I love sports. They were such an important part of my life from as long as I can remember, and I daresay, they still are.
Upon reading this article, my heart just broke a little more; a feat I didn’t think was possible.
See, I was the first child of an athlete. My baby gift was a Johnny Unitas signed football. My treasured toy was my Dr. J. red, white and blue basketball. I really never played with dolls. I liked to play basketball. I loved to ride my bike for miles. I shot BB guns, ran the pastures around my house, and swam in the community pool.
I was a awkward, lanky, nerdy, exceedingly tall girl, that never quite fit in anywhere. My home life with a constantly working father and a manically depressed and often abusive mother and disabled sister were not idyllic.
Sports and being a part of a team, were my escape. They were a place where I kind of fit due to my height and genetic gifts for sport.
At 18 I blessed to Zing with my hubby, a former D1 baseball player and ice hockey lover, who grew up, a lot like me, just skating on the flats, hiking, camping and fishing, and playing in the sand lot.
We have been blessed with 5 incredibly wonderful children. We expected that sports would be a part of their lives. We allowed them to try all kind of things. Their sports glory or failures were not about us. It is about their development as a human. It was about being a part of something larger then themselves.
They mostly gravitated to their father’s sports of baseball/softball and ice hockey (although I have one volleyball player!) He and I have volunteered to help all children on the teams, no matter their ability. We love sports and obviously having kids (lots of them) in our lives. It seemed a natural progression to continue to be involved and share our love of sports with others through coaching, volunteering, driving kids to practices and games if necessary, just being present.
But something changed. Sports became big business. At young ages parents are sold a bill of goods that little Jonny or Mary, if they go to the right camps, play on the the best teams, buy the best equipment, they will have this magical, transformative experience. In what I have witnessed and experienced, the reality falls far short of the promises.
Gone are the days of multi-sport athletes. Children are being pushed to focus on one sport earlier and earlier. Countless studies have shown that it is bad for children, yet it persists.
Why? It makes people money. It make parents feel good. It makes children feel good – for awhile.
What happens when winning becomes EVERYTHING? What happens when you no longer can win? What happen to you when you trounce an opponent so badly that you crush a person’s soul? Longitudinally – what, in being someone that participates in that trouncing, does it do to your soul?
Winning is fun. But should it be the focus of youth sport? Shouldn’t youth sport be geared to learning? Having fun? Becoming a better, healthier YOU?
Winning is fun, but sportsmanship is better. Let’s teach our children that shaking hands after a game is more important than the score. Let’s stop the madness.