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.
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.
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.
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.
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.