A few years ago, I wrote a post about youth sports, that turned into a magazine article about horrible sports parents, and I swore for the upteenth time to be a better parent and just enjoy what my kids do, for the joy itself. I’ve mostly succeeded.
It’s a given that sports parents, particularly travel sports parents, take things way too seriously, present company included. If we needed to be reminded that sometimes we as parents and coaches are the absolute worst, all one need do is read the local paper.
The news this past week from the Tennessee District 7-AAA consolation game, where both teams were eventually disqualified for purposefully trying to tank the game in order to draw a weaker set of opponents, aptly demonstrates our priorities set wrong, when we teach that winning is the only thing that matters.
Sadly, I wasn’t surprised. Growing up as an athlete, I was “recruited” by private schools to come and play “on scholarship”, as were any number of athletes I grew up with. We even had an “undocumented” fifteen year old play on our twelve year-old football league team, because our coach couldn’t “find” his birth certificate.
Happened then. Happens now.
When my oldest son was playing travel hockey as a ten-year old, we played another travel team that needed to lose in order to get a favorable draw in the next round of our tournament. They suited up their defensemen as forwards, their forwards as defensemen, and played a goalie who had never worn gear before. Ten year olds. And they got away with it, because we only learned of it after the fact when we overheard the other team’s parents laughing over it. I’m sure they are growing up to be swell.
We’re under the mistaken impression that when we sell our souls, it happens in one huge, obvious transaction. In reality, we sell our souls a tiny piece at a time; every time we demonstrate that the rules are for suckers, that fairness is negotiable, and it’s OK as long as you don’t get caught.
Just look at our current Super Bowl “champs.”
We tell ourselves that it’s OK to cheat, because this is low-consequence youth sports.
But are these really the lessons you want your children to remember?
You get your kids for such a vanishingly small amount of time. Don’t let them remember you for how well you were able to screw the other guy.