The perfect sport is the theme this week, but whenever sports come to mind for me, I can’t help but feel a sense of resentment. You see, as a parent, I have spent the past decade and a half trying to protect my family from the egregious encroachment of sports into our lives, an inevitability as sports have become more and more of a monstrous entity in today’s world.
I think my feelings about sports became crystalized a couple of years ago as I was listening to National Public Radio as esteemed sportswriter Frank DeFord praised the state of sports for young athletes today, impressed that these kids are now fast-tracked and forced to specialize early and play year-round.
Sports leagues are now targeted for those few who excel, rather than the many who merely do well. This saddens me. For those of us who have watched our children be forced to choose or lose in a sport by the ripe old age of eight or nine, the reality of sports for children is ugly. Organized sports has become the unwanted mistress in the lives of most families in America today. And there’s very little we can do about it, short of pulling our kids out of these programs altogether.
Mr. DeFord’s beliefs reflect the warped attitude of a core group of sports-obsessed people who have created an environment for young athletes that is both hostile to their families and detrimental to the children. In this era of sports-at-all-costs, all sense of balance has been lost in order to enhance the skills for the oh-so-few athletes who have a chance at a scholarship or pro career.
What fast-tracking means is that kids must chose by second or third grade to essentially eat, drink, breath, sleep and dream baseball, gymnastics, swimming, whatever. It means no more music lessons, it means no more playing at home after school. It means the end of family dinners together, and often weekends as well. Nowadays, you’re hard-pressed to find kids just playing at home with their friends. Because most are forced to devote all of their free time to this all-important Sport of Choice.
My family’s dilemma is shared by many these days. Our kids, decent athletes, love sports. They prefer a challenging level of play. But in order to achieve this, they are forced to give up their lives to the game.
When my youngest was nine, she started playing on a travel soccer team. This meant three practices weekly, sometimes two or more games a weekend, often hours away from our home.
After driving three hours each way for a game, she confessed to me, “I’d rather lose a game at home than have to sit in the car for six hours, even if we win.”
This from a child who adored her team, her coach, the game.
Why must a child sacrifice her childhood for someone else’s elusive goal of scholarship and glory? So that a select few will be able to earn obscene amounts of money before they’re old enough to know how to handle it?
Frank DeFord was right: the premier young athletes of our time have reaped the benefits of the exceedingly rigorous schedules that have become mandatory for all. But he’s wrong to think this is a good thing. Take it from me: it’s not. More is not usually better. Most of the time it’s just too much.
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((¸¸. ·´ .. ·´Jenny G. -:¦:-
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