Missy Franklin vs. Gabby Douglass

Last night I had the opportunity to watch the Olympics “live” (I know that technically that is not true, but its more “live” than 2 degrees removed on the DVR) with my 4 year old. His nap “promoted” him to watching gymnastics and swimming “live” with Mom and Dad. 

When I look at him, I wonder how good he will really be at baseball (he is better than most 4 year olds I know-though I confess to know a dearth of four year olds). Right now I think he’s pretty good. But does that mean a decent player, an all-star, high school standout out, college scholarship, etc….?

Parents want the best for their children. That is typically the case and it should be so. However “their best” can present quite a problem when “their best” becomes the ever-consuming-yet-leaving-you-drained idol that “their best” most often is. For the kids, but more often for the parents.

As a parent, will I be willing to do all that I can to make sure he is able to do his “best?” There might be good things which I should ask myself will I be willing to sacrifice? Like fishing, watching football, sleep, etc..

But there is another pertinent question for parents: should I do all that I can do so that he can do his “best?” What should parents sacrifice and what should they not sacrifice? I’m at somewhat of an advantage (in my opinion) in that I’m a pastor, and so travel leagues taking Connar away from worship on Sunday are an impossibility. So will he then be able to do his best? Most parents jump to the conclusion and say “no.” But I would caution folks to not jump to such a conclusion.

For many Olympic athletes not in communist countries, yet still in high school, the question really resides with the parents. Will parents do ALL that is possible to see the young athlete succeed?

When that “best” is not the all consuming idol of power, significance, fame, pleasure, I do think that it is possible to do your “best” without taking the normal “at all costs” sacrifices to which most parents willingly offer. 

Let me give you two examples of different approaches, yet both seem to have done their “best.”

1.) American gymnast Gabby Douglass moved from Virginia Beach to Des Moines, Iowa, to get the best training possible. Wow. Her older sister had to convince her to keep training, when she clearly wanted to quit. Looks like it paid off as Gabby is competing in the individual all around competition in place of favorite Jordyn Wieber. Doing her best however, meant sacrificing much of her childhood.

2.) By contrast, let’s look at Missy Franklin. Missy is just a teenager. An incredible swimmer already with a gold medal, she’s still just a normal kid. When questioned about moving away to Florida (would have been tempting for me!) or California from Colorado because it wasn’t a “swimming state,” she responded, “Why leave family or school or friends?” In other words, the pursuit of swimming was not an “at all costs” thing. It wasn’t an idol upon which she would sacrifice other more important things. She stayed at home, even resisting the sponsors which would have precluded her from competing on her high school swim team. She didn’t sacrifice her childhood.

Now whether her parents had a say in the whole “we’re not moving so you can do your best at swimming” decision, I don’t know. The interview was silent on this part. But perhaps they had parented her in such a way that “her best” didn’t become an idol? She could do her “best” in Colorado, alongside family and friends who would love her even when she fell short of her best.

Was her training stunted because of inferior coaching? Doesn’t seem to be. This girl is gifted and a hard worker. In this case, that seems more important than the “opportunities” she could have had elsewhere.

I wish more Christian parents would think through these two questions more carefully

1.) Is honoring Jesus more important than my/my kids’ performance?

2.) If my kid is really gifted and works really hard, can he/she still compete at the highest level, even when my commitment to Christ may preclude some “opportunities” which would regularly take him/her away from corporate worship?

We see the answer to the latter question is yes. Talent and hard work makes some “opportunities” superfluous. You can say NO and still see your kid succeed. 

Just some things to think through when we look at our little ones and genuinely want for them to be the best that they can.

3 thoughts on “Missy Franklin vs. Gabby Douglass

  1. Yes these are good questions. I've begun to think through some of these things with my oldest, who gets his athleticism from his mom and seems to excel at soccer (my favorite sport – which increases the temptation!).

  2. Alex-Yeah, good for me to start thinking through, even though mine are younger. Will actually have to put this stuff into practice when they get older….Providential blessings to you my friend. Glad you have a little soccer player on your hands (or should I say feet?)Paula-Yep, simple and timeless truth that I need constant reminder. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s