By Steven Norris

     Recently, my son’s soccer team was playing a match against a fellow school located about an hour away. As it happened, a large group of parents from the other team decided to “set up camp” near the bleachers where my wife and I were sitting. I could not help but notice certain parents became increasingly harsh with each play of the game. 

     One soccer mom was particularly upset about a player on my son’s team. Her comments started out about his play on the field — he was being too aggressive and pushy. It did not take long, however, for the comments to turn personal, calling his character into question and ultimately degenerating into making fun of him. Mind you, both schools are proud of their commitment to a “Christian” education. I cringed as “righteous indignation” began welling up in my soul.

     As I write this, I am a little ashamed that I did not speak up to defend the kids on the field. I wish I had encouraged this mom to think about the fact that this student was somebody’s child. His parents did not happen to be sitting in our section, but they could have been. How would they have heard those comments?

     The mom’s sample size of this young man’s entire life consisted of two previous soccer games and a couple of basketball games last fall where our schools had competed. She knew nothing of his home life and the struggles he has overcome to be playing in the first place. She knew nothing about how classwork comes difficult to him, and athletics is one of the few areas where he excels. She knew nothing of the way he interacts with his peers, the kind of friend he is to others, or the service he does in the community.

     Every young man competing on that field needed a cheerleader to encourage them to be the person God created them to be. Every student needed to know that they mattered to someone and needed a role model for the life of faith. They all needed voices calling them to Christlikeness, not those echoing the voice of “the accuser” (the literal meaning of the Hebrew word “satan”).

     About the time the entire situation seemed devoid of hope, they stopped play to address an injury on the field. Someone in the stands threw another one of our players a Gatorade (it was pretty hot that day). After pouring a little in his own mouth, he replaced the cap and tossed it to the child of the parent who had been so vocal. I listened as that young man encouraged our players and wished them well in the next round of the tournament.

     Leave it to a group of teenage boys to remind us “grown-ups” about priorities and sportsmanship. Leave it to them to model scripture’s command, “Dont let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).