The Real Meaning of Sports

This issue of Sojourners focuses on sports, faith, and human rights. But I am going to write in a little more personal way, as a Little League Baseball coach.

I’ve coached my son Luke in baseball since he was 5 years old, and now he is 10. I just started coaching my other son, Jack, last season when he was 5. Coaching my kids and their friends has been one of the great experiences of my life. The community that gets created around sports and school becomes what my wife, Joy, calls “the village,” where everybody is looking out for each other. If I am “the coach,” Joy has become the “village priest” when necessary.

It’s that relationship with the kids and their families that has been so rich and sustaining. When I am coaching, I am in “the zone,” and nothing from the rest of my life interferes. I actually schedule my spring and fall travel now around baseball. This has become sacred, even contemplative, space for me, when I get totally focused on the kids and their game. Of course, this is Washington, D.C.—I’ve actually had reporters come up to me on the sidelines and say something like, “Aren’t you Jim Wallis? I’m the new White House correspondent for a national newspaper. Do you have a reaction to what happened yesterday?” I just stare back incredulously, “I’m coaching! Call me at the office tomorrow!”

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Sojourners Magazine August 2009
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