I wish the The Good Sporting Life had been written 20 years ago so I could have made more of my time in sport as a Christian.
I played in the NRL for 13 years. When I started playing I was a young Christian and at the time, I didn’t really think God had much to do with sport. I knew he gave me my abilities so he deserved the credit for any success, but that was about it.
I would have loved to have been better prepared for the challenges and opportunities that sport throws at you so I could have made more of them. I would have loved to have had The Good Sporting Life as guidebook to help me think about sport and God.
I would have loved to have been better prepared for the challenges and opportunities that sport throws at you so I could have made more of them.
Stephen Liggins is someone with lots of runs on the board when it comes to sport and God. His unique experience as a high level cricketer, along with his training as a Christian make him the right person to write this book.
There are lots of things to like about this book, more than I can say in this review, but here are 4 standout themes that make it a must-read for Christians involved in sport.
1. Practice the Fundamentals
Like any good coach, Liggins majors on the fundamentals. Fundamentals in sport are those simple yet essential skills that require regular repetition to master, like passing a footy. Liggins reminds us of the importance of Christian fundamentals; staying connected with God through bible reading and prayer, and staying connected with God’s people in community. Without regular practice of these disciplines it’s easy for any Christian to lose touch with God and his priorities.
2. Know Your Opposition
We would spend hours in the video room each week watching our opposition. We wanted to know their strengths, so nothing would surprise us, and their weaknesses, so we could take advantage of them. But how much thought do Christians give to spiritual opposition we face in sport? Liggins does a video session of sorts on the opposition for Christians. For defence, he highlights the two key battlegrounds of temptation in alcohol and sexual immorality, but also points out other threats like cheating, selfishness and anger. On the attack, he points to character worthy of the gospel that can shine like a star on a dark sporting field.
3. Play to Win
There is no better feeling in sport than winning. Singing the team song in the sheds is peak happiness time. The apostle Paul loved winning too, but not games, he won people for Christ (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Liggins does a great job of highlighting the opportunities for evangelism in sport and the lasting impact it can have. He tells the story of Graham Crew, sports chaplain to the Dragons, who led a player, Brad Mackay, to faith in Jesus. Later Brad and Graham led another player, Jason Stevens, to Jesus. I can fill in the next part of the story; Jason was at Cronulla by the time I started there as a young player. His spiritual support was vital for my faith over those years and I went on to serve others and now serve as chaplain to the mighty Penrith Panthers.
4. Go For Gold
Athletes always have to have their goal in mind, especially when they train. If you don’t know why your running sand dunes at 6 in the morning and feeling like throwing up from exhaustion, you won’t last long in the game. Your goal motivates and directs all your actions until you reach it. The goal of the Christian in sport that runs through this book is the glory of God. The good sporting life is a life spent following Jesus, running the race with joy until we reach our goal in heaven. Liggins shows how this is to be desired more than gold—even much olympic gold.
Who’s it for?
I would recommend this book for Christians involved in sport. Not just players but coaches, chaplains, parents, and even spectators. Everyone involved in sport needs to be ready for sport—ready to face the challenges and opportunities it throws up and take hold of them to the glory of God.
Read a sample of The Good Sporting Life here