This generation seems to have developed a love for children’s organized team sports unlike any before it. Whether it’s an acknowledgement to increased global competition, a focus on fitness, or simply a love of the juice box planning schedule, from soccer to hockey to football, baseball, and anything else where head injuries are imminent, we’re all there, screaming (and writing cheques) from the sidelines.
But lately I’ve been wondering where I fit in…you see I have a confession to make. I don’t like watching team sports. I especially don’t like watching children’s team sports. I particularly don’t like watching my own children play team sports. It’s painful. It’s boring. And it’s a situation full of conflict, and not just during the game.
Contradiction, thy name is team sports. Without exception, listen in to a pre-game session and every kids’ sports team coach will pronounce that “The Number 1 Rule is Having Fun, Right Kids?” Crap. The unspoken Number 1 Rule is that you little brats better win this game and improve your level of play so that the coach and the parents can have bragging rights at the office/on the playground later. Otherwise, why do you have them in competitive sports? The word “Competition” is right there.
We all know the parents who say “I don’t actually care if Johnny plays hockey – it’s all down to him, and if he loves it, I’ll keep supporting it.” Crap, crap crap. This is said minutes after they were leaning over them in the change room saying “I don’t care if you don’t want to practice – we paid for it and you’re going to do it. If you don’t practice you’ll never make the A Team. You’re seven years old, bud. It’s time to smarten up.”
I have some children who participate in team sports, and they love it. I love that they love team sports. What I don’t love is the fact that they are disappointed if I have my head stuck in a book or an electronic messaging device at the exact moment they score a goal or cross a finish line. So I just don’t go. Then, when they beg me to come and see them, I go, they inevitably lose (sorry kids!), I’m pronounced a bad luck charm and I get to retreat once more. It’s not that I’m not a competitive person, I am, but I can’t get or feel competitive about having my child beat out someone else’s child.
I find it really weird and totally disconcerting when children pronounce themselves the best player on the team…in front of all of the other team mates. I’ve worked in the corporate world and I’ve seen some real sharks in action, but some of these kids could put them to shame. Maybe that’s what they’re learning. After all, by definition, team sports are designed to produce a winning team and a losing team. Children can get some great life lessons out of that.
And the biggest contradiction of all is that all players, on every team, are proud recipients of the “thanks for turning up trophies” they receive at the team dinner. All I know is that when you have to build a trophy shelf for your six year old, there’s a problem. Perhaps if they start handing out trophies for the “Most Fun Player” (and for once it doesn’t mean they were the worst player), then maybe I’ll buy into a bit more. Hey, maybe instead of being the soccer mom or the hockey mom, I can be the Trophy Mom. Or not.
Kathy Buckworth’s latest book, “Shut Up and Eat: Tales of Chicken, Children and Chardonnay” is available in bookstores everywhere. Visit www.kathybuckworth.com and follow Kathy at www.twitter.com/kathybuckworth