Dear Sports Parents, Chill Out.

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ThursdayNightLights

I actually spent an hour online last week searching for AAU basketball teams my son could possibly try out for so he doesn’t get left behind and miss out on playing college basketball.

He’s nine.

Nine years old, and the way things are structured nowadays, I’m concerned he’s falling behind by not playing year round basketball at a high level.

How did this happen? How did I get so caught up on planning out my son’s future for him?

It’s the culture in which we live. We created it, and now we’re victims of it.

The following is a list of 5 ways adults are sending youth sports straight to Hell.

1. We use Social Media as an Athletic Child Prodigy Supernova Marketing tool

Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about! We ALL do it! That’s the beauty of Facebook. There you are sitting in yet another 100 year old middle school cafetoranasium which still reeks of every sweat sock, sloppy joe and sweaty arm pit that’s graced the building. You snap a few pics of your little superstar on your smart phone, then head to Instagram. First though, you have to step outside because you can never get signal through the 19 layers of asbestos hanging 25 feet above your head. You put a nice “Mayfair” or  “Earlybird” filter on your picture and BAM! You’ve created a little digital bubble gum sports card making it appear like your kid just scored 38 points at the Garden.

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See, I do it too.

This creates a cycle.

You may know me, but you don’t know my kid. Now, my kid looks like the Great White Hope in at least 5 major sports. This motivates you. You can’t let my kid be better than yours. Because no matter what your kid does, and no matter how you dress it up, no matter how many great pics you take, yours never looks as good as everybody else’s. How do I know this? Because I only posted mine to keep up with all of you! Which brings me to my next point.

2. Spend too much money and too much time

What in the name of Nike is happening to our youth sports? Good LORD! A kid just can’t play baseball anymore. No, No, NO! He has to have a $200 glove, $80 shoes and a $400 bat. Why? Because the other kids on his team do.

“Well, that’s just stupid!” You say.

“If the other kids on the team were jumping off a bridge, would you do it too?” You say.

Well, no, but when one kid swings the bat and the ball comes off 19mph faster than when your kid swings the bat, and you’re sitting there in your Coleman canvas folding chair sweating like Roseanne Barr at a July watermelon festival, it kinda ticks you off a little bit. Because, by God, my kid is just as good as that kid.

Next thing you know, you’re in debt to Easton, or Under Armour or Nike or Rawlings or Riddell or Adidas or Reebok or Louisville Slugger, or if you’re like me, all of the above.

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Then, it’s not enough that we have games or practices 3,4,5 times a week, nope, we have to go to tournaments, and camps and personal trainers and nutritionists and hypnotists and gurus and specialists, YEAR ROUND!

Next thing you know, you look up, your kid is 18, and you’ve spent $300,000 trying to get him to a level where his college is paid for. In the meantime, you’ve eaten nothing but concession stand food for 14 years.

You look at yourself in the mirror and you look like you’ve eaten nothing but concession stand food for 14 years. Don’t worry though, because the next point will make up for that.

3. Everybody’s kid is a future pro or college star

If you’re a decent parent, at some point you’ve told your kids to believe in themselves. You’ve told them that when they grow up, they can be whatever they want to be. A lot of times, what we really mean is, you can be whatever I want you to be. I’ve got you playing every sport because I know you’ll go pro in at least one of them, probably two. What? You don’t think this is you? You drop 10 grand a year on equipment and fees and uniforms when they’re in elementary school, you think you’re just going to stop forcing these things upon them once they’re in high school and there are dollar signs riding on their success? We want them on the best club teams when they’re young, so they’ll be on the best club teams when they’re older. That doesn’t stop at 18. And we will do everything in our power to make sure of it, which brings me to my next point.

4. Parents are mean and Coaches are insane

This is a generality, I know. Not all parents are mean. Some are just bitter.

Not all coaches are insane. Some are just power hungry jackholes.

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Hi, my name is Bo. I’m a bitter jackhole.

You see, I’m a parent and a coach. I’ve seen it all.

We pulled our then 8 year old off a football team last year because the coach spent the entire practice screaming and cussing and getting upset that these 8 year olds weren’t running the drills “THE WAY I’VE TOLD YOU TO F#*%##^  RUN THEM!!”

We go to baseball tournaments and these teams look like a bunch of professional 9 year olds. They have home and away uniforms, warm up jackets, matching bat bags and helmets. Who are we doing this for? My son’s baseball team played a tournament in early March. It was 33 degrees and raining. BASEBALL!! The kids were in the field wearing ski jackets. All of them were crying, none of them wanted to be there, but there they were. Is this really necessary? Did that weekend make my son a better player? No. It made him hate baseball. And cold. And probably me just a little bit.

Sports are supposed to be fun. That wasn’t fun. Not for him, and certainly not for those of us watching kids throw the ball 7 feet because their fingers were frozen.

That brings up the most important point.

5. Kids aren’t allowed to be kids anymore

I learned sports in my driveway. Or in my backyard. Or in my friend’s driveway and backyard. When we wanted a game, we gathered all the kids in the neighborhood, and we played and played and played.

We rode bikes and hung out and became friends.

Kids aren’t doing that in today’s youth sports. Any down time is spent at the batting cages or the gym or the practice fields.

Is this what it takes to succeed in sports now?

Will my kid not go to college because he only plays basketball in the winter?

These are important questions.

I don’t want to do all these things I’ve listed above, but I find myself doing every single one.

I think it’s about time I sat down and talked to my boys and asked them if all this is fun for them?

If not, I’m doing it wrong.

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12 thoughts on “Dear Sports Parents, Chill Out.

  1. jody davis

    So funny, so true. I am that parent, my oldest was that child and at 15/16 years old she walked away from her sport and from the beginnings of being recruited for college (D1). She was burned out. She continued to play 3 sports in high school but not the sport she once “loved” and played year round. I was heart-broken, yes, I said that I was heart-broken….not her, me…..what does that really say.
    I have enjoyed most travel teams my girls have played for over the years but once we are no longer on the team, we are no longer “friends”. All the time spent, all the dinners, all tournaments, all the practices, all the travel….what do we have left? The investment in the lives of all those girls and families are now, at best, facebook friends.
    Great thoughts, great points.
    If, yes I said “if”, my youngest plays college volleyball I can pretty much say that I have already paid enough in club team, training, lessons, etc to have paid for her to go to college……
    Well written, as usual, my friend.

    • Just FYI. I’m posting this while sitting at my 9 yr old’s basketball camp, a day after watching my 13 year old tear it up at his summer league hoops game. I’m just as guilty as everyone else.

  2. One of the worst parts is that the coach often uses outdated training techniques. My son’s coach had them doing duckwalks, which are now known to be hard on the knees. I agree with Trapper. It should be fun!

  3. Well, the pressure is really on when your son couldn’t care less about sports. He is an amazing artist, hip hop dancer, avid reader, is teaching himself to mix music,and his favorite after school activity is Confirmation class.Try make a baseball card outta that – can’t. I see a great life ahead, though.

  4. I had to laugh at several of these….thanks for the “gentle” reminder that it IS truly ALL about (and for) THE KIDS. I think as a sports parent, I fall somewhere in the middle ground. I routinely ask my 8 1/2 year old (I’m constantly reminded the “and a half” is important) – anyway, I ask him if he wants me to sign him up for this or that. We talk about his likes/dislikes of whatever the sport is. So far, he’s happy playing 3 sports (tackle football, baseball & basketball). I’m glad to know I’m not alone with the thought that I’d pull him in a heartbeat if a coach ever talks to him like the one you mentioned cursing the kids. They ARE just kids. (All bets are off if he becomes an obnoxious teenager…) (just kidding)
    Thanks again for yet another great read. So far, I haven’t been disappointed in your writing! Not that what I think matters…but, I would buy your book…. 🙂

    • Thank you gingerurso! Hopefully you keep coming back. Now that you’ve promised you’d buy my book, I’m going to hold you to that. Even if you’re the only one who buys one!

      • Ginger

        I’m curious what the topic/subject matter of your book will be……are you sharing those thoughts yet?! Several of my friends have told me “you should write a book about your boys.” I regularly post on Facebook about their crazy antics, off-the-wall comments, mischievious goings/doings, and all things “boy.” I guess it’s funny – I dunno. It’s just my life! ha ha! (our boys are 8 AND A HALF and 4, with the younger one being the red-head I mentioned in a comment a while back after your gingers article…and he’s also 50% Italian). (Yes, I’m quite aware that we’d better look out – he’s already a charming handful of hot mess!)

  5. WhyWhyWhy

    Why play a sport year round when you are only 10 or 11? And if your kid is 10 or 11 and they have to have physical therapy on their knee – WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU?
    I think the reason that kids say YES to playing one or more sports all year is they want to spend time with their parents. Parents are busy but the only time they spend with the kids is at practice or games. Of course a kid isn’t going to stop playing if they realize their parents are just going to be at work.

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