Time to branch out. And while I’m confident Chuck will take issue with this, I try to limit my writing to topics I feel somewhat competent to offer opinions on. This is why you never – or at least rarely – see me comment on the Royals, Chiefs, Sporting, radio station ratings, concerts or Dwight Sutherland‘s movie and book review pieces and the numerous other topics that KCC brings to the forefront.
Then it hit me.
Why not share some of my experiences with my life apart from work? My kids are now well into their 20s, so it’s been a while since they were involved in youth sports.
But being a hands on dad, and living with the misconception that I was qualified and had something to offer, I got them involved in youth sports when they hit kindergarten or first grade and became their coach in most of those sports.
I coached them in baseball, basketball, and football. They participated in wrestling and soccer as well, but I let others more competent than myself (even though I wrestled in college) take the lead there. Youth sports very quickly became a passion with me.
And when it’s handled correctly – and adults don’t screw it up – youth sports really can do a lot for a young person. It all revolves around the head coach that has his or her head screwed on correctly.
Certainly sports are competitive and if you’re going to play, you should play to win. However a good coaching staff will also teach kids things like teamwork, discipline, how to win and lose with class, to put the team ahead of the individual, respect their opponents, and good sportsmanship.
Coaching young people is a privilege, not a right and it has serious responsibilities. And unfortunately, with many young males, their youth sports coach may be the best example of a positive male role model they see all week. So coaches need to reach out to the kids on their team and try to make a personal connection with each of them.
Hey, the kid that doesn’t have a clue one year may be the team’s best player in a couple of years or vice versa. It’s really a rewarding experience to run into a kid you coached maybe 20 years ago and have him still call you coach, tell you that you had a positive influence on his life, and then tell you one of his greatest memories wasn’t winning a close game or scoring the winning run, but something stupid that happened in practice one day that you didn’t even consider to be important.
I will concede that youth sports today is very different than when I grew up and participated. I have strong memories of my little league baseball coach. He usually had a beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and was constantly cussing at our mistakes. Even kicking butt on occasion (and I mean literally kicking butt).
Things are way more politically correct today. A coach making physical contact with a kid today in youth sports would not be acceptable. Using alcohol and/or tobacco around kids today in youth sports would be an issue as well.
With the number of the sports and leagues my kids participated in, my passion got me involved not only as a coach but I became more active in the organizations. I’ve served on the boards of a number of them and remain very active in one still today.
On game days, I’m usually at the fields from start to finish monitoring sportsmanship.
Translated, that means keeping adults in line.
I’m sure you’ve all seen horror stories in the news, an out of control parent rushing onto the playing field to confront a coach or an official. Or parents getting into all out fist fights in the stands. Really ugly and really sad stuff.
That’s not how we want to be teaching young people about how adults should deal with conflict resolution.
In the 15 years or so I’ve been volunteering to monitor sportsmanship, I’m continually amazed at how adults who are rational in 99% of their lives seem to go insane when their child crosses the white line onto a playing surface.
Certainly adults are expected to be advocates for their kids and be as protective as possible at all times but some of the things I’ve seen adults do at youth sporting events go way past acceptable.
And while there are always surprises, there have been a few consistencies I’ve noticed over the years. We do a pretty good job of keeping parents back from the playing fields and we have a group of individuals that can get to the field pretty quickly when scorekeepers alert us to rising tensions,
However every once in a while we get parents taking it to the level of physical confrontation.
I guess it’s a male trait to puff up your chest, point your finger, and get vocal, but it’s normally the women in my experience that take it to the next level. The worst fights we’ve had to break up have involved moms.
And the one that comes to mind first is when we had a mom go to her car to get a baseball bat and then come at us when we tried to break it up. I got lucky that the guy working with me got hit and not me.
Funny now, but not so much at the time. I’ve got many more stories to tell that would amaze you but limited space.
The second consistency is it’s usually the younger parents that cause the problems.
Our league competes by grade from kindergarten to 8th grade and consistently it is the parents of the youngest level that give us the most problems.
I guess that makes sense that the first experience parents have with youth sports is when behavior problems come up because they have not yet learned how to act.
A 2nd grade game is treated like a professional level competition and parents feel they can verbally assault the official or yell across the field that one 2nd grader was intentionally coached to hurt their 2nd grader.
At our youngest levels, we don’t keep score but all the parents do.
The kids are too busy watching a caterpillar on the grass or a hot air balloon in the sky to know what’s going on in the game but the moms are in the end zone swinging away.
I’m guessing there are more than a few parents here whose kids have been involved in youth sports and I’m sure you have stories to tell as well. I hope none of you have been part of the problem but human nature being what it is, I’m thinking maybe many of you probably did some things at youth sporting events – watching or maybe even coaching – that your child and you are not proud of.
If you have the opportunity to volunteer in youth sports, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life and I encourage you to do so. Just remember, the kids are watching. And winning isn’t the most important thing in youth sports.