Posts Tagged ‘Youth sports’

The Boy (my fifteen-year-old) discovered lacrosse at a very late age. He was eleven. He was able to play two years in the local youth league.

He’s a freshman in high school now. He’s already played football and has wrestled at this level. He’s working out with some friends and getting ready for lacrosse tryouts.

I have no idea if he’ll get a spot on the team. I just like the fact that he’s got a goal in mind and is going to fight hard to achieve it.

I like the fact that every coach he’s had in high school so far has encouraged his players to play other high school sports.

The CIAC, which governs middle school and high school sports in Connecticut, includes the following philosophy in its handbook:

SPECIALIZATION OF SPORTS AT AN EARLY AGE

Specialization in one sport during the middle level and high school years, to the exclusion of most others, and too often at the expense of other equally valuable and wholesome activities, is at variance with the basic philosophical premise of American education, which seeks to produce well-rounded individuals with interests and abilities in many areas. Students should be discouraged from devoting all their energies and time to a single sport, but rather should be encouraged to allow themselves the experience of more than one sport. Boards of education should advocate and enact policies which encourage students to seek broadly based athletic experiences as well as broadly based academic programs. The school athletics program as well as community based athletic programs must be kept in perspective as providing experiences of many kinds for our youth.

The objective of the greatest possible personal growth of the student is best served by a varied program of activities, academic and athletic, which keeps proper perspective on the total development of the youngster from adolescence to adulthood, and which allows the student to do and be other things as well. School boards, school administrators, athletic directors, coaches, community recreation personnel and the parents of the student-athlete all have the responsibility of insuring that the student is afforded opportunities in several areas.

The formative years should be a time of growing in mind and body, a time of expanding horizons and outlook, not of specialization and narrowing of interests.

Common sense, right? What type of coach would think he or she had the right to preach anything other than those exact words?

Folks, they are out there. They are at every level of youth sports and planted in almost every town in this state. And it disgusts me. It should disgust you as well.

This is one of thousands of articles on the subject that you can access with a simple search.

So, why am I whining about this today? I just finished telling you how The Boy has been encouraged to play a different sport every season. I just quoted the CIAC handbook. I think I noticed most of your heads nodding in agreement when I suggested it was a common sense approach.

Well, I’m pushing the keys ten times harder than normal today because I just had a discussion with a high school athlete whose coach is pounding him with requests that completely ignore the advice that is clearly printed out for every single middle and high school coach to see.

And one would assume that such advice is clearly printed for all to see because it is expected that each coach will show good judgment by following it.

So, what can be done? It’s almost impossible for the CIAC to know what each and every coach is saying to each and every athlete.

That leaves it up to you – you, the parent of that child. If your son or daughter mentions over a bowl of Wheaties that Coach Jones is upset that he or she wants to play another sport, you have an obligation to that child to have a conversation with that coach – or with your school’s Athletic Director, or with your town’s Superintendant of schools.

If it’s happening at the pre-high school level, you should immediately contact the league president or your town’s recreation department. It is a despicable act of selfishness and poor judgment for ANY coach or league to dictate or insinuate the sports that your child should be playing outside of that sport’s normal season.

Hear me now: If your child wants to play one sport exclusively and you have no issues with it, that’s your decision. But it should never be because you or your child are being pushed or coerced by a coach.

That kid I was talking about? He’s good at his sport. He has just decided that he’s got too many more years of high school left to feel like he is being bullied into playing or training for that one sport year round. He told his coach he was going to do what he wanted to do.

I hope he follows through. It would be a shame if he missed out on being able to enjoy another sport. Of course he is fifteen-years-old already. What is it with kids these days? They just can’t seem to make up their minds.

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A few random thoughts today:

I hate when I’m finished with my shower and then realize that I forgot to bring a towel into the bathroom with me. Sometimes I’ll just grab the clothes that I’ve just taken off and use them.

It snowed a bit here in the Northeast over the weekend.

My favorite station on Pandora for when I’m working from home is Acoustic New Age. Check it out sometime. I’m still looking for an app that tells Pandora that I’m still listening though.

When I die, I don’t want to be displayed in a freaking casket with people touching me (I hate being touched) and looking at my double chin and how my goatee doesn’t fill in as nicely as George Clooney’s did in some movie I saw him in. Just sprinkle me somewhere and slap my nameplate on a bench along the bike trail.

I have a NY Giants football card collection with cards dating back to 1948. There are at least nine albums up there in the closet. Kids don’t collect cards like they once did. I remember riding my bike down to Midi Mart or Frank’s Stationary with a pocket of change and then sniffing the fresh cardboard and stale gum. Ah, the scent of a… football card.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr. That’s my favorite quote.

If your kid is looking for a great African American figure to talk about in class during Black History Month, try the turn of the century cyclist, Marshall “Major” Taylor. He’s a world champion who most people have never heard about.

Hold on a second please. Where’s that bottle of water? I need a sip – just a sip. I didn’t think five minutes of typing would make me that thirsty.

Remember what Peter Parker’s uncle told him. And remember that if Peter hadn’t let that bad guy go, poor Uncle Ben would still be alive today.

At 49, I still feel like I’m a work in progress. Is that bad?

I can’t stand how impatient some of those investors on Shark Tank get. Sometimes Mark Cuban will say, “I’m a basketball guy so I’m giving you 24 seconds to make up your mind.” Holy cow! It takes me longer than that to punch in my four numbers at the ATM to get twenty bucks, let alone decide my entire future.

A brand new friend of mine emailed a wonderful poem to me last week. It’s called, Please Hear What I Am Not Saying. It’s about the masks we sometimes wear and the words we sometimes speak and how we are often just begging to be heard – to be seen – to be helped.

I’ve been writing a weekly column dedicated to issues surrounding youth sports for about a year and a half. There are a growing number of parents who are unhappy with how some of their community’s programs are being run. Most parents are worried about the repercussions that their child might ultimately suffer if they become one of those parents and express their concerns.

A Sporting Dad’s View covers many of these important topics. Take a click over and check it out. I’d love to hear what you are doing in your town to address some of these issues. And what would you think of a forum where an outside group would come in and meet with an organization’s board members, coaches, and parents with the mission of creating an environment where every child can thrive?

Yes Pandora, I’m STILL listening. Where’s that bottle of water? I need another swig.

As mentioned yesterday in a Facebook post, last night was the final game that I’ll watch any child of mine play in at the youth level before entering high school.

Of course I’d still consider high school sports as youth sports – but at a much more demanding level. The innocence is virtually tucked away in a locker or duffel bag of stinky items.

Mom and Dad are no longer carrying water bottles out to the field if they run out of fluids by halftime. They are not being coached by a family friend who you’ve looked to for guidance since kindergarten.

The coaches are now paid to win. The coaches care about wins first and the emotional needs of your child somewhere further down the list. That’s not to say they don’t care about our kids. The good ones do. But you probably won’t be hanging out at Coach Frank’s wife’s birthday party/picnic talking about how far your kid has come along and how he’ll be given a chance to play that position he’s been asking about all season.

It’s part of the maturation process that they must go through entering into the next level. And it makes you realize that time is pulling you by both arms and even the legs that pedaled you 30 miles on your bike yesterday can’t slow it down by much.

What makes this even worse is that this boy of mine is the last of five passing through this house on his way to figuring out how to get the heck out. So in four years – my job that began as a nineteen-year-old will change drastically.

Sure I have a granddaughter, and a grandson on the way. But it’s not the same. No more being in charge of screwing lives up of those living under my jurisdiction.

Yes, yes, yes, I know – I’m still four years from that time and maybe even more depending on how much he grows to hate us between now and then.

Jeez, now that I think about it more, what the heck will I have to write about then? It’ll have to be about the grandchildren and whatever dopey little kids I encounter while chasing them around.

I say “dopey” as I would use “silly” or “funny” although it does seem a little harsh now that I read it back. But “dopey” can be cute up until a certain age I guess.

The Boy has a dopey friend which is why it came to mind. He never caught on that we thought he was “dopey.” The problem is he’s STILL dopey to this day!

Oh I wish I could share some of what got him labeled in the first place. I won’t though. At least not now. But I swear if this kid is still a dope at 18 – I’m going to warn all of you.

I’ve strayed far away from my original topic. I could very well be avoiding the inevitable which eventually leads to 20-30 years down the road and my own death (if I even make it that long).

Well, at least this gem of a blog entry will be here for the grandkids to read and realize what a dope they had for a grandfather.

The bad news for all of my children and grandchildren is that I can’t keep my dopey thoughts in my head.

 

A local radio host made a comment on his show last week that I’d like to disagree with.

A caller commented on how soft our kids are becoming. His example was that even after a season where his son’s team had not won a game, each child was still given a trophy. He went on to joke that if they had won one game a ticker tape parade would have probably been held in their honor.

The host agreed with him and called it the “wussification” of our youth.

He continued that the practice of every child making a team after the age of 9 or 10 was also a contributing factor to turning these children into wussies.

Here is the gist of the host’s point. “They (our children) need to realize that not everyone is going to be good enough to make the team. And how is this going to prepare them as adults when not every person is going to get the job they are after?”

I’m not sure where to begin. Perhaps I should state that I’ve been involved in both coaching and administrative positions in youth sports for over twenty years.

So let’s start with my firm belief that there should be a spot for every child in youth sports leading up until at least high school. I understand there are elite travel teams and that’s fine. For the players that do not make the cut however, they need to land on another team in a less competitive or equally as competitive environment.

Robbing our children of a chance to have FUN playing a sport regardless of their skill level is not going to send them into adulthood ill prepared. In fact it is at this very level where a majority of these children will have the only opportunities in their lives to play organized sports. Because yes, once high school rolls in, it becomes a competition to win the playing spots that are available.

I’m here to tell you that the playing field is usually not a level one when it comes to the fairness of how a child is judged. This is the premise to my contention and the lessor known and more controversial aspect to youth sports… the ugly politics some parents use to pollute many of our leagues. For those of you that have not witnessed it, let me give you some examples.

We’ll take baseball. The highest level typically is filled with 11 and 12 year-old players. And quite often there are barely enough spots to enable them all to play at that level together with the friends and classmates that they’ve been with since the age of five. However, Mr Coach wants his 10 year-old son along with his buddy’s 10 year-old son to play together on his team. These two children, while perhaps talented enough to play up a level, should in my opinion yield to the older players. But Mr. Coach has now taken an opportunity away from two deserving 11 year-olds who are told that they need another year at the lower level to sharpen their skills. They are in essence cut from a team of their friends and peers. In all reality this move is going to put them further behind and in some cases to the point where it can take them a couple of years to catch up to the other kids in their age group. Many times the child becomes discouraged and will leave the sport before realizing his full potential. I’ve seen it happen more times than I care to share with you. It’s wrong.

Now for the most alarming scenario of them all. And if you don’t think this exists my dear readers, you have not been paying attention. We have before us a group of three overzealous youth soccer coaches. They have egos much larger than any parent coaching a youth sports team should be allowed. All three of these egos are aboard for the ride so they need lots of space. They have been “grooming” a group of kids to become the next World Cup Champions. They play multiple sports together. When one of the less-talented “outsiders” makes a mental or a physical mistake on the playing field he is yelled at as he comes off the field to the point of tears. After the game he is ridiculed in front of his teammates. More tears. He drops out of the sport because he is deemed by this group of Knuckleheads to not be good enough to succeed on THEIR team. They have systematically squeezed him out. Now open your eyes and take a good look at this castaway. HE IS SIX YEARS OLD.

Fast forward four years. He is now ten. He’s been playing in the backyard with Dad and a few other of the neighborhood kids. Hey he’s actually really good and he’s regained his confidence. He’s ready to give it another shot! Good for him right? Aww but guess what? He’s been out of the loop for too long. While he’s probably good enough to make the elite team, he’s been long forgotten by the Knuckleheads who now control that division in the league. But he can play down a level. We wouldn’t want to put him with the other ten year-olds after such a long layoff, that would be an example of the wussification of youth sports.

Not only is it wrong, but it is proof that when an organization is run by a group that has its own agenda in mind, the children will end up paying the price.

This only begins to support the need to let every child play team sports regardless of skill-set. There is plenty of time once high school begins for our children to learn that as they get older they can expect the stakes to become higher. It’s all part of the natural progression towards adulthood.

Childhood is where we learn our likes and dislikes. It’s where we are allowed the mistakes and second chances that won’t affect the outcome of our lives. It’s where we discover courage and fear and about striking out or scoring touchdowns. But how would we have ever harnessed the power or our full potential if SMACK in the middle of the big experiment we were told to pack up and go home?

Finally I’d like to give my thoughts on another topic that the host and this particular caller talked about. The host indicated that political correctness and its intrusion upon old school sporting terms was getting out of control. His example was “suicide sprints”. It’s when kids sprint back and forth on the court or field from line to line. He laughed about his son’s coach changing the name of the exercise to “lines”. I wonder if the host has ever had to deal personally with the horrors of suicide. Or if he realizes the epidemic of teen suicides in this country. It may seem silly to some but not to the family that has been through it. Not to the sibling of a brother that is now gone. Does he need to hear, “Ok it’s time for suicides!”. Of course not. Is it a big deal that we rename such sprints? Of course not.

Many, many years ago my oldest son’s best friend was a “little person”. His mother couldn’t understand why the local youth football league had to have the word “midget” in its title. She even lobbied for change. Put yourself in her position. Forget about everything else that surrounds these discussions and imagine if you were the parent of a “little person”. Do you not think that he’s already getting teased enough and having the word tossed around in a derogatory manner? Do you not think it’s a bit hurtful to hear the word being associated with a circus side-show?

Thirteen years ago I joined a local youth football league’s board of directors in another town. My first motion was to replace “midget” with “youth”. It passed unanimously.

Do I have all the answers to correct the problems that I’ve spoken about today? Not all but probably 75% of them. But it takes a group of open-minded adults to make the proper changes. It takes checking egos at the front door. And it takes just a little bit of compassion and common sense. Until that perfect storm can converge and conquer the mentality of the Knuckleheads, youth sports will continue to be held hostage by their reckless egos.