Don't be a Bleacher Preacher: Let the Kids be Kids
What is the purpose of youth sports? Is it for kids to learn how to play a certain sport? To make new friends? To learn to work, learn to lose, learn to win?
Of course not. Today, all to often, youth sports are for the parents that allow their sense of pride to take precedent over activities that used to be about the kids.
If you have ever been to a Little League Baseball park, a basketball tournament, or some other sporting event for kids, you are thinking about the parent that wishes they could warm up with the team. Or Coach Wilson, who is notorious for getting ejected from a couple of games each season. And if you are Coach Wilson and you are reading this post, this is about you. Quit hitting baseballs over the tee ball fence and having a 5 year old chase after them. You are supposed to be teaching them about baseball and making sure that the kids have fun, not trying to break Barry Bonds' home run record.
But Coach Wilson isn't the only one at the ball park at fault. The parents in the bleachers are just as likely to cause a scene and the most unfortunate part of all is that this directly affects the ones that the event is supposed to be about in the first place.
It can certainly be debated that this trend has always been around and has now been amplified due to the existence of social media, but it seems as if there has been a behavioral shift in recent years.
We see videos of youth football camps where adults are encouraging defensive backs to wrestle wide receivers to the ground at the line of scrimmage. They are cheered on for this in practice and wonder why they are being penalized for it in games.
We see public figures such as Clay Travis openly bragging about being thrown out of his son's U11 baseball game for berating an umpire. We are past the good ol' days when fathers in New Balance sneakers would tell the umpire to "Call it both ways."
We watch NBA games where you are hard pressed to find a possession that a player isn't complaining about the whistle being blown or a call being missed, and you see it translating to most youth basketball games.
Now let me be clear, I have heckled my fair share of referees in my day. I want to disclose that before we go any further. I'm sure that my criticisms were always warranted, but I like to think that I have grown as a person since I was 12 years old.
Nowadays, I find it refreshing to see a kid miss a shot and not throw a tantrum about a missed foul call. It is nice to see a kid walk back to the pitcher's mound and move onto the next batter after a missed third strike on a full count. And to those kids, I applaud you for being more mature than some of the adults in attendance.
Let's think about this from the perspective of an official. You have driven an hour away from home to umpire a little league baseball game. It is 95 degrees and in the first inning, there have been 7 walks. This is not an ideal situation, but it is what you signed up for when you took the job as an umpire.
What you did not sign up for is far worse. You did not sign up to have a row of Karen's in the bleachers that are telling you how to do your job. You didn't sign up for Coach Wilson to kick dirt on home plate while telling you that you are better off working in the concession stand. You did not sign up for the cocky 8 year old that happens to be the coach's kid, Skylar Wilson, to knock over the water cooler after you called them out at home plate. No wonder why every sports league is in need of referees.
The fact of the matter is that almost all of the kids playing youth sports are not going pro. 70% of kids quit youth sports by the age of 13. Of the kids that stick with sports through high school, only a fraction of 1% will ever have the chance of reaching the professional level.
According to a poll from 2015, 26% of the parents of high school athletes believe that their child has the potential to become a professional athlete. I don't care what Journey says, there comes a time when reality sets in and momma Karen has to stop believing.
So with that in mind, can we let the kids "Play Ball" and have fun? Youth sports are not about the adults and their egos. They are about teaching kids about teamwork, sportsmanship, and that hard work can result in great success. They create memories that will outlive their youth sports careers and will take away valuable lessons that will shape them as young adults. That is the purpose of youth sports.