We Had a Ball...Many years ago, someplace in the decade that was the 80’s, I was attending my ten year old daughter’s summer recreational soccer league game. At the end of the game I noticed one of the coaches come over to the one little girl who had not played at all in this game. His words to her have remained in my head for all of these years: “Sorry you didn’t play today, Melissa, but we needed to win this one.” I knew then that this part of youth sports was not supporting the emotional well being of some of the kids involved.
Many years later, after our five kids had become parents and coaches themselves, and our grandkids were now playing so many sports, I decided to ask the questions: Do you remember playing sports as a kid? If so, how did it influence you and your life? Did playing sports have either a positive or negative impact on your own self-esteem?
I sent these questions via e-mail to many people of many ages. So quickly their stories were being shared with me. These stories were filled with nostalgia, and humor, and insights into lessons learned. “We Had a Ball….The Indelible Influence of Youth Sports” began!
Memories shared include relationships with father/coaches, with not making the team in school, with learning 40 years later why your tennis teacher was so strict when you threw your racquet on the court, with being the last chosen in gym class teams, with reconnecting with your need for play as an adult, and with successes and victories and friends. Each story shared was authentic, with an almost innocent vulnerability in many cases.
Included in “We Had a Ball…” are the generously shared voices of medical professionals who wrote about physical safety, and of John O’Sullivan who speaks so clearly about the need to “put our children on a road to somewhere, one paved with balanced childhoods, exploration, enjoyment, and yes, multiple sports.” (“The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports” John O’Sullivan).
Coaches who I had the good fortune to observe working so gently and wisely with the children on their teams were willing to share what and who had influenced them to coach in this way.
I learned so much from these “current voices”…perhaps most importantly that we must honor the child developmentally, and not put our child in the position of being treated as an adult in adult situations. I learned that there is indeed “joy” in our memories of organized youth sports, but that some of the memories of ‘playing freely’ those games of stick ball on city streets, or those neighborhood baseball games without uniforms and coaches and umpires were also memories deeply held in the hearts and minds of those who played those games very long ago.
Do you remember playing sports as a child or teenager? Has that experience influenced your life?
For more information on Nancy Hoehl Shapiro and her book, go to wehadaball.com
Copyright © 2015 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved