Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Revelation

As I was working today I heard some of the pop vendors talking about the upcoming high school basketball season. Well, football season hasn't even started, and school hasn't even started, so basketball is still a long ways away. Then something dawned on me. What dawned on me was the reason, I think, that kids today don't play sports like they used to.

At our small-town park we have several baseball fields where the little league teams play and practice. When I was a youngster the worst one of these diamonds would certainly have been a gem, since I grew up in the country and played baseball as often as I could in a hay field which wasn't as big as a regular field, nor anywhere as smooth and nice as a baseball diamond. Had I been raised in town I would surely have been at the field all day, playing and having fun. But, if you go past the fields when the leagues aren't playing or practicing you rarely find anyone there. I was amazed when I first discovered that fact. I would take the kids down when they didn't have a game or practice and we'd have the pick of any of the fields because no one was there! I had expected kids to be swarming on them, making up their own teams to play each other for hours on end. But, with the advent of video game systems, dvd rentals and a wide variety of tv entertainment the kids stay at home and get in their parents' hair instead of going outside and socializing in a sporting way.

I think that certainly the lure of the boob tube and all its amenities has drawn kids indoors, but I think there's something else that's going on. As I listened to the vendors talk I realized how much of an influence adults now have on kids fun. No, not an influence on but control over. A high school coaching position used to be a parttime job for one of the teachers, which maybe paid a little more. But over the years, the demand to produce a winning sports team has turned the coach's position into one which is answerable to the parents of the school kids. A new coach who doesn't turn a losing season around faces harsh criticisms and the risk of losing his job. It should be the coach's job to make sure the kids have fun and maybe develop physically, but not so anymore. WIN! That's the name of the game. And the kids who don't have what it takes to win get shoved out. When I was in school every effort was made to make a place on the team for every person wanting to participate. There were more than a few 'chubby' kids on the teams, and they fit in with their teammates just as everybody else did. And the practices for tryouts didn't start until school started. Now, the football season starts before school, and football practice is during summer. In fact, most sports have 'camps' that run in the offseason, before time that practices are allowed to start, and if you don't go to one of these camps then you must not want to be on the team very badly. The one thing that was insisted on in the 'old' days was strict adherence to grades in the classes. Now there are so many easy classes and so much help available for athletes that it's nearly impossible not to make the mandatory GPA. All this pressure from adults on the kids to win, and not just to have fun, keeps lots of kids from getting interested in sports, so many of them lack the basic knowledge of baseball, basketball, etc. Therefore, they turn to someplace that the adults haven't made into a competition yet, the tv. X-box, playstation... These are the new kids' sports. Maybe when the grownups take those over the kids will go back outside.


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