If you are an avid fanatic of youth sports, you may want to stop reading right now because we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
Having three kids and promoting healthy lifestyles for our family, we often find our Saturdays sitting in a folding chair watching some sort of sporting event going on in front of us. I won’t lie—it’s really not my favorite way to spend my weekends. I enjoy watching children play and learn teamwork and sportsmanship and get a little exercise, and I really love watching them have fun. But it seems any more that’s not the name of the game.
My youngest daughter plays soccer. She is seven years old. Seven. That’s it. If given the opportunity, she would do cartwheels and make up song and dance routines with her friends during practice and has been known to spend entire sections of games simply jumping up and down, wrapped up in the excitement of the field. She’s a decent player, but I’m not sure she really cares about the outcome of the game.
“What was the score?” someone will ask.
“Dunno,” she replies, and I agree. Unless there is a scoreboard, I don’t know the outcome of any of my children’s games because at the end of the day, I really don’t care. Win or lose, for me the idea of youth recreation sports is just that—recreation. There hopefully is some element of learning and enjoyment for each and every one of those little girls.
And maybe they are having fun. Maybe somehow they can block out the screams of their coach and the parents on the sidelines who overanalyze each play (again, she’s seven) and yell and throw their hands in the air in disappointment. At a recent game, the opposing team’s coach was so vocal and borderline obnoxious, I thought that if I had them, I’d offer him a throat lozenge and a stiff drink after the game. I don’t think he ever stopped shouting at these girls and when my own kid kicked the ball in the wrong direction, he whipped off something that was hanging around his neck, threw it down, and yelled at the referee for not calling it.
Sadly, I’m afraid this is becoming the norm, and it happens to more than just us. A man I know who is kind and generous had to take over coaching his son’s whole team last year because the head coach called him a demon and quit his volunteer position and moved to California in anger.
I understand that sports are big business, but these kids are little people. They can’t even do multiplication or read thick books, and for many of them, playing sports is a just a way to spend time with friends and enjoy the passing of time while they grow. If my kid makes it to a professional sports team, I may change my tune. But for now, I’ll sing it loudly: let the children play.
Originally written 9.27.15