Youth Sports: Lack of Common Courtesy

Member Group : Freindly Fire

Another Mother’s Day has passed, and with it the usual activities: Brunch, cookouts, a walk in the park with Mom. And sports games.

No, not a family outing at the Phils, but youth sports: Baseball, lacrosse, field hockey, soccer. You name it, they’re playing it. Do mothers love watching their children play? Sure. But is it really necessary to play on Mother’s Day? Is nothing sacred?

Have we lapsed so far into vicariously living through our children that common sense — and common courtesy — are now nonexistent? Are we so far gone that we can’t even assign a few sports "blackout" dates when family should come first? Sadly, yes.

And while coaches and league commissioners are largely responsible for these warped priorities, the ultimate blame must be placed on parents. As upset as some are that their Mother’s Day, Independence Day and Memorial Day holidays are blown to accommodate sports schedules, most refuse to say "no." Instead, they go along with the insanity, which only serves as an enabler, ensuring that things will get worse.

And they have. Much worse.

Playing sports is wonderful for children, but it can be carried too far, such as parents who permit their child to play three and four sports per season. Not only does this rip apart families, but it deprives children of the one thing they need, and want, the most: Just being a child. As important as organized sports are, it is even more valuable to play Wiffle ball, capture the flag, cards, and cops and robbers — though they better do that last one quickly, before it’s outlawed, but that another story.

Worse than the hyper-schedules is the inexcusable behavior of some coaches and parents, and the politically correct social-engineering that is ever more prevalent in youth sports. Consider:

Extreme Coaching: Recently, I was witness to a rotund, loud-mouthed head baseball coach chewing out a player so intensely, 3 inches from his face, that the berating could be heard three towns over. That humiliating barrage didn’t teach the player anything, since he was in tears and only 7. But the show had just begun. The coach then proceeded to publicly scream at his "third base coach" (aka volunteer parent) for not sending a runner home. To his credit, that guy exercised self-control, choosing not to knock out fatboy’s teeth.

Then there are those who play "Daddy" and "Mommy" ball, becoming coaches just to ensure their child makes the "A" team, starts every game, gets the most playing time and wins the awards. Merit and ability sit the bench while favoritism wins the day, poisoning what should have been a fruitful and fun experience.

While there are still many coaches who do their best to teach fundamentals in a "normal" way, it seems that an increasing number get into coaching not for the children, but themselves. A power trip, they are either reliving their glory days or, more likely, making up for the glory days they never had. To those folks, a piece of advice: Screaming at little children, having a heart attack on the sidelines and otherwise acting like a jackass doesn’t make you a jock. And it’s a horrible example for the children — the only ones who matter. Continued…

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Extreme parenting: Orthopedic surgeons will tell you that children should never play the same sport for more than three consecutive months, since that invites injury to their still-growing bodies.

Yet, the number of sports-related injuries, such as torn rotator cuffs, is rising substantially. Why? Because too many parents live in la-la land, convinced their child is the next Roy Halladay, Pele or LeBron James. So they sign up their "star" for several leagues (simultaneously), often hire a personal trainer and run their children ragged all year-round. And then have the gall to get angry when an injury sidelines their child.

Additionally, many place immense pressure on their children to win sports scholarships to high school and college. So when 9-year-olds talk about such things, you know it’s gotten out-of-control.

Political correctness: Opposite coaches running up the score just to humiliate an opponent and make themselves feel superior, we have coaches and leagues that immediately jump to "mercy rules," turning off scoreboards and telling players not to score when an opponent falls behind by several goals.

Talk about confusing young players. Practice diligently, execute on the field, yet do the opposite of all you’ve learned — simply because you were successful? That is the antithesis to what sports are supposed to teach.

There are, of course, ways to be sporting when beating an opponent. Prolific scorers can be placed on defense or in goal (though cutting their playing time, solely because they are good, is wrong). A classy football team will not pass the ball when up big, but it doesn’t give up. And the game doesn’t end prematurely just because of a lopsided score. To do so would be grossly unfair to both teams.

But we have become a society where "everyone gets a trophy." Individual and team achievements are whitewashed so as not to hurt the feeling of nonchampions. Everyone and everything must be homogenized, a "spread the wealth" mentality whereby awards are doled out not by merit — by who is best — but by who hasn’t won yet. Far be it for a player to win MVP in two sports, as that is deemed "unfair." There’s a term for mandating equality: Communism. And all along I thought we beat the Soviets.

The end result is a closet full of dusty trophies, statues with absolutely no meaning.

The longer-term effect is more chilling: A dysfunctional generation, expecting everything yet prepared for nothing. When faced by that thing called The Real World, they respond dismally. America cannot fight a war without bowing to political correctness. Business is suffering as jobs are outsourced to those not expecting entitlements. College graduates, expecting six-figure salaries, find themselves adrift, lost because of an inability to cope with life’s challenges after discovering that the "trophy days" are over.

Sports used to teach children priceless lessons to make them successful in life. How to win graciously. How to lose with one’s chin up, a motivation to work harder to achieve victory the next time. The message that reward only comes with effort and that healthy competition makes us better. Continued…

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Life is a series of wins and losses, of passing and failing. You pass or fail in school, your job, marriage, as a parent. But those lessons are being sidelined and we are losing the game.

Free of political correctness, asinine coaches and "helicopter" parents hovering over their children, sports, in its purest form, is the best teacher. Teamwork, camaraderie, competition, and the incentive to be the best — these are the values America once embraced and they made us the envy of the world.

Somewhere along the way, we have lost that playbook and if we don’t find it soon, starting with youth sports, we will be watching the rest of the world from the penalty box.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. He can be reached at [email protected].