My daughter’s middle school basketball team lost their first game this week. It was painful to watch. The game was not the painful part. The anxiety-prompted outbursts from the other parents around me in the bleachers—that was the painful part.
It really was a good game. Both teams put forth a great effort and played with heart. Somebody had to win; and in the end our team was outhustled just enough to lose the edge. If not for the increasing frequency and volume of parental “coaching” tips coming from all around me, I would have left there feeling really good about what had taken place.
I’ve said it before; one of the best parenting books I have ever read has to be David Elkind’s The Hurried Child. It is from this same book that Chap Clark largely concludes in his book Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers that kids today have been unrelentingly pressed by adults to perform to adult standards on every level. What we had always thought of as peer pressure among kids has now been overshadowed by adult pressure coming at kids.
Maybe I’m ranting just a bit because I still vividly remember as a youth pastor the student who sat in my office telling me how much he hated playing on the basketball team, or the student telling me how she was so tired of softball pitching. But in each case the students concluded that they simply could not quit because the perception they got from their parents was to keep pressing and keep performing.
And so it pains me to sit in the bleachers and listen to the countless aspirations of parents being publically heaped upon kids out there on the floor. It’s ironic that we still refer to sports and musical instruments as something they play. I don’t see them being told to play at all. I see them being told that they are expected to perform—there’s no play in that.
Some of my esteemed Canadian friends have noted this before; and at the risk of giving too much credibility to Canadian opinions, they may be right on this one. Maybe our schools and our kids are better off if we take competitive sports out of the mix.
Till next time…