Are young people discouraged by policy to not participate in organized sports? I noticed this one young man at my wife's congo who said he has "skills"(basketball), yet the only ball he plays is pick up games with other boys his age from the congo. Any insights?
What is the policy from the WT on Sports?
The WTS discourages participation in sports.
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Young People Ask . . .
Should I Join a Sports Team?"WHAT’S so great about being on a team?" asked an article in Seventeen magazine. In answer the article said: "You’re working together toward a common goal, so you become really close. You also learn people skills, like how to solve problems with a group, how to be flexible and considerate, and how to compromise."
Thus, playing organized sports appears to have benefits, not the least of which are fun and exercise. Some even claim that playing team sports helps one build character. One youth baseball league thus has the motto, "Character, Courage, Loyalty."
The problem is, organized sports do not always live up to such noble ideals. Says the book Kidsports: "In some instances impressionable youngsters learn to swear, cheat, fight, intimidate, and hurt others."Win at All Costs?Admitted an article in Seventeen: "There’s a darker side of sports, where people put tremendous value on winning." This runs directly counter to the Bible’s words: "Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:26) While a mild dose of friendly competition can add interest and enjoyment to a game, an overly competitive spirit can breed antagonism—and take the fun out of playing.
Jon, a former high school football player, recalls: "We had this coach who was a real maniac; always screaming and yelling at us . . . I dreaded going to practice. . . . I felt as if I were in a concentration camp." While not all coaches are abusive, many do place too much stress on winning. One writer concluded: "Many athletes . . . reach a point where the joy of competing gives way to an unbearable burden to succeed." What can result?
ScienceNews reported on a survey that revealed that among college football and basketball players, "12 percent reported problems in at least two of five areas: psychological distress, physical distress, difficulty in avoiding drugs or alcohol, mental and physical abuse, and poor academic performance." Along the same lines, the book OntheMark reports: "Almost everyone connected with organized athletics agrees that there is a major drug abuse problem in sports at all levels."Moral CompromisesThe pressure to win can also cause a young player to compromise reasonable standards of fairness and honesty. The book YourChildinSports observes: "In the modern world of sport, winning is not just good; it is the only thing. Losing is not only bad, it is unforgivable."
Another harsh reality: Coaches often put players under tremendous pressure to injure their opponents. An article in PsychologyToday said: "To be good in sports, you have to be bad. Or so many athletes, coaches and sports fans believe." One professional football player describes his everyday self as "soft-spoken, considerate and friendly." But on the playing field, he goes through a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation. Describing his on-field personality, he says: "I’m mean and nasty then. . . . I’m so rotten. I have a total disrespect for the guy I’m going to hit." Coaches often encourage such a disposition.
The Bible encourages Christians: "Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering." (Colossians 3:12) Could you cultivate such qualities if you received daily pep talks urging you to hurt, crush, and maim your opponents? Sixteen-year-old Robert admits: "I’ve played organized sports. You don’t care who you hurt as long as you win." Now that he is a baptized Christian, his views have changed. He says: "I would never go back to that."Bodily Training or Bodily Injury?Not to be overlooked, either, are the physical risks. True, sports entail risks even when they are played with friends strictly for fun. But the dangers are greatly increased when youths are coached into trying to perform at nearly professional levels.
The book YourChildinSports notes: "Professional players can be injured. But they are very skilled, physically fit, mature adults who willingly risk injury and are well paid for doing so. Moreover, they commonly get the best, most expert kind of training, the best equipment, and very close, top-notch medical care. . . . School kids don’t have such advantages." Christians are told to ‘present their bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God.’ (Romans 12:1) Should you not think twice about subjecting your body to unnecessary or unreasonable risks?Other Factors to ConsiderEven when the health risks seem minimal, organized sports are still time-consuming. Practice sessions may not only cut into your social life but they may also take a big bite out of time that should be set aside for study and homework. ScienceNews reported that college athletes tended to have "slightly lower grades" than other students that engaged in extracurricular activities. More important, you might find that playing on a team makes it difficult to pursue what the Bible calls "the more important things"—spiritual interests. (Philippians 1:10) Ask yourself, ‘Will joining the team require me to miss Christian meetings, or will it limit my share in the preaching work?’
Weigh carefully, also, the possible results of spending long hours with youths and adults who do not share your views on morals, clean speech, or competition. After all, the Bible does say that "bad associations spoil useful habits." (1 Corinthians 15:33) Consider, for example, an article in the Op-Ed page of TheNewYorkTimes: "The locker room . . . is a place where men discuss women’s bodies in graphic sexual terms, where they boast about ‘scoring’ and joke about beating women." How would you fare spiritually if you chose to be in such an environment?—Compare James 3:18.Making a Wise DecisionHave you been thinking of joining a sports team? Then perhaps the foregoing will help you to count the cost of doing so. Take into consideration the consciences of others when making your decision. (1 Corinthians 10:24, 29, 32) Of course, no hard-and-fast rule can be made, since circumstances differ the world over. In some areas students may even be required to participate in sports. But if you are in doubt, talk things over with your parents or with a mature Christian.
Many Christian youths have made the tough decision not to play team sports. This is not easy if you are athletic and really enjoy sports! Pressure from teachers, coaches, and parents can add to the frustration. Young Jimmy admits: "I find it’s a struggle with myself not to play. My unbelieving father was a great athlete in his high school days. It sometimes gets tough for me not to join a team." Even so, the support of believing parents and mature Christians in the congregation can do much to help you stick to your resolve. Says Jimmy: "I am thankful for my mom. At times I am depressed over the pressure to play sports. But she is always there to remind me of my real goals in life."
Team sports may teach players cooperation and problem solving. But there is ample opportunity to learn such things by working within the Christian congregation. (Compare Ephesians 4:16.) Team sports may also be fun, but you don’t have to be on a team to enjoy them. Some sports can be enjoyed with Christian friends in a backyard or a local park. Family outings may provide further opportunities for wholesome play. "It’s so much better playing with others from your congregation," says 16-year-old Greg. "It’s just for fun, and you are with your friends!"
Granted, a backyard game will probably not give the same thrill as being on a winning team. Never forget, though, that at best "bodily training is beneficial [only] for a little; but godly devotion is beneficial for all things." (1 Timothy 4:8) Develop godly devotion, and you will truly be a winner in God’s eyes!
[Footnote]See "Young People Ask . . . Team Sports—Are They Good for Me?" appearing in our February 22, 1996, issue.
[Blurb on page 22]"We had this coach who was a real maniac; always screaming and yelling at us . . . I dreaded going to practice"[Picture on page 23]All too often, coaches stress winning—even if it means causing injury to others
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Young People Ask . . .
Should I Join the School Team?
"Playing was exciting and thrilling. It gave me a good feeling. When you’re young and you finally find something you are really good at, you don’t want to let it go."—Robert.
PERHAPS you too enjoy playing team sports. You like the exercise, camaraderie, and excitement. You may even dream of being a hero, imagining the cheers of the crowd as you make the basket, the catch, or the goal that gives your team the victory.
Whatever the reason for your enthusiasm for sports, many youths share it. They particularly enjoy participating in team sports, such as football, soccer, basketball, baseball, and hockey. TheEducationDigest observes: "More than 5.2 million [U.S.] students were involved in high school athletics during the 1986-87 school year, the highest in four years. Also, high schools have added new sports in the past 10 years, many organized for girls."Why So PopularThe great popularity sports enjoy was implied by the words of a wise man of long ago who said: "The beauty of young men is their power." (Proverbs 20:29) Sports provide a refreshing outlet for the power and energies that abound during one’s youthful years. They can provide healthy challenges to both body and mind. Participation in sports can also be exhilarating and fun, a break from the routine of schoolwork and after-school chores.
In addition, some argue that playing team sports builds character. Says TheHighSchoolSurvivalGuide, by Barbara Mayer: "The training and sense of dedication that will be demanded of you will teach you how to give yourself to a worthy goal. . . . Participation in sports can help you become a leader."
Not all youths, however, have such noble motives for playing sports. Glory, fame, and prestige are also powerful incentives. "If you were on the team," remembers Reggie, "you were considered one of the coolest guys that walked the grounds."
The Bible acknowledges that "physical exercise has some value." (1 Timothy 4:8, Today’sEnglishVersion) And it might seem that joining a school team would be a way of gaining such benefit. Yet, many youths have found that the disadvantages of joining a school team often outweigh the benefits.The "Darker Side"
Seventeenmagazine reports: "There’s a darker side of sports, where people put tremendous value on winning. For a coach, winning might lead to a promotion or a television appearance. For a parent, winning might mean bragging rights or a vicarious sense of accomplishment. For an athlete, winning might mean scholarship offers, news clips, the admiration of classmates and neighbors."
Some school athletes also dream about going on to become professional players. "I dreamed of playing in the city and state championships and ultimately in the pros," said young Gerald. "I saw myself getting rich, endorsing many products, being in the hall of fame, being a role model, and dating the prettiest girl in school."
Little wonder, then, that sports in many schools are played with almost life-and-death urgency! Fun and fitness fade into the background. As Seventeen went on to say: "Suddenly winning overrides concerns about honesty, schoolwork, health, happiness, and most other important aspects of life. Winning becomes everything, and the pressure builds."
With this win-at-all-costs attitude prevailing, it is no surprise that a flood of injuries has plagued school athletics. Violence by athletes, fans, and even parents sometimes accompanies games. And use of performance-enhancing drugs, such as steroids, is becoming widespread even among teenage athletes.
So while playing on a team may have some limited advantages, it may also engender an overly competitive spirit, fantasies of great wealth, and an egotistical desire for glory. These things clearly go contrary to the Bible’s counsel ‘not to be stirring up competition with one another,’ not to love money, and not to be seeking personal glory. (Galatians 5:26; Proverbs 25:27; 1 Timothy 6:10) Joining a school team could very well expose you to unwholesome influences in a very intense way.Peer PressureEducators often praise the opportunities sports offer to build close relationships with peers. Ironically, it is this very opportunity that poses a problem for Christian youths. The Bible says: "Bad associations spoil useful habits."—1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Corinthians 6:14.
Frankly, what kind of association will you likely run into in a team locker room? Admits one youth: "There was a lot of cursing and use of bad language. The guys always talked about girls and would bring pornographic books to look at." Furthermore, developing and maintaining the team spirit usually demands that you mix socially with teammates before and after games and practice sessions.
True, it may be possible to be on a team and remain uninvolved socially. But as one 14-year-old teenage girl admits: "Peer pressure is way too high for you just to play and go home." The Bible thus asks: "Can a man rake together fire into his bosom and yet his very garments not be burned?" (Proverbs 6:27) Pressured by their teammates, some youths have found themselves at parties where alcohol and drugs were featured, not to mention debasing music and compromising situations with the opposite sex.
Consider the experience of a youth named Robert. He says: "After joining the team, the problems were enormous. There was tremendous pressure to get involved in premarital sex, drugs, drinking, and going to wild parties. I just couldn’t believe that such things could be associated with playing high-school sports. On the court as well as off, you’re expected to walk, talk, and act just like the rest of the guys."
Not to be overlooked, either, is the effect sports participation could have on your routine of spiritual activities. (Hebrews 10:23-25) "Often, games and practices conflicted with Christian meetings," says young Gerald.Healthy AlternativesOf course, some athletic training may be provided during school hours as part of the regular curriculum, and there is usually no objection to a young Christian’s attending such classes. Furthermore, circumstances vary in different lands. Nevertheless, youths among Jehovah’s Witnesses generally avoid involvement in extracurricular school sports. Now, this does not mean that you as a Christian youth cannot enjoy sports. It does mean, however, that you may have to take certain initiatives.
For example, you might talk to your parents about planning an outing, such as a picnic. This could provide an occasion for your family and friends to enjoy some wholesome sports activities. Or you might try inviting a number of Christian youths to get together and bike, play ball, or engage in races to your heart’s content.
It is important, however, that you avoid an overly competitive spirit. Having official, set teams tends to fuel the win-at-all-costs spirit even when all the players are Christians. So it’s usually best to keep things informal. In fact, having a measure of adult supervision is often a good idea.
Granted, informal games may lack some of the thrill of organized school sports. But you can still enjoy yourself. Robert decided he would quit his school’s team. But he says: "I still enjoy very much playing sports. More so now than ever before. When I play sports now, it’s not to win at any cost, nor am I filled with the competitive spirit."
Recall that when the apostle Paul told the young man Timothy: "Bodily training is beneficial for a little," he added, "but godly devotion is beneficial for all things." Clearly, being an athlete is not a Christian’s purpose in life. So keep sports in balance. Why waste time that could be more profitably spent in building up your spirituality? Remember: Godly devotion "holds promise of the life now and that which is to come."—1 Timothy 4:8.
[Picture on page 15]The win-at-all-costs spirit dominates many school sports
Actually, it is more the "bad" association. Some jws form informal groups/teams to play games. It depends on the area as to whether that is frowned on.
*** w04 5/1 Ancient Sports and the Importance of Winning ***"EVERY man taking part in a contest exercises self-control in all things." "If anyone contends . . . in the games, he is not crowned unless he has contended according to the rules."—1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 2:5.
The games to which the apostle Paul referred were an integral feature of ancient Greek civilization. What does history tell us about such contests and the atmosphere that surrounded them?
Recently, an exhibition on the Greek games, Nike—Ilgiocoelavittoria ("Nike—The Game and the Victory"), was held in Rome’s Colosseum. The exhibits offered some answers to that question and give food for thought regarding a Christian’s view of sports.
Greece was not the first civilization to engage in sports. Even so, in perhaps the eighth century B.C.E., the Greek poet Homer described a society animated by heroic ideals and a competitive spirit, in which military prowess and athleticism were highly valued. The earliest of Greek festivals, explained the exhibition, began as religious events to honor the gods at the funerals of heroic figures. For example, Homer’s Iliad, the oldest surviving work of Greek literature, describes how noble warriors, companions of Achilles, laid down their arms at the funeral rites for Patroclus and competed to prove their valor in boxing, wrestling, discus and javelin throwing, and chariot racing.
Similar festivals came to be celebrated throughout Greece. Says the exhibition handbook: "The festivals constituted a basic opportunity in which the Greeks, out of respect for their gods, put aside their endless and frequently violent disputes, and succeeded in sublimating their typical competitive spirit into a peaceful but equally sincere achievement: that of athletic competition."
Groups of city-states adopted the practice of regularly convening at common centers of worship to pay homage to their deities by means of athletic competitions. In time, four such festivals—the Olympic and the Nemean, both dedicated to Zeus, and the Pythian and the Isthmian, dedicated to Apollo and Poseidon respectively—grew in importance until they attained the status of Panhellenic festivals. That is, they were open to contestants from all over the Greek world. The festivals featured sacrifice and prayer and also honored the gods by superlative athletic or artistic competitions.
The oldest and most prestigious of such festivals, said to date back to 776 B.C.E., was held every fourth year in honor of Zeus at Olympia. Second in order of importance was the Pythian festival. Held close to the most celebrated oracle of the ancient world, at Delphi, this too included athletics. But in honor of the patron of poetry and music, Apollo, the emphasis was on song and dance.
Compared with modern athletics, the number of disciplines was quite limited, and only men took part. The program of the ancient Olympics never featured more than some ten events. The statues, reliefs, mosaics, and paintings on terra-cotta vases exhibited in the Colosseum offered snapshots of them.
There were footraces over three distances—the stadium, of about 220 yards [200 m]; the double course, comparable to today’s 440 yards [400 m]; and the long race, of some 5,000 yards [4,500 m]. Athletes ran and exercised completely nude. Contenders in the pentathlon competed in five disciplines: running, long jump, discus, javelin, and wrestling. Other matches included boxing and the pancratium, described as "a brutal sport that combined bare-knuckle boxing with wrestling." Then there was chariot racing over a distance of eight stadiums, with light open-backed vehicles mounted on small wheels and drawn by two or four colts or adult horses.
Boxing was extremely violent and sometimes fatal. Around their fists, contestants wore strips of stiff leather studded with devastating metal inserts. You can imagine why a certain contestant named Stratofonte could not recognize himself in a mirror after four hours of boxing. Ancient statues and mosaics testify that pugilists became horribly disfigured.
In wrestling, the rules restricted holds to the upper part of the body, and the winner was the one who first grounded his opponent three times. By contrast, in the pancratium no holds were barred. Contestants could kick, punch, and twist the joints. The only prohibitions were eye gouging, scratching, and biting. The aim was to immobilize one’s opponent on the ground and force him into submission. Some considered it to be "the finest spectacle of all Olympia."
The most famous pancratium encounter in antiquity is said to have taken place at the Olympic final in 564 B.C.E. Arrhachion, who was being strangled, had the presence of mind to dislocate one of his rival’s toes. His opponent, overcome by pain, submitted the very moment before Arrhachion died. The judges proclaimed Arrhachion’s corpse the victor!
Chariot racing was the most prestigious of the events and also the most popular among aristocrats, since the winner was not the driver but the owner of the chariot and horses. Critical moments in the contest were at the start of the race, when charioteers had to stay in lane, and above all at each turn around the posts at either end of the track. Errors or fouls could provoke accidents that made this popular event even more spectacular.
"Runners in a race all run," said the apostle Paul, "but only one receives the prize." (1 Corinthians 9:24) Winning was all that mattered. There was no silver or bronze, no second or third place. "Victory, ‘Nike,’ was the ultimate goal of the athlete," explained the exhibition. "Only this would suffice since only this was the true reflection of his personal character, both physical and moral, and the pride of his hometown." The attitude is summed up with a line from Homer: "I have learnt to excel always."
The prize accorded to a winner in the Panhellenic Games was purely symbolic—a crown of leaves. Paul called it "a corruptible crown." (1 Corinthians 9:25) Yet, the prize was charged with deep significance. It represented the very force of nature that bestowed its powers upon the winner. Victory, pursued with single-minded determination, meant no less than the bestowal of divine favor. Exhibits documented how ancient sculptors and painters imagined Nike, the winged Greek goddess of victory, extending the crown to the victor. A win at Olympia was the culmination of any athlete’s career.
Olympic crowns were made of wild olive leaves—Isthmian of pine, Pythian of laurel, Nemean of wild celery. The organizers of games elsewhere offered monetary or other prizes to attract contestants of the highest caliber. Several vases on display at the exhibition had been awards at the Panathenaic Games, held in Athens in honor of the goddess Athena. These amphorae originally contained precious Attic oil. A decoration on one side of one of the vases depicts the goddess and bears the phrase "prize for the contests of Athena." The other side has a depiction of a particular event, likely the one in which the athlete gained his victory.
Greek cities enjoyed sharing the fame of their athletes, whose victories transformed them into heroic figures in their home communities. The victors’ returns were celebrated with triumphal processions. Statues to them were erected as offerings of thanks to the gods—an honor not otherwise accorded to mortals—and poets sang of their valor. Winners were thereafter accorded the first places at public ceremonies and received pensions at public expense.
Athletic competition was considered an essential element in the development of the citizen-soldier. All Greek cities had their gymnasiums, where physical training for young men was combined with the teaching of intellectual and spiritual disciplines. The buildings of the gymnasiums were arranged around large open spaces for exercise, surrounded by porticoes and other covered areas used as libraries and classrooms. Such institutions were frequented, above all, by young men of wealthy families who could afford to dedicate time to education rather than to work. Here, athletes subjected themselves to long, intense preparation for the games with the help of trainers, who would also prescribe diets and ensure sexual abstinence.
The Colosseum exhibition offered visitors the opportunity to admire fine representations of ancient athletes, mostly Roman copies of original Greek sculptures. Since in classical ideology, physical perfection corresponded to moral perfection and was the exclusive possession of the aristocracy, these well-proportioned bodies of victorious athletes represented a philosophical ideal. The Romans appreciated them as works of art, many of which decorated stadiums, baths, villas, and palaces.
Among the Romans, violent spectacles were always popular, so of all Greek disciplines staged in Rome, boxing, wrestling, and the pancratium won the highest approval. The Romans regarded such sports, not as competition between equals to determine their respective virtue, but as simple entertainment. The original concept of sports as the collective participation of elite warrior-athletes as part of their education was abandoned. Instead, the Romans reduced Greek games either to healthy exercise before the bath or to a spectator sport practiced by lower-class professionals, much like gladiatorial contests.
The religious nature of the games was one reason for first-century Christians to shun them, for "what agreement does God’s temple have with idols?" (2 Corinthians 6:14, 16) What of sports today?
Obviously, modern sports do not honor pagan gods. Yet, is it not true that some sports are surrounded by a near-religious fervor, comparable to that which existed among the ancients? Moreover, as reports over the last few years have shown, in order to win, some athletes have been willing to take performance-enhancing drugs that endanger their health and even their lives.
For Christians, physical achievement is of very limited worth. Spiritual qualities of "the secret person of the heart" are what make us beautiful in God’s eyes. (1 Peter 3:3, 4) We recognize that not all who take part in sports today have a fierce competitive spirit, but many do. Will association with them help us to follow the Scriptural exhortation to ‘do nothing out of contentiousness, or out of egotism, but to have lowliness of mind?’ Or will such association not result in "enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions"?—Philippians 2:3; Galatians 5:19-21.
Many modern contact sports have a potential for violence. Anyone attracted to such sports does well to remember the words of Psalm 11:5: "Jehovah himself examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one, and anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates."
In its right place, exercise can be enjoyable, and the apostle Paul did say that "bodily training is beneficial for a little." (1 Timothy 4:7-10) When he spoke of the Greek games, however, Paul appropriately referred to them merely to illustrate the importance for Christians to have such qualities as self-control and endurance. The goal Paul was striving to attain, above all else, was that of receiving the God-given "crown" of everlasting life. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 1 Timothy 6:12) In that, he set an example for us.
Nikeis the Greek word for "victory."
This fourth-century B.C.E. bronze shows the devastating effects of ancient boxing, in which, according to the Rome exhibition catalog, "the resistance of the boxer . . . engaged in exhausting fights, during which ‘wound was given for wound,’ was extolled as a fine example." "Signs of the fight just concluded add to those of previous encounters," runs the description.
Ya gotta love the reasoning on this.
organized sports do not always live up to such noble ideals.
Thereafter, since sports "do not always" build character, they are a tool of Satan himself.
On the other hand, elders are supposed to be a "hiding place against against the wind", "princes", "worthy of double honor", etc.
Of course, what with the child-raping, fraudulent schemes, wife-swapping, and general nastiness, they too "do not always live up to such noble ideals."
But they are just "imperfect men" and by God, if you even breathe one word of complaint, you are more wicked than Korah and deserve to be swallowed alive by a yawning chasm.
Beyond the things written by the Filthful and Disgraceful Slavebugger, it takes time away from the misery. You cannot be out in field circus if you are playing football, whether on a team or just for fun. (Which is why they took away the score system--if no one could win, it would take most of the fun out of trying, meaning lousy play, meaning giving up, meaning more time for field circus). Children should be studying for the boasting session or out in field circus, neither of which is possible if they are playing on a school baseball team or in practice.
Watching sports is also condemned. Reasoning is that most sports fall on weekends. The big football games happen during boasting sessions, leading people to cut boasting sessions short to make the football game. Those with morning boasting sessions will cut field circus short so they can see the football games. And Saturday sports has the same problem: people will cut field circus short so they can go home and watch the baseball game. With baseball, they will cut the boasting session to watch the Yankees win and the Mets lose. And so the Filthful and Disgraceful Slavebugger decided that it is better to just demonize them, calling it idolatry, and having people go to the boasting sessions or out in field circus.
School sports was a MAJOR cause of problems in my marriage as I faded, as both of my kids reached an age where they took an interest in sports and other extra-carricular activities. Now, I coach my son's basketball team in the Cape Hoops travel league, and my dub ex-wife actually came to the championship game that we won in the march madness tournament last months and cheered louder than most worldly parents did. Stranger than fiction - now that her son averages double figures and is our best player - now she supports him because she gets praise from other parents for having a great kid. She quickly forgets the days when she used to pressure him to skip practice with me and would try to make him go with her in the ministry and messing with his mind telling him that his teammates were Satan's tools that he was using to keep him from theocratic activities... What a joke...