There’s a moment that stands out for me in a video taken of a family party. My son Kyle, three-years-old, reaches his hand out to another child, not of our family, and asks softly, “Do you want to play with me?”
It’s a child’s nature to want to play with other children and somewhere after the age of two years, they’re learning to play cooperatively. Until competition is introduced into their lives, most usually through team sports, they have no concept of it as part of play.
Do you remember playing outdoor games as a child? Did you have family wiffle ball games or did you play badminton or volley ball on the lawn? How about P-I-G or H-O-R-S-E, where you scored a letter for every basket you made? Did you perhaps play catch with a parent, or throw a football around with your brother? Do you remember it being fun no matter who won?
The emphasis on competition is way over the top in our children’s sports today. As much as one may hear, “I just want them to have fun, playing the sport” I don’t see many happy faces on the losing side. You’ll also hear “It’s only a game.” If it’s only a game then why does it require practice every night of the week and on Sundays and on holidays? Mother’s Day is still a holiday, right? My grandsons had games scheduled on Mother’s Day. Am I the only one that feels kid’s sports scheduling has gotten way out of hand?
The baseball greats of my time like Carl Yastrzemski, didn’t grow up having ball practice on Sundays. They didn’t have it every night until 8 PM on school nights. I’ll betcha that Yaz was out in the back yard though, playing catch with a family member, that he was playing pick up ball with kids in the neighborhood every chance he got. Yaz was having fun, playing ball.
Our kids today don’t have time to play catch in the back yard. There’s little time between when they get home from school before they’ve got to get ready for practice or get suited up for a game. When they get home they’ve got to eat, do homework and go to bed. Someone, probably the mother, has to get the uniforms, equipment, water bottles, etc. all ready for the next day’s round before she can rest.
When I went home to be with family in Greenland for a week last September,
I met grandsons, Kyle and Colby at their bus stop, usually my mother’s job, as their parents are working. As soon as they unloaded their 50 pound back backs, they were out on my parent’s lawn tossing a football to one another. I’d never learned to throw a football. In about fifteen minutes time, Kyle had taught me how so that I could play with them. He’s an excellent teacher. It was so much fun!
I asked Kyle about his football team and found out that he was no longer playing. I knew that he’d had trouble keeping up with school and homework with football practice being five nights a week until 8 PM. As much as he loves the sport, his parents had to make a tough decision and made the only one they could. One doesn’t tell the coach that my child can only make it to practice three times a week and he needs to be in bed on a school night by 8 PM.
I’m not sure about this, but I don’t believe adults who play softball or soccer are having to practice five nights a week up until their bedtime. If we don’t ask this of adults than where do we get off thinking it’s okay for our kids? So why is this total disregard for our children’s needs for play, rest, supper at a decent hour, going unaddressed?
The bottom line: competition. We have a fear that our children won’t be prepared to compete out in the world. May I point out here that two of the most successful companies of our day, Apple and Google, foster creativity, play and cooperation in their workplace?
Childhood is short, as a grandmother well knows. Children need time to play cooperatively for the sheer joy of it. They need adequate nourishment and rest. They need down time with their family as a whole. This insane approach to children’s sports programming, all or nothing, goes against our children’s true nature. What do you think?
Now, turn off the computer, grab the kids and some flashlights and go outside. Tag, you’re it!
All week long, every minute of the day, remember to
Shine your Light!