Last week our youngest grandchildren, Treyton ( just turned 7), and Ava (4), came over from Wolseley with their parents on a road trip to Kipling for soccer. This was great news for us grandparents, as we didn’t have to travel to watch them play, but at the same time I was wondering why six-year-olds and four year-olds are going on organized soccer road trips? On a weeknight, no less. Six and four-year-olds.
Both age-groups games started at 7:00 pm and factoring in the length of the game, the snack stop afterwards, a little bit of visiting with Grandma and Grandpa plus the drive back home, the kids wouldn’t be snuggled into their beds until well beyond 9 o’clock, long after their regular bedtime.
Now, before I get pushing my humble opinion on you regarding children and sport I am going to tell you that I spent a great deal of my life involved in organized sports. I loved organized sports. I have played, officiated, coached, managed and organized many different minor and amateur sports of all different types at all kinds of levels both for me and my peers and for my children and their peers and I loved it and I’d do it all over again if I could.
I love to compete and when I was a youngster I was the poorest sport on the planet. I hated losing. Of course I was tied for that honour with a few million others and I am still embarrassed by some of my antics on the playing field at that young age. That’s something I would go back and change, if I could. That said, I also had an awful lot of fun playing those games.
Now, back to the Grandchildren’s soccer…here’s the thing…there are enough children in both of our grandchildren’s age groups in Wolseley to form two teams in each age category. Why the road trips? Why not play each other at home for skill improvement for a few weeks and then take them on one or two Saturday road trips a season for a treat. Sound fair?
I happened to read a statistic the other day that stated that 70% of children leave organized sports by the age of 13. Seventy per cent! By then they are “burnt out”, if you can imagine. Too many parents are living vicariously through their children setting unattainable goals for them and pushing, pushing, pushing. The kids only want to have fun but too many of the people in charge care only about the final score. In fact, when polled, a majority of children said they would rather play on a losing team and play more than sit on the bench of a winning team.
If they only emphasize the games then where is the skill development? Take swimming for instance…you get instruction for twenty minutes during Swimming Lessons and then you really learn how to swim during the public swimming times where you practice what you’ve been taught. Ditto baseball, hockey, football, soccer...Learn the basics and then try, try and try again. What will you learn while you’re sitting on a blanket or a bench on the sidelines.
When was the last time anyone saw a pickup road hockey game going on? Or a football or soccer game in the big, new, beautiful field we have in the old little school yard? That’s where skill development is at its highest. Every activity is the same whether it’s sports or driving or dancing or reading and writing…learn the moves and then practice, practice, practice.
I am very pleased that our daughter and our son-in-law are giving their children the opportunity to enjoy sports and music and dance and experience how much fun there can be in so many of life’s activities. I am also confident that they will know when too much is too much.
The psychological and social benefits of sport are numerous and well known. Sports and recreation provide children with so many life skills including, but not limited to, greater confidence, self-esteem and work ethic, stronger peer relationships, teamwork, greater family interactions, less troublemaking and the list goes on. And if they become a pro or an Olympian, or something, all the better, but no four-year-old is being scouted by the pros…as far as I know.
Competition is valuable in life development, too, in so many ways but can’t we let kids be kids? They will have a whole lifetime past their teenage years of cutthroat competition in sports and in life in general. It will be upon them sooner than anyone can think so let’s just let them play, okay?
“Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” John Wooden, (1910-2010), Legendary UCLA Basketball Coach.