My boys were finishing up their flag football season and we had arrived early to the fields for their last games. We set up our chairs on the sidelines of a U15 game that was still in progress. We weren’t prepared for the intensity of the competition on the fields and on the sidelines. The players were going all out. At one point, a player who couldn’t reach his opponent’s flags in time resorted to slide tackling him. Parents were yelling, refs were being threatened and the opposing coaches did some serious trash talking.
I begin to think about the athletic future of my boys. If this is what is in store for them, I am starting to feel inclined to have them read books instead. Why do emotions run so hot during youth sports? Granted, it is ‘just a game’ but if you are a parent watching your kids play, you can’t help but be emotionally invested in the outcome. You want it to be fair and you want to see good sportsmanship across the board.
Even though some teams I belonged to growing up had winning seasons, I wasn’t a particularly competitive person by nature, and mostly, I was happy if a game was rained out. My boys are quite a bit different. They love to compete and actually are disappointed when a game is cancelled. This indicates to me that sports are something that they would like to continue to pursue. For now, they are involved in our local YMCA athletic program which offers a variety of sports and a fairly low-level of commitment. However, after viewing this U15 game of craziness (it wasn’t even a play-off!), I am concerned. I don’t know how I’m going to handle if my kid is slide tackled or worse yet, if he is the one committing the illegal slide tackle.
My boys are ten and eight and I already am hearing of the pricey travel teams available, the extra training and coaching offered and the belief that if my boys don’t pick their sport now and commit to it, they will be left completely out of the mix. It is overwhelming and intimidating to say the least.
There are a few things that give me peace of mind that they haven’t yet ‘picked their sport’. First of all, I wouldn’t trade our family time that we’ve had together for anything in the world, not even a D1 scholarship. Secondly, I like that my boys get to try many different sports and seem to enjoy almost all of them (sorry tennis!). And finally, how are they suppose to know what to commit to when they are so young? I believe there are kids out there who have undeniable talent and drive where it’s fairly clear-cut, but my boys? Not so much. They like to make silly videos or play with Legos just as much. Maybe they need to commit now to being silly Lego video makers?
I don’t know what the future holds, but whatever course my boys choose or however life unfolds for them, I will be happily support whatever they do. Even if that means a spelling bee, a science competition or a football game. Or all or none of the above.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent