involved. We attended it all and loved it all. Our kids knew we were there and it WAS important. They will tell you that. Our friends were there too. The parents of our children’s friends became dear friends to us and it was sort of a social time for us too. We are still good friends. It wasn’t just sports, but choir concerts, cheerleading, county fair competitions. We went to it all and loved it all and will never regret it. And yes, we do miss it.

  5. James Reply

    You have some potential points here, but I feel like the article is written by someone who never had sports as a priority. Yes, the sport is just a game and yes, we focus on effort over outcomes. But outcomes matter, and sports are an important part in some families. Sports in general should not be demonized and church should not try to “compete” with sports. I left the church 5 years ago because of this sentiment. I was coaching youth All-Stars softball which lasts for only aBout 6 weeks, and we were away for several tournaments. One of our Elders told me I was a bad father because I was choosing sports over church. Never mind the fact that I was on the field setting a good example, praying before and after games, etc. That’s evangelism, not sitting in a room with a bunch of people who already agree with each other,

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      It’s a great challenge in our culture of how do we participate in sports and still honor gathering together in corporate worship. I do agree with the thought by some that sports have become the church of America.

  6. Noelle Reply

    I’m struggling with this as a non-parent. I have tried multiple times to schedule get-togethers with mom friends, and the reason most of them can’t make it is their kids’ sports. I understand that their children, sports, etc. are important, but with sports like soccer (which is EVERY weekend), they can’t miss ONE game? (Not to mention that they attend most practices as well.) I moved a couple of hours away from my friend-group years ago, but still try to go back occasionally, travelling to them b/c I’m just one person, whereas they are many and have more schedules to consider. This last time, I contacted them two months in advance, thinking they would have plenty of time to make arrangements (get a grandparent or teammate involved). The response I got was, “Yay! So excited! That works for now, but I might have to cancel once I know my kids sports schedule.” I’m appalled. As a parent, can you help me understand? Am I being unreasonable?

    One of the most important lessons I learned from my parents was there are many relationships in the family and they all have a place. First they were a self, then a partner, then a parent. Time to ones’ self, time with each other as a couple, time with the family and individual time with child/parent… all were important. When did it shift?

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