The Blog Squad

Friday, July 11, 2008

Parents Go Away and Let the Kids Play

I can promise you that I will never raise a family in Beachwood, Ohio, where the kids will grow up all the same.

Did you hear?

This suburb of Cleveland has decided to do away with tradition and eliminate the Little League All-Star game for children ages 9 to 12.

The reason?

Apparently, Mayor Merle Gordon and the entire place agreed that All-Star games hurt the self-esteem of the young players. Meaning, it’s not fair that one player is better than another, especially at the crucial and ego-building ages of 9 to 12.


The impetus of the move was spurred by an article written by Fred Engh, who is the founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports in West Palm Beach, Fla. It’s hard to read his article and take it seriously. Here’s one gem.

The injury factor. Stress fractures, trips to specialists and surgeries come into play when these seasons are extended with extra games and practices. They take a toll on young bodies and lead to an avalanche of overuse injuries.

I wonder what Mr. Engh did as a child. Did he even play sports? Come on. When I was a kid, our entire neighborhood, big kids and small, played sports all year round. When it was the summer, we played baseball, every day. When it was fall, we tackled each other HARD in football games. In the winter, we jumped perhaps a million times on the hard courts in pickup basketball games. Imagine the toll that took on our knees. And in the spring, we rode bikes or skateboards and wrecked at least once a week. We didn’t wear helmets either.

This guy, Mr. Engh, is worried that kids might suffer stress fractures and need surgeries because they play a few extra organized baseball games. That’s absurd.

And so what if they do get hurt? It’s a battle scar they can boast about for years.

The most disturbing part of Mr. Engh’s article is that he doesn’t believe we should recognize those kids who are superior. Read this:

If you’re feeling reluctant to do something, consider all the children who feel hurt, left out and embarrassed by being passed over every season.

Youth sports aren’t meant to single out only a handful of kids; they’re about making every child feel special, including those who won’t make the All-Star team.

No, sorry. Sports, as in life, are meant to single out the exceptional. They are also meant to motivate the less talented. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team. He found inspiration from failure.

All great success stories, and I’m comfortable in using the word “all,” are founded on disappointments, hurt feelings and embarrassments. These are the building blocks of character and heart.

How can any athlete or person develop a true sense of their worth if they are never gauged against someone else? Why even play organized sports? Why even keep score? Let’s just get our children to hold hands in a circle and tell each other how great they are.

Here’s a departing thought. When I was a youngster participating in sports, we all knew the kids who were really, really good. We admired them. We wanted to be on their teams. We wanted to be their friends.
I remember working very hard on my skills to become as good as them. I did improve.

It’s rarely the child who is jealous of another child’s success. It’s usually the parents. That’s the saddest part of all.

OUT AT HOME: Here’s the lede of an Associated Press story: Brian “Young Gun” Krause bested his father Rick “Pellet Gun” Krause to win this weekend’s International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship in Michigan.

And my question to you is… how far do you think the winning spit went? My guess was 24 feet. The answer.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Ready for the Olympics? The Chinese are. Check out this commercial.

Beijing 2008: Adidas "Together" Olympic Spot from R2 Studios on Vimeo.


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