The fall high school and youth league sports season is peaking and Bill Speros, who writes as “The Obnoxious Boston Sports Fan” has heard enough of the one question every coach is hearing: “Why isn’t my kid playing?”
Your kid isn’t good enough, he says.
His column over the weekend responds to another in the Boston Globe last week in which a columnist complains that his kid didn’t play in a youth football game, apparently because the goal of the game is to win.
A coach takes one of his small players aside — and the little boy is crying.
“What’s that all about?” I asked my son. “Paul didn’t play,’’ he told me. After a pause, he added: “And I didn’t either, dad.’’ And then my son, too, burst into tears. There have been few times in my life that I have seen brighter shades of red.
Like most parents, I have been the beneficiary of the fine talent and the donated time of dedicated, hard-working coaches. They inspire. They nurture. They are treasures. And, thankfully, they outnumber the knuckleheads.
But there is a healthy minority who worship only the final score. Some of them, as the great Tommy Lasorda would say, couldn’t hit the water if they fell out of a [expletive] boat. They are members of the win-at-all-cost club.
If your kid is the star quarterback, or the captain of the field hockey team, you probably love them. But if you’re like most, parents of kids with average ability, you want to throttle them.
An estimated 20 million children register for competitive sports each year in America. With these frustrated wannabes patrolling our sidelines, it’s little wonder that, according to the National Alliance for Sports, 70 percent of them quit playing by age 13.
“The absurdity of many ‘win-at-all-cost’ coaches in youth sports is neatly matched by the fanaticism of ‘play-my-kid-or-else’ parents at the high-school level,” Speros responds in his grenade.
Far too many children today are living in a world where they never learn “no.” They don’t know how to handle disappointment and failure. Nor do they know how to react and move on when they don’t get their own way. Interacting with actual people, and not just the screens on their iPhones or iPads, is a challenge, if not an impossibility. I won’t call this “abuse,” but it’s pretty damn close.
This is a world constructed by “well-meaning” but dangerously naïve parents. The children know no better because this is what they’re taught. Real-life doesn’t come with “Participation Awards,” “8th-Place Trophies” or laudatory bumper-stickers telling everyone that you’re able to do your job without screwing up.
Playing a team sport, like football, with the right coaching can help students learn life’s difficult lessons, including Mick Jagger’s truism that “you can’t always get what you want.”
“No one is guaranteed ‘playing’ time in life,” he says. “For the most part, hard work, effort, planning and desire is rewarded. The benefits can be wonderful. But it’s good to prepared when it doesn’t work out that way.”