My daughter has played in a homeschool rec league since roughly a year after we moved here. She is going into her seventh year of sports in the league, most of it on one team.
First, it might help to explain a bit about the league and how its teams work.
It’s a self-contained league, playing only other teams within itself, and is specifically for homeschoolers. Many homeschoolers in our area – Catholic or not – have large families. The way teams are set up is that each team is divided into three age groups: 6-8, 9-12, and 13+, with an option for girls to remain one extra year on each of the lower two teams (since they tend to be smaller than boys, especially once you get into those upper two groups). A family who joins the league is kept all on one team, and the entire team practices on the same day. One practice, one game each week. For families who might have 5, 6, or 7 children playing sports, it’s really fantastic. Much less running around, and the practices and games are all on the same two days each week.
It’s also a Christian league, and this is where, oddly enough, I’m feeling conflicted very suddenly.
Ever since we have been a part of the league, there’s been prayer before practices and games, and the team shirts all bear Philippians 4:13 on them. And the gentleman who runs the league (along with help from his über-organized wife) has always made a point that, as a Christian league, we need to honor God with our behavior and our play. Parents, children, coaches, refs…everyone needs to act in a Christlike manner.
I have always liked this part of the league, and I thought it was nice that often, the children lead prayers before practices and games.
Now, the gentleman who runs the league and his wife have almost always been Big Girl’s coaches. There was one year where she wound up on another team, but she wound up back with this family right after that. And they’ve always loved her hard work and effort. (And, heck, lemme just say it: her talent. She plays much bigger than she is.) So every season, every Fall and Spring soccer and every Winter basketball, we hear the beginning of the year pep talk and reminders: we’re going to have a great season, everyone play hard, act like Christians, etc.
He also acknowledges that not everyone in the league is a Christian; this, he says, doesn’t make a difference. We can still play together and have fun and follow the rules (which are pretty reasonable).
However, this week, something new came up that really has been rubbing me the wrong way.
Perhaps it’s rubbing me wrong because I was unhappy with a new rule for his team (not league-wide) in which players who missed a game would sit out ten minutes in the beginning of the next game. “It’s not a punishment,” he insisted. But when my daughter is a starter and gets sat for missing a game on Good Friday, I see it as a punishment (and so does she). Well, white martyrdom, right? But the idea that she got sat after I asked for an exception because it was Good Friday, and he couldn’t see why she should get one… Well, it’s just bugged me since then. I even tried to explain to him how important the Triduum is for Catholics, but I guess it’s not something he, as a Baptist, could relate to.
Since then, I’ve been gearing up to make a plea for there to be no games on Good Friday next Spring. There are a lot of Catholic families who have to make a choice between letting down their kids’ teams and honoring one of the most holy days on the calendar. (Making this case, by the way, would be much easier if all the Catholic families in the league did what I did. However, more than one said, “Well, our kids make up something like half the team,” or “Well, most of our team is Catholic, and we’d wind up forfeiting.”)
Yes, I know. It’s August and Easter is in April. But when it comes to conflict, I make George McFly look downright aggressive. And I honestly don’t think my request will be met with any sympathy, either.
Then, to add to this crazy stress I’ve put upon myself, a new twist came up during the coach’s opening-of-the-season speech.
After mentioning that there will be prayer before practices and games, he added, “I know that some coaches have been doing a little Bible lesson during prayer time. And I’m fine with that. If you have a problem, see me.”
Well, yeah, I have a problem with that.
Look, I know they mean well and that there’s probably little my well-formed eighth grader couldn’t handle, but I have a problem with someone who is not Catholic giving my kids a Bible lesson. Their interpretation might not match up with what they’re being taught at home and within the Church. And I’m NOT okay with someone confusing my kids.
If you’re not Catholic, you might not understand this idea a lot. Protestants pride themselves on the concept of sola Scripturaand the interpretation of Scripture by each person individually. So to give you an idea of my problem, let me turn it around for you.
My husband and a friend of ours coach basketball in the Winter for this league. Our friend, like us, is a devout Catholic. Imagine if our prayer time Bible lessons focused on the following:
- The Queenship of Mary, based on Luke’s Gospel and Revelation 11-12
- The Real Presence of the Holy Eucharist, based on John 6
- The Primacy of St. Peter as the First Pope, based on Matthew 16, with cross-references to the Old Testament parallels
- The Reality of Purgatory, based on Maccabees, and why we should pray for the dead
- The Communion of Saints, based on Maccabees and Revelation
My question is: Would he be okay with that?
I somehow doubt it.
I’m still not sure if I’m going to say anything about this at all. He hasn’t done any Bible lessons at prayer time himself. If it happens, I’ll say something, though. Plus, when Big Girl gets to the age where she’d have to move up to the 13+ group, we’re planning on pulling her and signing her up for a league that isn’t co-ed. (Up until then, the boys aren’t that much bigger than her. But in that upper group, there are young men – and I mean men who shave and have hairy arms and legs, and armpits!) So unless there is a huge conflict, I think I’ll just wait things out. Next Fall would be her last soccer season on this league where she’d qualify to play on the 9-12 team. And I think I’ll sit tight until then.
But I have to say, this idea that a Bible lesson could be included in the prayer time makes me feel very much like, though he says non-Christians are welcome to play with us, he doesn’t mean it as sincerely as it seems. Such a thing would make me feel very unwelcome if I weren’t a Christian. Heck, I already feel uncomfortable about it, and I am a Christian!
What would you do? Would you stick around? Would you say anything?