My kids are grown now so my days of nervously watching them play youth sports are over.
Were I to do it again, there might be a few things I’d do differently. First, I’d go to more of the games (I had a newspaper route that required me to get up at 2 a.m. every day so I missed a few) and I’d try to care less about that jerk who coached the other team.
I was out for an evening bike ride a few weeks ago when I stopped to watch a game at a Woodbury park and noticed something odd — there weren’t very many parents there. The parents who were there didn’t appear to be particularly emotionally invested. It seemed like fun.
And that, author and father Daniel Pink insisted last evening on PBS NewsHour, is how youth sports should be played — without parents in attendance.
He says that even the “nice” parents are bad for youth sports.
What few of us well-meaning parents realize, but that any professional athlete will tell you, is that when kids look to us on the sidelines for approval or consolation or even orange slices, part of them is distracted from what really counts, the mastery of something difficult, the obligations to teammates, the game itself.
Sitting there in our folding chairs can prevent children from standing on their own two feet. If they succeed on the field, they, not us, deserve the joy. If they fail — and they will a lot — they, not us, have to figure out how to respond.
Maybe that’s why research has shown organized sports inhibit kids’ creativity, but pickup games actually enhance it. Besides, at their heart, sports are about stories. If we’re not in the stands, the kid’s on the story. They get to tell us what went well and what didn’t, instead of us telling them from the front seat on the car ride home.
He’s right. And to my children, “I’m sorry I showed up at your games.”