Book Trailer The Noble Train

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kid Sports Gone Bad

My sons freshman baseball team now wears T shirts with magic marker numbers on the back. They are no longer worthy of wearing their jerseys. You might think this punishment was done because the players fought with other teams and showed bad sportsmanship. Maybe they were just sore losers. But the truth is actually stranger, they had their jerseys taken away because they could not get along with each other. The competition among players on the team became so nasty the coaches took away their jerseys and their hats and now they play in white T shirts with their names scrawled in magic marker. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so pathetic.

My son is a freshman and he plays on the B Team. Here is the kicker, it is the A Team that had their jerseys taken away. The "best" players are the ones who threw tantrums, swore, called each other names, argued on and off the field and demonstrated such bad qualities the coaches deemed them not worthy of wearing the school letters. And you wonder where this comes from. What would possess kids to act so badly that coaches basically take away their right to represent their highschool?  It comes from us.

Everyone has to be a star. Everyone has to be an MLB player. We have deemed it so and our sports programs and ethos reflect this now. There is  no longer playing for the love of the game. High powered and expensive Travel Leagues starting around age ten obliterated any sense of perspective. Teams are expected to win at a very early age. How early? My daughter is nine and plays softball. The game was tied. Everyone was freezing from spring in Chicago. It was getting dark. We had played our allotted two hours. The opposing coach came up and said we had to keep playing. He whipped out a rule book showing that a new inning had to be started if we had not reached eight o'clock. Why? Because he wanted to win.

You may think that is over the top, that a man in his fifties wants frozen nine year old girls to keep playing so he can have the satisfaction of winning a girls softball game. Pathetic is a word that comes to mind. But sadly it is standard now. It is the way kid sports is played now and the kids pick up on the adults mania. To win at all costs is the mantra handed down to kids wearing expensive uniforms that make them resemble mini MLB players. And so we have moms fighting in the stands. Dads fighting in the parking lots. Kids fighting each other to the point they have their jerseys taken away.

It is our win at any cost any way culture. Better to sleep with a porn star and publish a book than toil away and provide for your family now. Better to raise hell and try and look good on your baseball team so some mythical scout will see you than to play in the spirit of teamwork. In our revved up competive American culture we have become the man who wants to win a nine year old girls softball game at any cost. Maybe we all should wear T shirts now with magic marker numbers to get back our sense of perspective.  Or maybe just a big L on the back.
Rocket Man Blasts off July 26th

Books by William Hazelgrove