Passion in Our Play (Part 2)


By Nate Hartman

August 14, 2010

The rain-drenched soccer field is barren of its usual high school practices today, but mistaken is the assumption that a wet Labor Day brings a cessation of activity upon this lush, green surface. Seeking a refuge for solitude and quite contemplation, I arrived here minutes ago, only to promptly be interrupted by a rowdy group of 30 and 40-year-old men who have now laid claim to the field for a game of football. Perhaps I shouldn’t call it a game. There are no teams, as best I can distinguish; and the primary endeavor seems to be punting the football as far as one can, after which the rest of the participants engage in a wild scrum to claim the ball and the right to attempt the next awe-inspiring kick. This is no organized contest; these men, well past their glory days and uninhibited by the decline of athletic skill, are playing. There is no score, and I don’t believe that I’ll witness the declaration of a Player of the Game at the end of their festivities; they’re playing because they love it.

In Christian circles we hear much discussion of athletics being a means to “have a witness” for our Lord, to win others to Him, and to teach lessons to the participants. Though all of those goals are worthy pursuits and may be attained through an athletic experience, I would contend that playing (or coaching) a game for the sole purpose of witnessing to someone else seems a bit far-fetched. Our God created an athletic portion of our nature; akin to all creation, it is intended both for our own pleasure and for His.

Notice that the creation narrative is full of examples of God’s desire to bring joy and pleasure to His people. He lovingly and knowingly creates a world (soon to be given and entrusted to Adam) that He repeatedly declares to be good. He creates man in His own image, embedding in him the capacity to love and to create (Genesis 1:26). He blesses mankind with the ability to have children and the privilege of ruling and nurturing His creation (Genesis 1:28). He grants the blessing of a Sabbath rest (Genesis 2:2-3) and places Adam in a garden that is “pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Genesis 2:9). As the crowning gift of His creation, God then fashions Eve, given to Adam as an intimate ally, a suitable helper; and Adam declares her to be “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). Is there any doubt that God intends for us to be pleased, and that He takes great pleasure in pleasing us? 

A close friend of mine, a soccer coach, once shared with me a conversation he had with a former player. When asked why she played soccer, she said without hesitation, “I play because I couldn’t not play.” There is a love of play, rooted in us by the design of our Creator, which is essential to any participation in athletics that we might deem to be excellent.

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Nate Hartman is the director of the National Christian School Athletic Association, located in Beaver Falls, PA.  His years of involvement as a student, athlete, teacher, coach, and athletic director at Christian schools have made him passionate about athletics that "declares the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into HIs marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

This is Part 2 of a five-part series entitled "Passion in Our Play, which will be published throughout this week on the NCSAA web site.

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Republished from Passion in Play (September/October 2003) - Copyright © 2003 NCSAA

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