When reflecting on my experiences at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, I realized that sports had done the most to shape me and help me learn about myself, others and God. I wanted to help other young people for whom sports was their avenue for self-discovery. Sports taught me so much and shaped me in so many ways. Not that I was great athlete. Quite the contrary. But the everyday experiences of playing sport were incredibly formational for me.
During my latter part of my time as an athletics director at Lancaster Mennonite School, I began to notice changes in the sports landscape that troubled me. It started slowly with the loss of two and three sport athletes, increased involvement of parents and a greater emphasis on club and travel sports.
Jim Smucker gave me the book, Sports: The All-American Addiction by John Gerdy and I am forever grateful to Jim for connecting me with John (who lives in Lancaster County, PA) and helping to organize a luncheon for athletics directors, coaches, officials and youth sports personnel to share ideas about what we were observing and how we might respond. For the next 10 years, I observed players, coaches and parents in a variety of sports settings to see if I could get insights into what had changed since my high school days.
I developed the sense that something had happened and many of us weren’t quite sure what it was or how to respond to it. What I observed was a loss of an understanding of the true purpose of sports – to provide life shaping experiences. And it was being replaced with an emphasis on the score of the game, the status of the travel team you are on, and ultimately an athletic scholarship(although few admit it).
I began making public presentations on the current culture of youth sports in hopes of helping parents understand what they were a part of and what could happen if focus and priorities get out of balance. One of those presentations was a radio program about families. It aired in Harrisonburg, VA where I was working as a collegiate director of athletics. Someone from MennoMedia heard the program and started the conversations with me about a book. The first meeting was in March of 2013 and the book was published in March of 2016.