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November 29, 2005

Comments

MaureenM

The key phrase is "those girls who want to continue the tradition..." If yours don't want to, don't bother with the meeting. If not enough want to then the school will be the "one year wonder". No shame there, either.

Dan

In all sports at virtually all levels there is always a divide between the hard core super-competitive types and the more laid back "it's just a game" types. That's life. When it comes to sports I've always been in the "it's just a game" camp, yet I would say that those who are more competitive have added, not detracted, from my experience. The presence of those who are more competitive give the games more backbone.

Maclin Horton

I thought the cult of school athletics was pretty overdone when I was in high school almost forty years ago. It seems to be downright crazed now, at least in some places. To say that winning is over-emphasized doesn't really communicate the sense you get from some of these people that any kid who doesn't approach sports with the single-mindedness of a suicide bomber is unworthy of participating.

And then on the other hand you have the "all have won, and all must have prizes" mentality. America, land of extremes.

thomas tucker

I have been watching this phenomenon as well. Many parents get into that cycle of going to more and more games, more and more clinics, and going father and farther awya for tournaments. With multiple kids in a household, it really gets crazy.
Just the other day I told my wife that parents who just want their kids to play and have fun should form their own league, and I think they should. Don't be held hostage to the crazies who want to run everything to the utmost degree.

Susan Peterson

One of my daughters played soccer and I didn't even know it was of any special importance to her until she was named MVP as a senior. I went to her last game, which was after my nursing school was over, leaving me free to do so. I am glad she played and was good at it, but there is no way I could have invested any extra time or money into it myself at that time.

My youngest daughter wanted to play soccer but didn't make the high school team. They had previously had two teams, with a second squad which played the smaller schools in the league, but now didn't have the coach for it. She handled the disappointment well; I was a bit upset, as I thought some physical activity would be healthy for her.

That daughter is a terrific skier. One year she was on the race team at a local ski area, but although she did averagely well at the races, our family couldn't compete in other areas. We couldn't afford the expensive racing suits. We had trouble getting her to the meets, as I had to work night shifts at the hospital on weekends and often couldn't get out on time in the morning to get her there, and my husband was resistant to the idea. He took her to a few, but wouldn't stay to watch. I would get out in time to pick her up. The other parents were always there, usually both parents. The other parents were usually dedicated skiers themselves.The mothers seemed mostly to be stay at home mothers who could pick up their kids from school and take them straight to the slopes several afternoons a week. The other kids clearly had more money than we did also, had several pairs of skies for differnt types of racing and snow conditions. My daughter abruptly quit near the end of the season, saying that she loved to ski and to ski fast, but couldn't handle all the competitiveness and bragging about times, clothes, and equipment.

She is still a terrific skier, says she learned a lot in her year on the race team, but wants to ski for fun. For a while I felt like a failure for not being able to support her better, but she doesn't seem to feel bad about it.

I would say to the writer that she ought to ask her daughters how they really feel about it. If they really want to go all out for basketball, maybe other parents will pick them up for extra practices etc. However if the writer can't afford basketball camp, she can't,and shouldn't go into debt or not pay other bills in order to do so. She could just stay home from the meeting, or she could get up and say, Hey, I think basketball should be fun, the girls should play as hard as they can when on the court, but it isn't a life or death issue whether they win championships or not, they ought to pursue other interests and keep up with their schoolwork as well, and not have basketball monopolize their time and energy.
Somebody ought to say that, in my opinion, even if it is going against the flow. Maybe there are other parents who are feeling railroaded into this as well.
Susan Peterson

kath

Most towns have a pretty good variety of leagues kids can join -- "travel" or "high school feeder" leagues versus rec leagues. High school sports are supposed to be competitive -- the problem we are seeing these days isn't that things have gotten "too competitive", rather, rather, it's about a loss of sportsmanship. Sportsmanship used to be one of the cardinal virtues of American life (and not just in sports -- it's about respecting your teachers, your parents, listening to coach, treating others fairly whether in sports or in the classroom or in the family or in the boardroom).

Sports is also about suffering -- too many parents these days play mamabear and want to protect their kids from emotional pain. If a kid wants to go out for the more competitive team, but doesn't have the talent, more power to her; but she might not make the team, and that's part of growing up. Sometimes it's not fair. It hurts to get cut, or to not get much playing time; but that's part of life. Parents should help kids with that process rather than enable the kids in a feeling that they're the victim of some injustice. Sometimes it's a matter of going to coach and saying "what can I work on to get better so I can get more playing time?" (and then doing it). Somtimes it's a matter of accepting that life's not fair. It's usually a combination. Parents also need to realize that some kids would rather not go through that process (they'd rather just have fun, which may mean joining a rec league) -- and that's a great choice, too. But that doesn't make the super competitive kids, or their parents, BAD PEOPLE (of course there are abuses). Some of the worst abuses I've seen are from the parents whose kids aren't that great, who would really rather be playing rec, but Mom and/or Dad are CONVINCED that kid is the next great thing. Any slight (in the form of not a lot of playing time or getting cut) is an INJUSTICE! And instead of being mature parents and guiding their kid through the learning and growing process, they blame.

JP

I wouldn't make too much of it. In Indiana, girls athletics is catching up to boys athletics in terms of expecatations and intensity. Winning the state is a big thing, especially in small towns. There is no way you can control the level of athletics specialization that some families will foster on thier children. Once a school wins state, there is an expectation for a repeat performance, and many parents will encourage thier children to attend all of the mini camps, aau camps, etc... At the end of the road it's not only a state championship that bekons, but big time NCAA schools such as Tennesse and Notre Dame.

It's too bad that the casual athlete is left out of it; however, male athletes have had to contend with this for eons.

CMick

Does anyone else run into those people who skip work or drive two hours because they feel they *must* attend each one of their child's games?

I'm just asking because when I was smaller and played sports or had different dance performances, my parents did not feel obligated to attend all these events, nor did I feel I was being cheated when they weren't there.

But, I'm getting a constant guilt trip from a particular person now for not attending games of my younger siblings or my in-laws. I don't really see the point in my going, but this person is making me feel as though I'm sinning by not scheduling my evenings around these events.

dachano

I am unsure if this is a public or private school, and if the letter came from the school or the parents who invested all the time and money into their girls' basketball careers. It seems that if the letter came from the school, there are bigger problems there than just the pressure of this middle school basketball program. I understand that an athletic program from any school has its own "boosters" who seem to run the show and dictate the rules.

There seems to be a bigger lesson to be learned here for your reader. Whether or not this girl wants to continue playing on this team, I think her parents need to go to the meeting and express their concerns. The support they receive or lack of it from other parents will give them a clear idea of what they may be getting into or out of...

Marie

"Most towns have a pretty good variety of leagues kids can join -- "travel" or "high school feeder" leagues versus rec leagues."

That is true in many places, but probably not in a town of 500.

"High school sports are supposed to be competitive -- the problem we are seeing these days isn't that things have gotten "too competitive", rather, rather, it's about a loss of sportsmanship."

The problem in our community IS that youth sports -- high school and otherwise -- are too competitive. There are all-star and travel soccer teams for children who can barely tie their own shoes. By the time they get to high school, these kids are specialists. They play one sport, and they play it year-round. The high school freshman who hasn't been playing at that level doesn't have a chance at making the school team, and most of the club/county/community teams for that age group are aimed at elite rather than recreational athletes.
My only suggestion to the basketball mom is to look beyond the "ball" sports; soccer, basketball, and baseball/softball seem to be the worst offenders around here. Swimming, tennis, golf, track -- the "lifetime" sports -- are often more accessible to the casual athlete. Perhaps it is because these sports don't offer as many college scholarships and hence are not as popular with those parents who believe that spending $50,000 on coaching, fees, equipment, and travel in order to get $30,000 or less in scholarship money is a good deal.

john c

In all sports at virtually all levels there is always a divide between the hard core super-competitive types and the more laid back "it's just a game" types. (emphasis mine).

You're talking about my old team, the Winnipeg "Loserpeg" Jets.

Philip

The key to excelling at any athletic endeavor whether it be bball, football, soccer, skiing, cycling, etc. is competing. There is something about an actual competitive event that hours of practice can't simulate (even though necessary). Any coach worth his salt will encourage the athletes to compete or enter as many races as possible. In the suburbs, this is accomplished by throwing out money in the form of camps, tournaments, city leagues, etc. In the inner city it is accomplished by participating in thousands of pickup games. If your kid truly wants to excel, then s/he will do whatever it takes to do well. Parents that care about their kids will help out as much as they can whether they have lots of money, or little. If the child isn't interested in dedicating the time necessary to excel, and the school has a large enough pool of people trying out, then the kid won't make the team. I think this is a good thing because I know from personal experience that sports suck and are no fun when you are playing with people that take it less seriously than you do. There are always less competitive leagues to participate in, no matter what level you want to play at.

Mike Petrik

As a guy who has always loved athletics -- both as a player and as a spectator -- I see much wisdom in kath's post. I also agree with Marie that parents are steering their kids to over-specialize and coaches are co-conspirators. The demise of true recreational sports really is a sad fact. That said, this phenomenon has actually had an interesting positive side effect regarding high school sports. Statistically, a greater percentage of high school students play on a high school athletic team than ever before. Two contributing causes are (i) the increase in the number of sports played, especially for girls and (ii) specialization. In my era the same very athletic guys played pretty much all the sports and squeezed most everyone else out. Today the specialization discussed above actually opens spots up for more student athletes. We see very few multiple letter athletes today as compared to prior generations. The high school my kids attended had over 70% of the kids play a varsity sport prior to graduation. That is at least twice my the rate I experienced in high school. Since I went to an all guys high school the reason cannot be assigned to the growth in girls sports. This, I think, is a good thing. The price being paid is kids often don't experience opportunities to enjoy all sorts of sports, as we did. In the end, while I am less than thrilled about that development, I view it as a cloud with a pretty nice silver lining. I am more troubled by the lack of sportsmanship to which kath referred. My football coaches would have benched us in a NY minute for engaging in the kind of trash talking that is now routine. This is a failure of coaching in my view.

sarah

At what point does a legacy become an obligation, a burden?

I sure wouldn't want my kids to feel they HAD to uphold someone else's idea of achievement at the cost of their own personal direction in life. The problem is that the athletics in this case are being defined in a very high-stakes, high-pressure way, and leave no room for enjoying the sport in any other way save winning, again, the top spot.

This reminds me of the Soviet/East European girls' gymnastics programs. Yikes. Talk about out for blood.

Gene H

In a town of 500, I doubt there is any other league to play in. I grew up in a town of 700, and if you wanted to play organized sports, the high school team was it.

I agree with the advice above that the reader should discuss the letter with her daughter and talk about how committed she wants to be to the sport. If she doesn't want the pressure of peak performance 24/7, then trying out for the team will be a nightmare--worse if she makes the team.

Competitive sports are wonderful, as long as good sportsmanship is taught and everything is kept in perspective. And there's nothing like encouraging excellence in your endeavors, but it sounds like the coaches here may be losing their perspective slightly.

Sr. Lorraine

Across the street from us is a private school with a skating rink. As soon as hockey season opens, every Sunday at 5:30 AM a long line of cars crawls up the street as parents drop off their kids for practice.
I can't help but wonder if they'd ever get up that early to go to church.... Priorities?

Marie

"I can't help but wonder if they'd ever get up that early to go to church.... Priorities?"

I confess that we drop off our son at swim practice at 6 or 7 am on Sunday mornings. (On weekdays, it's 5 am...) Pool time, like rink time, is at a premium, and many teams can practice on weekends only in the wee hours before the facility opens to the public.
We also pick him up early from practice so that he has time to shower and eat before serving at Mass. He knows it's non-negotiable, and has no problems telling the coach that he has to get to Mass. It is possible to do both.

Cathleen

My kids have all played multiple sports..some just for fun, and some pretty competitively. I took my cues from them...if they wanted to move into the more competitive levels of the game, and I could manage it, I let them. It seems to have worked well for all of us.

Although there was the occasional obnoxious parent, the overwhelming majority of the parents I encountered were not. Many of our fondest memories are from the kids' sports...good times at games, weekend trips to tournaments, fun times with the other players, their parents and friends. We just steered clear of those players and parents who didn't know how to enjoy the games.

My kids love competition. Their best coaches were those who pushed the kids to achieve what they didn't think they could...the worst were those who were too laid back. They appreciated those coaches that believed in them, and coached them to their full potentials. We only ever encountered one coach who was unreasonable and obnoxious... my daughter quit the team because she couldn't stand him. It really was no big deal.

Fr. Totton

Sr. Lorraine,

That was my first thought too! I am glad to hear a parent like Marie speak up on that. I fear she may be in the minority. This whole discussion reminds me of Antiochus Epiphanes who decreed that the Jewish people were to take on (Greek) gentile customs, and henceforth gymnasia would be constructed in order to indoctrinate the youth! (See 2 Maccabees) I even saw this overemphasis on sports with the parish schools I have had brief contact with ("faith, hope and basketball, and the greatest of these is..." well you guessed it!) Yeah, the practicing Catholics still attended Mass, but how many of the non-practicing Catholics were showing their preference for the religion of James Naismith over the religion of Jesus Christ? and using parish property to do it?

I often hear older folks (my father's age and older) recall the "old days" when they would drive their kids to Church at 6:00am to serve the 6:30 Mass - and this even in places where there was no parish school!

Ellyn

When my older daughters were in high school track, I was dismayed at the serious demeanor - OK, lets call it grave - of the competitors. I detected little joy in the faces of the girls. And my daughters, though gifted with natural abilities, just didn't have the "fire in the belly" needed to propel them against their competitors. (Anyone looking to buy a nice used discus and shot put set? It does chew up the lawn, but it can be good for working off aggression.)

When I was in high school in the early '70's there wasn't as much pressure on girls - nobody was looking for a scholarship. When I was on the tennis and badminton teams we were competitive...it seemed at the time that we were out for blood. But our parents weren't too terribly invested in team stats or attending meets. It was fun. Yeah, there was suffering, too. But it was fun. For most kids, fun is the best thing they will get out of sports (along with lessons on sportsmanship etc.) But these days the kids want something more...and in the process something is lost.

(PS- I used to fantasize about playing at Wimbledon. Or even Forest Hills. That doesn't mean I want to be cremated and have my ashes spread on center court. :) )

Fr. Totton

Make that 1 Maccabees!

Ellyn

Oh....I kind of blame this on Title Nine. It made girls' sports serious. For better and worse. (Now that I think of it, we had a lot of fun protesting the fact that we played second fiddle to the boys. And even had to wear the wrestling team's warm-up jackets because the school wouldn't think of providing orange-and-black warm-ups for the girls. (Oh, the smell of it. No amount of laundering could remove the vague wrestling-boy-stench from those jackets...)

Marie

"I often hear older folks (my father's age and older) recall the "old days" when they would drive their kids to Church at 6:00am to serve the 6:30 Mass - and this even in places where there was no parish school!"

DRIVE?? My dad walked several miles through a foot of snow year-round, uphill both ways, to the 6:30 Mass. And, he points out to my server sons, he had to know all of the responses in Latin. (And he can still rattle them off, if asked.)

MS

I have no doubt in my mind that youth sports are out of control, even at what people are calling the "rec" level. With younger children there often is no less competitive league available. My son played on a Y team last year that was made up primarily of kids from our parish (probably 90% from the parish school.) The dads who coached (all 6 of them!) were extremely interested in making sure our boys learned the game. They wanted to take them to batting cages for extra practice and told us which of the private batting coaches were the best, and available for $45-60 an hour. This was for 6 YEAR OLDS.

These men are not leading Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts, I don't see them at Mass or dropping their kids off for CCD (I see their wives doing that.) I admit that I am not a sports person and never have been -- but this just seems wrong to me.

Fr. J

I like sports, but I remember preaching that going to Mass was more important then practice or any game. Afterward I was virtually assaulted by an angry parent. I asked her if she expected a priest to say that sports was more important then faith. It didn't faze her a bit. Sports are a great thing, in their place.

Frankly I don't remember the names of the high school stars way back when. None of them went pro. No one eles probably remembers their names and deeds on the field. Why? Because it just isn't that important. Remember Al Bundy (yes I've confessed watching Married With Children already)? He always raved about his 4 touchdowns in one game back in high school. No one cared. There is a truth there. Don't let your kids grow up to be like that.

Michael Shea

Fr. J those are great comments. We are already seeing this nonsense with our 5th grader. I think one way to cool all this false athleticism would be to require the parents to also play the sport in question he he he ...

And one reason for all this enthusiasm for girls sports is the availability of college scholarships for girls sports.

Anne-Marie

"Tradition"?? After only one year??

Amy, does your reader have any way of gauging how many other junior-high parents agree with those who wrote the letter? It might be worth calling around to some of her daughter's teammates' parents. Maybe there are actually lots of people who for whatever reason aren't interested in summer basketball camps, AAU tournaments, etc. Maybe there aren't in fact all that many "girls who want to continue that tradition" and therefore need to be "in the best possible position to do so."

If the more laid-back parents all showed up at the meeting and said "As parents, it is up to us not to create external pressure to conform but rather to ensure that the girls play, and play hard, because they want to," the problem might at least partially solve itself. If only the gung-ho parents attend, they'll be the ones making plans that the whole team has to follow.

Whitcomb

A great loss in the past 30 or 40 years has been the demise of Catholic Youth Organization sports. CYO was a great outlet for high school kids who loved sports but weren't manic about them; for talented players who were misfits in their high schools but felt entirely comfortable playing for their parishes; for delinquents who needed a little sense knocked into them; and for those who weren't terribly talented at all. Virtually every parish in my hometown fielded a CYO basketball team, most had baseball teams and a few even had football teams.

The quality of play was good. Every so often a parish basketball team would administer a beating to one of the hotshot Catholic or public high school teams. That was sweet. A few of these CYO athletes went on to compete in college. Some of the CYO teams were coached by priests.

CYO ball promoted great parish rivalries. Winning was great, but the cardinal sin was failing to display sportsmanship.

All this has gone by the wayside. Parents who can't afford to shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for these elite sports teams have few options today. Sure, we still have CYO-type ball in the very early grades, but by the time sixth and seventh grade roll around, forget it. Like free agents, the players have left the parishes for the select or club teams, and the parish is often left struggling just to field a roster.

Too bad.

Stacey

I'll preface my remarks by saying that I do think that sports are great and that I earned seven (yes, seven) varsity letters when I was in high school, and was the captain of two different teams my senior year. I also competed in sports in college and I am still very physically active at nearly 40.

That said, youth sports are out of control these days. (I have 4 children, so I've got some direct experience with this.) We've lost sight of what's really important. Sure, competition is good, and we should want to do our best at whatever we do, but when sports becomes all-consuming the way that they have, something is wrong. Team sports are supposed to foster teamwork, but when a few overprivileged children have thousands spent on camps and clinics that the other kids can't afford, sports cease to be an equalizer and become divisive. Children pushed too hard, too young, get burned out, injured (the 8 yr old daughter of my college gymnastics coach had arthroscopic knee surgery!) and/or end up with skewed perspectives because their lives are out of balance. Time for God, for schoolwork, or for just being a kid is lost in the shuffle to get here or there. As one poster mentioned, the "trash talking" is unbelieveable. I played co-ed (though definitely "boy-heavy") pick-up games of softball as a kid in our neighborhood. If ever there was a place where you'd see that sort of behavior, I'd think that would be it. But it was nothing compared to what I witnessed recently at the outdoor rec league softball game of a friend's 11 yr old daughter recently. This was with teams of 4th-6th grade girls. I was astonished.

And I'm sorry, but I object strenously to organized practices or competitions on Sundays, even if you still manage to make it to Mass. I'm not advocating "couch potato" Sunday, but gee, maybe the whole family could do something active together instead.

Good sports experiences should encourage good sportsmanship, teamwork, good physical health and a lifelong love of activity, a desire to do your best at whatever you do, and a proper ordering of priorities, among other things. Our youth sports programs, for the most part, do not do this today.

Ken

1) Are the camps run by coaches from the former East Germany? And do they or you pay for the steroids?

2) All those wanna-be Al Bundys ("I was a football star in High School...") living through their Mini-Mes. What happens when the big-bucks pro sports contract doesn't come through after graduation?

3) And is there anything in place for those of us (like me) who are NOT champion sports material? Those of us nerds & geeks (like me) who were slapped around, spat on, and generally treated as less than dirt by the jocks and cheerleaders? (I am 50 years old. I have spent the last 30 trying to forget I ever spent those four in high school.)

Columbine insurance? (Everyone I know had fantasies about pulling a Columbine during those "best years of their lives".)

Suicide cleanup? (I was closer to suicide during high school than any time before or since; the only reason I didn't was fear of Hell.)

Ken

Remember Al Bundy (yes I've confessed watching Married With Children already)? He always raved about his 4 touchdowns in one game back in high school. No one cared. There is a truth there. Don't let your kids grow up to be like that. -- Fr J

I hated Married With Children, but Al Bundy's constant tag line rang true.

One of the Cal Poly Gang (the critical mass of nerds I hung out with after escaping high school) went to his 20-year HS Reunion and reported back to us: MARRIED WITH CHILDREN WAS A DOCUMENTARY! 40-YEAR-OLD AL BUNDYS BRAGGING ABOUT HOW THEY "WERE FOOTBALL STARS IN HIGH SCHOOL; ONCE I SCORED THREE TOUCHDOWNS IN ONE GAME"! APPARENTLY (LIKE KERRY'S "THREE PURPLE HEARTS IN ONE TOUR") THAT WAS AND WILL FOREVER REMAIN THE HIGH POINT OF THEIR ENTIRE LIFE!

Joel

When Michael Jordan was a sophomore in high school, he was cut from the varsity basketball team and played JV. He ran track in the spring and played baseball in the summer. He didn't go to camps.

Parents who push their kids to focus on one sport to the nth degree, play in off-season leagues, go to remote tournaments, go to camps, train year-round, and basically obsess over their skills, are truly ignorant of how real athletes develop.

jbs

I have not read the other comments. This issue hits close to home. I coach basketball at my kids' Catholic elementary school. The programs there are pretty successful. I have not seen much pressure such as this from parents, however. In my opinion, youth sports should be for the kids, not for the parents. It's supposed to be fun, character-building, and exercise. That's how I run my team. As a parent, if I got a letter like this, I would go to the meeting and voice my opinion.

Marie

"And I'm sorry, but I object strenously to organized practices or competitions on Sundays, even if you still manage to make it to Mass. I'm not advocating "couch potato" Sunday, but gee, maybe the whole family could do something active together instead."

And that's the beauty of early morning swim practices -- there's still plenty of time left in the day for the family to do something together.
Swim meets are another story, but the reality is that even with gigantic 16-lane aquatic complexes, there isn't enough time on Saturday to accommodate the hundreds of swimmers who are competing in a regional meet. I'd rather have to work around Sunday events (where there are still plenty of opportunities for Mass attendance)than deprive half the swimmers of the chance to compete.

Mollie

I played competitive sports all through high school--- I remember some nights having 3 different sports to practice for. But I loved every minute of it and it kept me out of trouble. I really enjoyed being involved in everything. My parents also NEVER pushed me to do anything-- they went to most of my events, but I was the oldest of four, so they couldn't make it to everything-- which was fine with me. I think it made me more independent.
I also don't see anything wrong with competition. Even as an adult now there are some people who can't handle a friendly but competitive game of cards-- which is just ridiculous. I don't see anything wrong with being competive or wanting to win-- it doesn't make you a mean or bad person.

M & G

We are parents of 6 children, and money is tight, but we believe a family that prays and PLAYS together will stay together. So as a family, we did some research looking into dozens of sports and the time, talent and money required to play at different levels; recreational, competitive, and Olympic. We also looked into the potential to play for a lifetime, and vetoed any high-injury sports. (All this made for great dinner conversations.)

Then we decided on 3 or 4 sports we could learn as a family. Mom and Dad can play to stay in shape, the kids can play for fun, or join a competitive team, and if we have a budding Olympic star, great! This makes purchasing equipment and uniforms affordable, since all the kids will use them. Sports camps become affordable vacations when we ask for a family discount and mom and dad volunteer to help out wherever needed; chaperone, referee, kitchen help, etc. We sometimes join a traveling team, and go as a family when we can. (Sometimes dad has to stay home because of shift work.)

Of course, our kids can try other sports, but shouldn't join a competitive team or expect us to pay for equipment without a few conferences with mom and dad.

All the kids know our "must" list: 1. Must attend Sunday or Saturday eve. Mass and go to Confession once a month. 2. Must respect all parents, coaches, athletes. 3. Must keep A or B grades in school and keep up with chores. 4. Must say daily Family Rosary and Mercy Chaplet when traveling by car. 5. Must be responsible for your own gear, make your own lunches, and pack and unpack the car. (After age 7, mom does none of this.) 6. Must make time for weekly music lessons, Boy Scouts, do monthly pro-life work, church volunteering, etc.

Truth be told, most people don't consider us a "sports family", because the kids aren't allowed to boast about their ribbons and trophies. Only my best friend and the kid's grandparents know what sports we are involved in, because we strive for a well-rounded life, with serving God first, family second, schoolwork and chores third, music lessons fourth, then comes sports and other fun activities.

c matt

Seems I have been on all sides of this issue (from the soccer point of view) - competitive player, rec player, coach, parent, even referee. There is definitely a divide amongst the competitive v. rec crowd. The most important considerations I have seen from this are

(1) make sure the team fits - that is, if the player wants to be competitive, play on a competitive team; if they want rec, play on rec (nothing wrong with either);

(2) Learning the game helps you love the game, and loving the game helps you learn it. This means ther must be a balance between developing ability and fostering enjoyment. If you suck at something, and are constantly clobbered, its kind of difficult to enjoy it. Skill development is important as is playing at the appropriate level - if you have a 50/50 record or so with no blow-outs for or against, you are probably at the right level and in a well balanced league). But you won't increase your skills if you don't enjoy the game. At younger levels (up to U-11), focus should be on personal skill sith enjoyable "games" (f/k/a "drills") with lots of touches on the ball (as a coach, I hated scrimmaging because the better players would monopolize ball possession).

(3) parents/players need to be on the same frequency as the coach wrt to (1) above;

(4) for soccer, at least, the best players come from the streets, not the camps - nothing beats a kid who loves to play pick-up games.

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