by Risa Green
I’d like to go on record as a parent by saying that I hate organized sports. Okay, wait: I don’t really have anything against the actual sports themselves – I mean, I like watching them on tv and everything and I enjoyed playing them when I was a kid – it’s just that I hate having to deal with organized sports, you know, as a parent. Now that fall is just around the corner, I’ve been receiving emails from my kids’ soccer coaches regarding the snack schedule (fruit or granola bars only, please), game times (could be anytime on Saturdays from 8-4, depending on the week) and practice schedules (Wednesdays at 6:00 pm. Kill me now), and each one is like a smack in the face, pulling me out of my wonderful, lazy summer and back into the reality of school-year hell. Just the thought of schlepping to games on Saturdays at eight am for my son and then again at two pm for my daughter, or to post-dinner practices every week for three months straight, makes me want to crawl under the covers and never come out. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. There’s a reason why AYSO is nicknamed All Your Saturdays are Over. And yes, I know it’s cute to watch them play in their little uniforms and their cleats and shin guards, but really, it’s not so cute that I couldn’t live without it.
And I would – live without it, that is – if it weren’t for my husband and his stupid mantra about how team sports build character, blah, blah, blah. I mean, yeah, I’m sure they do, but isn’t one team sport enough for said character building? Like, couldn’t they just play basketball and call it a day? Do we really have to do soccer, basketball, and softball/tee-ball? Is it really necessary to ruin every Saturday of the entire school year when the damage could easily be limited to just one season? Apparently, the answer is no. Apparently, it is important to expose them to all sports early on so that they can figure out which one they love enough and/or are really good at, to pursue later. Because, you know, they will pursue one later. If I ever dare suggest that maybe one or both of our kids might not love or be good at sports, my husband simply puts his hands over his ears and sings really loud so that my poisonous woman words won’t infiltrate his sports-loving guy brain. So fine. They’re going to play. But I told him, any games before ten am are his responsibility, because I’ll be sleeping in.
The truth is, though, that while I do hope one or both of my kids will play a sport when they’re older, the idea of what it means to play a sport as a kid today scares me a little bit. I know kids who are in first or second grade who have private pitching coaches and who spend all summer toiling away in baseball camps. Their parents insist that they’re not the ones pushing them to do it – little Johnny just loves baseball so much, there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing. Which is fine, I guess, except that there was an article in The New York Times a few weeks ago about how more and more little league pitchers are having shoulder and elbow surgery, because they practice too much, and play in too many games, and throw more pitches than their still-growing arms can handle. And last year, another Times article ran, this one about how more and more teenaged girls are blowing out their ACLs while playing competitive soccer. And it’s not just the potential for injury that worries me. In both sports, it’s not enough to just play for your school team during the regular season. To be competitive, you have to play year-round, not only for your school, but for one or more club teams that practice two or three days a week, and play in weekend tournaments all over the state, or even the country. Forget hanging out with your friends after school, or playing an instrument, or being in the school play. They should call these teams AYLO – All of Your Life is Over.
And for what, exactly? To play in college? To go pro? Please. How many girls really end up playing professional soccer? And how many boys will really end up in the Major Leagues, or in the NBA? I’m all for pursuing your dreams and everything, but come on, you know if you your kid is really, truly talented, and if he or she doesn’t have what it takes, then why allow them to miss out on everything else? But then again, hey, I’m not an athlete. I’ve never loved a sport so much that I wanted to play it all the time, so it’s hard for me to understand. My husband, on the other hand, played baseball in college, and now plays on three different men’s softball teams because he just can’t imagine his life without some form of baseball in it. So I get it. It’s his passion, and his love, and it makes him happy. And if either of my kids ever feel the same way about a particular sport, well, then, I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But in the meantime, they’ll be building their characters on Saturday mornings, and if it’s before ten am, they’ll be building them without me.
Related on MT: Anti-Sports Mommy  by Jennifer Sey