Homeschool Sports Ethics

By Tom Scheimo

For those familiar with homeschool sports, the emphasis on Christian conduct and good sportsmanship may be the greatest difference from public school sports.  To many, the difference is striking.  Nevertheless, complacency and pride should have no place.  Diligence to maintain high standards should always be the goal.  Many teams, coaches, and players are models of the ideal.  But, there are still enough "rough edges"  within the whole of homeschool sports that an article of this sort is warranted.  The following problems seem to crop up in various locations often enough to justify careful consideration by all:

1. SAFETY Many players are injured each year by unneccessary rough play.  We should all set our standards to win by skill, not brute force.  Some players are also injured every year during games by loose balls accidentally released by careless players, small children, and spectators along the sidelines.

2. "STREETBALL" CONDUCT Along with the unneccessary roughness mentioned above, the quality of play also deteriorates when players are allowed to trash-talk and taunt opponents.  As much as possible, games should be tightly officiated.  An athlete's Christian fellowship and conduct will "die a quick death" where rough play and bad speech are allowed.  This is not just the referees' or umpiresí responsibility either.  It is also parents' and coaches' responsibility.

3. OFFICIALS How many times have you ever seen a referee or umpire change a call when he is yelled at or argued with?  Instead, you are likely to see a warning, ejection, or technical foul called.  So, for those who insist on such behavior, what is the point?  Are the non-Christian officials impressed by the "Christian" testimony of those coaches, players, or fans who do this?  Is this what Jesus would do?  Take the lead in doing the right thing!

4. APPEARANCE No one expects teams to dress in tuxedos.  But, at the other extreme, do players really need to look like gangsters?  If we are trying to emulate Christ, how about the modest apparel that is spoken of in His Word?  Modesty, not extremes, is what The Bible teaches.

5. FACILITIES Periodically, homeschool teams lose, or are priced out of, their facilities.  Why?  Though some do not want to admit it, it is often because too many people are allowed to trash the facility.  Food and beverages are consumed in prohibited locations, then turned into litter.  Locker rooms, dugouts, and bleachers are left in disarray, sometimes with broken fixtures.  Small children are allowed to run wild through buildings, often breaking, vandalizing, or stealing other people's property.  Is this conduct that honors the name of Jesus?  Should we just look the other way and make excuses, or should we take the lead in eliminating it?

6. COMMITMENTS This may be the greatest area of difficulty for homeschoolers, who are renowned for their fierce independence.  But, homeschool sports presents a great opportunity for young homeschoolers to learn first-hand about making and keeping commitments.  Every year, homeschool tournaments are hurt by teams canceling out.  Often these are small teams that suffer from members who cancel out, leaving their team with not enough players.  The ripple effect is felt all the way to the tournaments.  In the Bible, Jesus spoke of the importance of counting the cost before making a commitment.  God calls His people to make commitments - to Him, to the church, and to one another - especially in marriage.  Commitment is not a dirty word, and homeschool sports is a good place to put it into practice.

7. COMMUNICATION How many times have you called someone, only to get a recorded message, "We will call you back." When that call is returned, it represents good ethics.  But, when it is not returned, it represents poor ethics.  This is particularly odious if the recorded message purports to honor God in some way.  In that case, it becomes a poor testimony.  Be honest and straight in your communication. Don't make promises you won't keep.

Good communication is vital to running a good homeschool sports program or tournament.  Your communication - how it is done, or even if it is done, tells other people much about your faith and ethics.  For coaches, your manner of communication to players, or around players, is a matter of ethics in itself. It is hard to believe that if Jesus were coaching a team, He would scream at or berate players and officials.  And, if Jesus were in the stands with the fans, would He be hollering profane or offensive things at the officials or the opponents?  Too many Christians nowadays have let the world influence them in adopting the idea of "two wrongs make a right" and "the end justifies the means".  You will not find those principles taught in God's Word!  If Jesus were a player, would he ridicule less experienced players or taunt and trash-talk opponents?  You know the answer.  Much more could be said, but you get the idea.

The whole matter of good ethics in homeschool sports, particularly where most of it is done with a Christian emphasis, is very important.  Everyone involved needs to take a sober and honest assessment of their part and then take any steps necessary to ensure their ethics will honor Christ and benefit others.