Why do we tell children that they can be whatever they want to be in life? When they are young, I think we encourage this type of thinking so that they will explore the different possibilities of adulthood careers; you don't want to sink their ships before they've even set sail. But at some point you need to be honest with your child and give them a strong dose of reality. If you're not super smart, you'll never be a neuro-surgeon. If you can't hold on to the football, you'll never be a star running back, at any level. It is what it is. Bottom line.
I have a 15 year old son who has played some type of organized sport for over half of his life. Why? Because he wanted to and as a parent, you don't want your child to sit around doing nothing. Now, the latter may seem like the obvious reason but there is more to the story here.
Let's discuss Little League Baseball. As a child I spent countless summer days at the ball field watching the neighborhood boys play baseball. And every spring there were tryouts. And you know what? If you weren't good, you didn't make a team. And if you did make a team but were having an off day during a game, you got benched. Furthermore, if you didn't show up for practice you didn't play, no exceptions. Sounds reasonable, enough, yes? Well...in this day of "everyone deserves a chance at everything" the seemingly logically approach to youth sports is GONE!
Devin "tried out" for baseball every year. And every year he made a team. This is not to say that he isn't a good ball player, he is. However, the tryout procedure was merely a technicality so the coaches could stack the teams. Furthermore, there was always the kid who missed practice on a regular basis but was always in the game. And lets not even talk about the post-season "All-Star" season where the kids who were chosen were always the coach's kid who sucked or the son of the mother who ran the concession stand who couldn't hit a baseball if world peace depended on it. But that is not my point here. Today, the Little League Rules, yes RULES, state that if you're on a team, you MUST play at least a little. One or two innings, I think. And no one who "tries out" gets cut. What does this teach our children? That just because you want something you get it? Is that how life works? Hardly. In my humble opinion, it teaches our children that those who are dedicated to the team, who work hard during practice and show dedication to the team by going to practice day in and day out, are rewarded no more than the slug who shows up late or not at all for their hard work. This is just not reality.
Now, lets touch on football. In our area, at the middle school level, if you want to play football, you show up for the first practice in the fall before school starts and you're on the team. They don't even bother with the fake tryout process. And if you miss practices or perform badly during a game, you still get to play. Whatever!
My biggest problem with youth sports is this...when a child plays just because he/she wants to play for half of their life with no true dedication to the team or no reward for exceptional skill, they get a huge smack in the face when they get to the high school level. Just imagine for a moment, if you spent years and years playing a sport that you supposedly tried out for, played in every game and then all of a sudden you try out (for real) for your high school team and are cut. Or you're having an off day and can't seem to do anything right at all and you're benched. After the game, the coach throws a fit in the locker room about how poorly you performed and makes the entire team run until they puke at the next practice. The kid is left wondering what the hell is going on, it was never like this before. Youth sports often leave a child with a false sense of the team concept because some dumb ass thought that everyone should have a chance just because they want it or because their parents dumped a wad of money into the program. Does that do anything to teach a child about life? What is the point of allowing a child to believe that just because they want something bad enough they can have it when they are no good at "it"? And even worse, what is the point of allowing a child to believe they should continue to pursue something they are not good at? The truth of the matter is, even most athletes with phenomenal skill will never be professional athletes.
Thanks to Nance for planting the seed in my head for this post.