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Can sports bring your child closer to God?

Soccer Children


Marta Klimek - published on 06/12/17 - updated on 10/09/23

Physical development is an important aspect of children's overall growth, but sports can have a positive influence on their spiritual growth as well.

The contemporary obsession with gaming and virtual reality gives us plenty of cause for worry. Children suffer real and dangerous consequences from a lack of physical activity. Their physical development is an important aspect of their overall growth, and we all know how much sports can help with that. What is less known, perhaps, is how sports can have a positive influence on a child’s spiritual growth.

A healthy mind in a healthy body

“Mens sana in corpore sano.” (“A sound mind in a sound body.”) This quotation, taken from the 10th of the 16 Satires by Latin author Juvenal, is often misunderstood. At the time of its writing, its spiritual meaning was implicit. Today, with secularism, this meaning has disappeared, as the word “mind” has lost its connection to spirituality.

Rephrased in a less Latin vocabulary, one might say, for example, “Let’s ask Christ to grant our healthy bodies equally healthy souls.” Physical activity is part of a Christian lifestyle, so we need to choose to take care of the body that God has given us.

Staying fit is a time investment. It requires battling our own weaknesses and learning humility when we fall short. This helps forge character and can play an important role in a child’s overall development.

Sportsmanship, a Christian value

St. John Bosco considered sports an excellent activity for education and evangelization. He once observed that “the stadium attracts more people than the church.” The Italian priest began to organize sports activities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. For many of those kids, being able to let off steam while developing athletic skills was a starting point for returning to the “right path.”

One of the basic principles of sports is the constant effort to improve. Young athletes who learn to love that constant effort often end up applying the same principles to daily life.

Playing a sport can lead, little by little, to mastering social norms and rules, and then to practicing fundamental Christian values. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a sports value! In addition to being the second great commandment of love, it is the very essence of fair play, which is indispensable to sports.

When professional athletes are also Christian models

Many kids who play sports dream about going pro. They have many role models to look up to. Each sport has its stars, its heroic figures who are sometimes excellent role models. Their example helps young people find the motivation for training and constant self-improvement. The posters on the walls of their rooms call them to follow the hero’s example with a healthy diet, faithful practice, and perseverance.

Who better than a top athlete to encourage our young people in the path of Christian life? There is no shortage of sports stars that kids can turn to for inspiration. Figures like Olympic swimming champion Katie Ledecky and soccer star Lionel Messi confirm that Christian values apply to the sports world.

A Christian mode of athletic training

How can a child benefit from sports’ spiritual potential? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Having fun is important. If athletics are to be the starting point for your child’s further development, it is important to choose the sport he or she enjoys most.

A good coach is key. A competent and charismatic coach will become an important teacher and role model.

Be careful about choosing the people who supervise practice times. It is so important for coaches and management teams to have a healthy mindset about sports.

Positive heroes will be your supporters. Show your child that his heroes share their faith, and that that faith helps them to overcome problems, conquer their own weaknesses, and to live happy and caring lives.

Offer your own support as a gift. Parental support and approval help drive a child’s development. Your child should know that even if she loses the game or doesn’t win the race, she will always be the winner in your eyes.

The power of prayer. Developing athletic skills requires time and constant effort. The same principle applies to spiritual development: systematic, persevering prayer will be the cornerstone of your child’s progress toward God.

Practice together, working and praying for a healthy mind in a healthy body.

Read more:
10 Olympic athletes who were not afraid to share their faith

Read more:
Blind Paralympic athlete “swims by faith, not by sight” and helps the homeless

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