August 4, 2015


Lindor Reynolds

Local

We coddle our kids too much as it is, sports fans

Many of our current crop of children, teens and 20-somethings are the human equivalent of Kobe beef.

They're spared stress, indulged beyond common sense and have minor problems massaged away by enabling parents. They've got entitlement coming out the wazoo. What they lack is an ability to cope with a world that doesn't love them like their mom does.

Adult life is going to come as a real shock to some of these kids.

Now along comes the Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association to further the fantasy that there are no winners or losers, just people who muddle along doing their best and being adored for it. The WYSA is changing the rules of the game, so to speak, to put less emphasis on scores and standings and more on fun and fitness.

In and of itself, that sounds benign. We've got a generation of fat kids. Anything that gets them off the couch and running around is great. The days of playground skating rinks and road hockey appear to be fading. Parents (and coaches and officials) are doing the right thing by encouraging children to participate in organized sports.

But we're doing them a disservice if we decide healthy competition is a bad thing.

Now, the proposal to decrease the emphasis on game scores and increase the value of getting exercise doesn't come from the WYSA. They're responding to Sport Canada's Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) goals, which wants to fight the obesity epidemic. Making sport fun for kids is an important part of that package, as is skills development.

The funding of many sports will depend upon their compliance with the shift in values.

Here's part of a research paper on the subject:

"A specific and well-planned practice, training, competition and recovery regime will ensure optimum development throughout an athlete's career," the paper reads. "Ultimately, sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long term rather than winning in the short term. There is no shortcut to success in athletic preparation. Overemphasizing competition in the early phases of training will always cause shortcomings in athletic abilities later in an athlete's career."

I'm not a PhD., as is the paper's author, so I have to assume he knows what he's talking about. Part of this is common sense. There's no point in trying to make a pack of five- or six-year-olds care about league standings. Half of them are wandering around the field like butterflies. The other half are kicking at the ball and missing.

They need basic skills. They need to understand the rules of the game. They need snack time. They need to have fun. They need to be blessed with parents who don't think their child is the next Ronaldo.

But when do we start streamlining them? When do we (and they) accept that some kids are more talented, more committed and willing to work harder? You can't hold them back because it might hurt someone else's self-esteem. You can't deny reward to one group because it's perceived to diminish another. Some of them are athletes. Some will always be ankle-skaters. They already know the difference.

Again, we're not talking about kids fresh out of kindergarten. The kids have been playing for a few years. They've got the basics. We're expecting them to be good sports and team players. We're expecting their parents not to be morons.

We're willing to reward excellence.

Because that's the part of this idea that really bugs me. I'm a mom. I don't want anyone hurting the feelings or damaging the self-esteem of my daughters. But I know someone will get more shifts at the restaurant where they work, just as sometimes another girl got a bigger part in the dance recital. Life's like that.

My job is to offer an ear, a hug and encouragement. It's not to demand that my kids have to stop competing for their place in the world.

We need to do whatever we can to pry the remote from children's hands. We need to take responsibility for the kids in our care. But we do them no favours by following them around with a pillow in case they fall.

Because, in real life, people do keep score. Everyone has to learn that eventually.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 9, 2011 B1

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