Balanced Approach to Sports

Monday, 1 January, 2024 - 2:38 pm


Dear Parents, 

Balance is the key to healthy living. The Rambam presents balanced living as an ideal in Hilchos Deios, and our Rebbe deepened our commitment to balance in light of chassidus starting from the Baal Shemtov. 

A famous teaching of the Baal Shemtov, quoted in HaYom Yom of 28 Shevat, is his interpretation of the posuk כי תראה חמור שונאך… עזוב תעזוב עמו, we should partner with our bodies in serving Hashem rather than crush them. 

The Rebbe encouraged healthy eating, sleeping, exercise, and playing ball to balance care for our bodies and neshomos.  The Rebbe oft-quoted teaching of the Maggid to his son, Avrohom Hamalach: אז א קליינע לעכעלע אין גוף גורם א גרויסע לאך אין דער נשמה. Can we state the importance of leading a balanced life more clearly? 

In this light, the cheder promotes sports and playing ball. However, interest and involvement in professional sports directly oppose our values. The Rebbe spoke and wrote about the national attitude to sports on many occasions and developed many angles on which it is irrational and seeded in outlandish things.  The Rebbe referred to it as idol worship and spoke about how placing physical achievement over academic achievement and giving students a scholarship for performance in sports turns humanity on its very head. 

From the device and access given from which students gain entry to sports all the way to sitting in class writing players' stats as an escape, it is harmful in so many ways that it would be impossible to list them all. 

We recognize that some parents are avid sports fans and that it is hard to push back when kids pressure you. There is also the little voice that says that it seems like a ‘kosher’ outlet. It is to this group of parents to which we write the following message. 

Occasionally, students become interested in Professional Sports as a hobby and are excited by the hype it offers, which we accept. However, It is important to note that for some cheder families, involvement in professional sports is shunned, and their value must be respected. In the mix of values at cheder, we always aim up. 

For families for whom professional sports is a positive outlet, we respect your choice. However, we feel a responsibility to share with you an aspect of involvement in Sports that shows obsessive tendencies, and we encourage you to bring balance into your child’s engagement with sports as well. 

For some students, validation from their friends is critically important. The emotional impact of students with low self-esteem seeking validation often comes to the surface in the Fifth Grade. Such students may look to professional sports as a method of gaining validation, which may lead them to obsess with it. 

Here is a list of some ways this may manifest. If you notice these behaviors in your child, please help them navigate through seeking validation through secondary areas that distract them from being the great child, Yid, and chossid they genuinely are.  

  • They repeat a play they saw with excitement as they see it as a way to gain a position in the group to be shared as soon as they see them before anyone else mentions it 
  • Push persistently to go to games and participate in sporting events 
  • Spend hours writing lists of teams and players and memorizing athletes stats 
  • Build a fantasy sports team and take the success and failure of their players personally 
  • They are interested in little else
  • Their commitment to Sports interests drives them to establish strong arguments to free them of any other responsibility so that you stop asking them to do anything and give them unlimited access.
  • I.e., “I learn all day,” so I won’t learn with you at home, “Now is me time,” “I don't learn at home,” only in school, “This is what everyone does,” So stop setting limiting expectations, etc. 

Giving our children a healthy sense of self that doesn’t depend on validation from others is at the top of every parents’ list. We give it to our children by noticing and praising their growth and maturity. Fathers play a key role in building up their children by praising with intensity and correcting gently, giving children responsibility, considering their opinions, and giving them a place around the table as they grow older. 

BH, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to impart good values to our children. In the eleventh year, they begin asserting their values. This is a time when, rather than sit back in amazement and watch how they have grown, we should stand alongside and help guide them in the years just before they begin asserting their independence, the teen years. 

Wishing you much nachas

Rabbi Levi Kaplan



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