Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Team Sport Conspiracy

I’m getting fairly suspicious of this contemporary trend toward organized sports for children. In fact, I have always been fairly suspicious of it, even as a child. One could accuse me of sour grapes, since after all, I did not make the cut for most organized sports teams, and the few that I did allowed me to see little, if any, playing time. OK then, just to clear the air let me say right now that those coaches were clearly blind to the talent that lay before them, as an amateur rockhound might miss the rough diamond sitting at his feet amongst the pebbles. I also take consolation in the fact that I’m pretty confident that today I could kick the collective asses of 98% of those kids who were just “great athletes” in school.
Without going too deeply into our specific family situation here are my basic objections in outline:

  • The benefits of highly organized and supervised sports for young children are limited. Free play is much more valuable. Nothing wrong with playing ball, but let the kids get together and have a game. If there aren’t enough to field a full team, let them figure out how to adapt.
  • Over-emphasis on competition as opposed to the joy of play and movement will stunt their growth as surely as smoking cigarettes.
  • By my observation, adult organized sports for kids younger than 10 do not teach social skills. They learn social skills through interaction. I see limited interaction in these settings. Free play seems much more effective.
  • Team sports have a limited lifespan for all but the gifted and disciplined few. Better to teach a sport that one can take into adulthood: tennis, golf, skiing, running, paddling, hiking, climbing, walking, yoga, pilates, weight training, calisthenics, etc.
  • Team sports do not teach physical fitness. They train children to think that the only reason to get up and run around is to win the game. When the game is removed, then they sit and watch others play games.
  • Team schedules take too much time away from home and family. In short order, I can see that if my daughter wants to pursue softball that will mean 4-5 nights a week we are out of the house of several hours.

So, just who is pushing this crap? It's just expected. And I'm in a situation where the pressure is minimal compared to some high-powered suburban sub-cultures. I reject their pathetic notions of healthy well-rounded physical education. I reject the notion the team sports are necessary to success in life. I reject the assumption that team sports must become progressively more competitive and time consuming as children become older.

I gotta go. My kids wanna play tag. Wanna play?

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