I know I've lived here for most of my adult life, so this may seem a bit late in coming. I understand that living in Indiana means loving, or at least tolerating, basketball. Don't get me wrong. I've watched Hoosiers. It's good.
I do love basketball. I enjoy playing it, watching it and even talking about it. I don't root for your teams, but I get the love for this sport.
But there's a few things we need to clear up. You see, my middle school son started playing for one of your teams this year. Needless to say, the experience has only confirmed what I already suspected.
The place in your heart that this sport holds, at least borders on idolatry. I should also mention that I am a youth pastor. So I have watched time and time again as basketball crowds out the space for anything else. I know what lessons can be learned when our sons and our daughters learn to sacrifice and work as part of a team. But I also know the lessons that are taught when sports are not properly seen as a part of the whole, instead of being the whole.
Coaches, remember it's a game. I know that on the college and pro level, there is money and jobs on the line. But when we treat the lower levels like this, we do our children a disservice. Instead of teaching all the kids the thrill of success and the disappointment of failure, we teach the better athletes to be revered and the rest to enjoy the show from the bench.
In a society where only 1% ever play professionally, why wouldn't we give all our children an opportunity? Why would we discourage so many to the point that they find something else to do when they tire of being left out?
Parents, remember it's a game. Every game I have attended, from elementary on, has been a practice in patience. The good news is I now know how to take deep breaths before I say anything in a crowd. But when the thought of yelling out, "It's only a game" gives me the fear of being lynched, then something is very wrong.
If the size of the trophy is determined by the intensity with which parents criticize referees, then this is a trophy I really want to see.
Parents, we need to be the ones who instill good values in our children. If we don't, we'll just continue this cycle. We also need to help our sons and daughters realize the need for balance in life. When we show more intensity in a game than we do anything else in our life, this lesson gets lost.
Lastly, to our sons and daughters, let me remind you of a few details. You are more than an athlete. Much more. I've never woken up my children by referring to them as a sports star. For that matter, I don't start their day calling them artists, students or anything else. I remind them they are my son or daughter and that I love them very much. I remind them that God has a plan for their life.
Remember your identity. Your real identity. Work hard. Play hard. Love others and build lots of relationships. There is a great big world out there and it doesn't end when the whistle blows.
So, Indiana, I guess if there's anything I want you to hear, it's this; I want you to know your place. The futures of our sons and daughters will be shaped by the lessons we teach them today.