Failure No Longer An Option

It’s been a long time since I sat in the bleachers watching one or another of my children playing sports. At various times, we were spectators for t-ball, soccer, softball, little league baseball, Kiwanis Kids Day football, junior high basketball and football, and senior high basketball and football.

I feel like I’ve probably left something out but you get the idea. With four children in athletics, there were times we (two parents) needed to be in three different places to attend concurrent events! It was a challenge.

However, only this week did I realize how radically different children’s sports has changed … I knew just how different when I saw this video relating the details of “Silent Saturday.” (I’ll let you make up your own mind about whether you think this is a positive transformation or not.)

Do a Google search and you’ll get results of numerous soccer associations experimenting with this notion of “Silent Saturday.” Their claims are noble − purporting to champion the needs of vulnerable children and prevent [screaming] adults from “invading the children’s playtime.”

For me, “Silent Saturday” is simply one more indication some children are introduced to sports far too early. One of the measures, it seems to me, for gauging a child’s readiness for sports is his/her ability to hone better listening skills (i.e. pay attention to coach, filter out other distracting voices).

As a parent on the sidelines, I observed that most grade-school children who participate in sports just want to have fun! To that extent, it is indeed the “children’s playtime.” Children definitely love to run, to chase a ball, to do the running and chasing in the company of other kids their age. But by the time they enter sports, they’ve already begun to understand the significance of cheers (and boos), of wins and losses, of excellence in performance and the mediocrity of lax performance. They may be playing, but they’re playing for keeps on some level.

Still, as long as parents encourage and permit their kids to enjoy the fun, undue pressure to perform at a high level can be minimized (except perhaps for the few who seem to feed on sports because of their intense competitive drive).

The sports skills children learn (at this young age anyway) are often incidental to the camaraderie and teamwork that takes place on the field/court/diamond, etc. In fact, I’ve known some children who learned the camaraderie and teamwork well without ever actually mastering the sports skills.

Why? May I suggest it was due to their personalities. For some, the sports were only an avenue for social interaction (and possibly because mom or dad wanted the kid to participate).

But even the children who don’t really care about the sport and aren’t naturally gifted athletes do have their ears tuned to their parents’ voices. Why shut down that parent-child communication? Children thrive on the feedback and they long to hear their parents praise them! I shudder to imagine the child who believes he/she has performed a “great” move but mom/dad can’t offer the immediate affirmation and praise they hope to receive! What’s next? A star on the pillow from the tooth fairy? A non-committal thumbs-up for A’s on the report card?

How does a child’s maturity most likely flourish? From the artificial imposition of “Silent Saturday” or from experience (whether win or lose) where the child internalizes natural feedback that can help him/her become a better player and/or a more understanding (wiser) human being?

Children who engage in sports require maturity, but their engagement also encourages added maturity. They learn to deal positively with affliction (sustaining losses, being a benchwarmer instead of top-dog, accepting legitimate criticism sans tears, etc.)

Sanitizing sports events by inflicting children (and parents, onlookers) with “Silent Saturday” is a sure way to squash any interest in competitive activities that move these kids away from the inactivity of computers and video games. The social engineers try to encourage children in physical activity (to prevent obesity) but then spoil the sports activities by pressing a competition-is-bad mumbo jumbo agenda!

I’m betting the kids would prefer less interference, more working-it-out amongst themselves, and a generous portion of normal free play.

Renée