I never really thought that sports radio would be a place where I’d hear a lively debate about parenting, but it’s happening. In an effort to avoid bruising the self-esteem of any young athletes (ages 9 to 12), the mayor of Beechwood, Ohio has cancelled all Little League All-Star Games and activities. His decree, based on an article written by the founder of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, argues that such games stifle sportsmanship and damage the young psyches of the budding athletes. I understand that. That being said, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the kids themselves don’t know the score.
As a former Little Leaguer, I worked hard to get on the All-Star team each and every year. Unfortunately, I was a crappy hitter. So, the glory of post-season play was often out of my reach. I wasn’t crushed. As young as I can remember, I knew that there were kids who were better than I was. Was I disappointed not to make the team? Of course! Did it crush me forever? Hardly. In fact, I’d go to the games to watch the All-Stars from my league play the other teams. These kids were my friends, after all. (And, I give my parents props here – they were the ones who would explain to me how to take it in stride. That’s part of the competition – winning and losing. That’s part of learning how to win with dignity and lose with dignity.)
I’m not an advocate of the big, macho parent who pushes his kid with adult expectations. I’m not a fan of that parent. But, how many kids are really (really?) crushed for more than a day about not making the All-Star team? And, I’d like to know – how many of those kids use the “All-Star Snub” as an excuse not to play again? It may even be equal to the number of kids who use the snub as a reason to work harder – promising themselves that they’ll never be left off the All-Star Team again!
Before I even had K-Man, I coached a soccer team of eight-year-olds. My goal was simply to show the kids a few things about the sport and help them learn to love it as much as I did. I couldn’t have cared less if they won or lost. In fact, the league didn’t even keep score, or post standings for the kids at this age. But, the kids sure knew who won. The kids were aware of the score. And, they ABSOLUTELY knew who the best players in the league were. (Contrary to the article written by the National Alliance for Youth Sports guy, it’s not always about the kid with the most developed body.)
Kids today – especially those that are competing in and following sports – know the score. They watch ESPN. They play games with their friends. I completely agree that competition can get WAY out of control, but explaining that and curbing that is up to us as parents, isn’t it? Isn’t that part of the job description? Isn’t it potentially worse to shield our kids from every possible thing that might hurt them? I’m sure I learned more by not making the All-Star Teams than I probably would have by making them. I didn’t know it then, but I’m certainly glad I wasn’t shielded from the experience. How else would I learn?
Before the mayor of Beechwood, Ohio cancelled the games, he should have asked the parents what they thought. Heck, he should have asked the KIDS what they thought. You want to give a kid a boost of self-esteem? Then include him/her in a big decision process. I haven’t been able to find the information, but I’d love to know if the mayor (and the guy who runs the Youth Sports Foundation, who wrote the article) ever made any All-Star Teams. I’m guessing not.
Someday, if K-Man decides he wants to play sports, I’m sure there will be players with more skill than he has (imagine that!). And, if they make the All-Star Team and he doesn’t…well, guess what? I’ll have to parent. I’ll have some ‘splainin’ to do. Is that such a horrible thing?
The host of the talk radio show I was listening to made an interesting point. Though he doesn’t have kids, he (correctly, perhaps) stated that “what’s right” in parenting changes every two years. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but his point is valid. And finally, the fact is – there HAVE been reports (even on 60 Minutes) about “kids” entering the workforce after college who, because they had been so overly coddled by their parents, didn’t have the skills to deal with bosses and to handle being told “no.”
Sometimes protecting our kids too much is no protection at all.