Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sports and Kids

I attended my nephew's cycling race this morning, and had a fun time watching kids "play(?)." Physically, cycling seems like a healthy sport for kids. It was great to watch the cyclists speed by, hear relatives cheer, and see the officials hard at work with lap counters, stop watches, and finish line cameras. Where else is it OK for a kid to go so fast? Yet, even this kids' sports appeared to bring out a competitive and exclusive side of life for the cyclists.

I have no children. I have never walked in the land of opportunity for children who wish to excel in a sport. My parents encouraged me to try a variety of experiences through their words, signing me up, paying fees, sending me to camp, and driving me to lessons, practice, etc. I just don't recall the level of attitude intensity and sports expertise that kids today can access in certain communities.

I am amazed at the equipment, special items, uniforms, and fees to join some organized sport activities. In a different day and place, we just met in the backyards with a can to kick. I am also stunned by the impact the demands of these activities have on family schedules and wallets. It appears that if your child gets to high school, and then takes an interest in a sport, the chance to succeed in that sport may be gone. Too late to catch up with peers who listened to training songs while yet in the womb!

My question is how does a parent keep perspective on a healthy competitive edge? When does a parent ooze on over to a whatever-it-takes no-matter-the cost my-child-above-all-others mentality? Today, I heard comments from parents standing near me or walking by me that seemed too intense for me (excluding my own relatives, naturally). When does a child lose their sense of childhood and morph into a sports machine, with proud parents pushing so hard that friends are alienated?

In this summer's movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," there is a humorous example of a mother-daughter competitive duo that is an example of this over-the-top spirit and drive. It is an exaggeration, but I almost felt I'd met some similarly focused parents. Maybe I'm just too in favor of a different speed of childhood. I am not very competitive, and that might be the basis of my discomfort, too. However, how do parents keep the universe revolving around what really counts, not just around this season's sports schedule and coach's demands?


Ashley said...

with all the weight I've lost, I think I could excel in sports. Especially bicylce riding, if I knew how to ride one.

Lost Boy said...

Great observations. My wife and I grew up in sports to different degrees. She was the child star until genetics stopped her in her tracks. A super star swimmer (400 plus medals) who stopped growing and became just a very good college swimmer. I started late, 10th grade, should have been a wrestler but worked hard for5 years and over came my body and became a very good college swimmer...

We now homeschool our kids and the two oldest swim for the local High school. They inherited Moms swimming abilities and both were rookies of the year in 8th grade, lettered in 9th grade and quit in 10th. We just swam for fun and when it wasn't fun anymore there was no reason to continue. It's interesting to see the other families react to them quitting. They think we let the team down, they don't understand why a couple winners would walk away.... We have never sent the kids to expensive swim camps or swim clubs and they don't understand why we don't want the best for our kids... Why we don't swim year round and travel all over the Midwest and compete... once it became this huge contest it became pointless and Mom remembers all too well the 400 plus races that she won when her friends were out playing with each other...

Say hello to Glen for me!