By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck
I once heard an amusing quote which was, “If someone ever says they miss the ‘good old days,’ tell them to turn off the air conditioning.” When most of us grew up there was no PlayStation, cable TV or Internet – things our kids take for granted today. Would any of us want to go back in time before these and so many other technological advances? Yet I can remember coming home from school each day and calling everyone I knew to arrange a pick-up football, baseball or basketball game, depending on the season. And I’m not so sure I would have been that motivated if I’d have had all of the electronic distractions that children today have. How often do you see a group of kids playing a pick-up game of anything at the school yard?
It seems that these days, in order for kids to play sports, there needs to be organization and structure. Parents are nearly always supervising. But is this solely because children today have too many entertaining options indoors, therefore the only way they’ll go outside is if we arrange it? Or this more a function of the society we now live in? Most parents thought nothing of letting a youngster walk or ride a bike somewhere alone three decades ago. Now, if my 12 year-old daughter wants to go up to the school where we can’t keep an eye on her to practice soccer with a friend, we feel we have to come along for safety reasons.
Another significant change in youth sports seems to be the level of parental involvement. I can’t remember my mom or dad ever coming to one of my Little League games, and don’t recall seeing other kids’ parents there either. Fast-forward to a game this weekend at a local youth soccer or baseball field and you’ll often be lucky to find a place to sit or stand. Why does our generation seem to be so much more involved than were our parents? Is it simply because we have to be, since we’re now doing most of the organizing and supervising? Or is it because sports have become so much more prevalent and important in our society so we take our children’s participation more seriously? There were no “elite” teams or private lessons when I was growing up. I can imagine the look on my father’s face if I’d told him I wanted to play on a team that was going to cost thousands of dollars in travel and coaching fees. Are today’s parents overly-controlling, living vicariously through their children’s successes, and/or pushing for lucrative college scholarships that weren’t available decades ago? Or is it just that our generation wants to spend more time with our kids, and enjoying their sports activities them be the best they can be is a great way to do that?
In our next issue, I will share some thoughts from other parents that expand on this topic. You will be very interested in reading their perspectives.
Brian Gotta is a former professional recreational youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.