When Our Competitive Nature Compromises Our Kids

I often wonder why the Little League World Series gets televised.  Who’s watching this?  I can’t imagine little kids sitting in their living room, scoping out the talent and sizing up the competition, especially when  most outfielders just want to spin around and lay in the grass.

It makes me think about the state of children’s athletics in this country.  This AAU stuff is out of control.  Parents are spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars getting their kids “proper” coaching in an organized setting.
In an effort to make their kids better athletes, they’re shuttling their kids all over the state and region, getting them private lessons, and enrolling them in performance training… all at the age ten.
Meanwhile, all the local parks are empty.
photo credit: catecrandall.com
As Mike Boyle famously said, what your kid really needs is a bike and a best friend.  
We are losing the creativity and joy of games because you’re either with this specialized group or outside of it.  
And the vast majority of children in this country are out of it.  Way out.  And the gap between the two is only getting bigger.
I see it everyday as a physical education teacher.
A handful of kids will challenge anybody.  The other 30+ have to be cajoled into standing on the court.
Kids will find ways of practicing what they love.  They don’t need their hand held, let alone grabbed and dragged.  My summers were spent at the elementary school shooting hoops.  If someone came by with a ball I played them.  If they didn’t I spent hours working on my ‘moves’.
It all seemed so simple.  How and when was this somehow deemed not good enough?  And why did other parents listen?
I think it’s because no parent wants their kid to be lacking.  We’ve got to keep up with the Joneses.  But in taking this out of our kids hands we epitomize ‘bestness‘ instead of participation.
What we get is a generation of kids afraid to try and unable to trust themselves.  We get kids that don’t show up.  We get 9th graders who have resigned to the belief that they’re not good at anything and pray they’ll keep listening long enough to realize they just haven’t found it yet.
We ruin kids with our own competitive nature, and they end up disillusioned about who they were meant to be. 
I wish ESPN would televise neighborhood pick up games.  Kids that are loud, making bases out of sweatshirts, congregating in an uneven field, and calling their own strikes.
That is something I would watch.  That is something that inspires.

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