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Moondog Free Press Blog: Play Ball!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Play Ball!

I was not a star athlete as a kid. I rarely got picked first for any team unless one of my friends was a captain, but I never got picked last either. That was fine with me, because I wasn't overly interested in team sports anyway. Still, when my turn came to hit, kick, throw, run, or catch, I always gave it my all. Why? Because I wanted to win! I wanted to score. I wanted to get the other guy out. I didn't want to let my team down. My father and every coach I can remember would tell me things like, "do your very best and you can always walk off the field with your head held high ", and "be gracious in victory and dignified in defeat", and I tell the moonpuppies the same things.

Little Boy Moonpuppy (LBM) is signed up for a Winter YMCA Basketball League, and he starts practice next week. It is his first foray into organized team sports, and he is very excited (he attended 1 week football and basketball camps at the Y over the summer). I have met the coaches, and they are stand up guys who believe, as I do, that the primary focus of coaches in this age group (6-8 yrs) should be teaching the rules and fundamentals of the game and good sportsmanship. But the league also has a rule stating "all participants of each team will have the opportunity to play at least half of the game regardless of skill level." That is where I have I have a bit of a problem. Playing sports at this level should be fun, and all of the kids should get into the game, but I think it is wrong to teach them that just showing up gets you the same playing time as the kids that really pay attention and put forth their best efforts (or maybe just play better). Where is the motivation for the kids to work at improving their skills?

LBM is a very competitive kid, even with himself. He keeps track of the most free throws and football catches he's made. He even asks me to time him from the bus stop to the front door every afternoon. His personal best is 22 seconds, down from 26 seconds. He is proud of this, and he likes to mention it to anyone who will listen. I warned him about bragging, and he replied, "I'm not bragging, I'm just getting better."

I am not a Sports Dad. Playing basketball this year was LBM's idea, not mine. I want him to have fun playing sports and enjoy being a kid (right now he is more concerned about what number he will wear, than the playing time he'll get). At the same time, I don't want him to learn that practice, skill, and talent are irrelevant. Am I out of line here? If any parents out there are reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts.


  • At 10:22 AM , Blogger egturpin said...

    You will soon see why the YMCA posted this statement. While I don't disagree with you, very often the coach's kid or the kid who is the youngest of 6 jocks, play the whole game and the other kids get put in only when there is no chance of losing the game. Well, you may say, that's how it works. But alas, how can one get better, if s/he never gets to play? This is the connundrum of childhood. How does the slow learner get better in the slow class?


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