Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 6 Aug 07 14:29
Our next guest is Regan McMahon, author of "Revolution in the Bleachers: How Parents Can Take Back Family Life in a World Gone Crazy Over Youth Sports" (http://www.revolutioninthebleachers.com). Leading the conversation with Regan is Bill Thompson.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 6 Aug 07 14:35
"Revolution in the Bleachers" examines America's over-the-top youth sports culture and its effect on kids and families, and offers suggestions for positive change. It grew out of Regan's life as a mother of two athletic kids and is informed by her experience as a youth athlete. She was a competitive figure skater from second through 10th grade and a member of her high school basketball and swim teams in Pasadena, CA, where she grew up. Regan is deputy book editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, where she's worked since 1984. Prior to that, she was a writer, editor and critic for BAM: The California Music Magazine. She and her husband, Blair Jackson (see <inkwell.vue.50>), live in Oakland with their kids. Our moderator for this conversation is Bill Thompson. Bill is a Bay Area local whose sports-crazy kid is a sucker for anything that involves wheels, a ball or hitting things with a stick (BMX bikes, basketball and ice hockey). Bill is the author of three novels (one demurely out of print, 2 in the bottom drawer of his desk) and currently works for a San Francisco start-up in Product Development and Communications. His job title (really) is, "Utility Infielder." Welcome, Regan! Welcome Bill! Glad to have you join us in Inkwell.vue.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Mon 6 Aug 07 19:38
Hey Regan, I'm so glad you're here to talk about your excellent book, Revolution in the Bleachers. I had quite a few eye-opening moments when pouring through it. I have to confess right up front that my family is in many ways a prime example of much of what your wrote about. I have a nearly 12 year old boy who is a nut about sports but has chosen to do one sport exclusively in the travel team competitive arena. We're those weird types that play hockey and hang around ice rinks for seemingly countless hours every week. I see that you were a competitive skater so you know much of what that entails. Doing travel hockey we pretty much give up our lives (the weekend times of it anyway) from September to April every year. We get a lot out of it and also have a pile of challenges to our family dynamic. I'm really looking forward to going deeper into some of these with you; not only the problem issues but how we and many of the sports obsessed families cope and adjust. It's far from a negative experience for us when we put everything on the scales. These are interesting times. Anyway, for the benefit of those who haven't yet your book, could you tell a bit about what spurred you into writing it?
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Tue 7 Aug 07 08:18
My book developed out of a cover story I wrote for the Chronicle magazine in March 2005 called "How Much Is Too Much?" that looked at the impact of youth sports on modern American childhood and family life. The inspiration for the article came from my own experience of running my two kids around to practices and games, sometimes in mulitple sports in a season, and realizing how much time parents and kids were spending in the car keeping up with these demanding schedules, and how little time they had for anything else. And the families around us who had their kids on elite traveling teams had an even more hectic life then ours, with little free time time to do other things like hang out with friends, go to the beach or the mountains for a weekend, visit relatives, spend holidays at home. I wondered how we got here, since it was so different from when I was a kid, and if there was room for change so that kids and families could get some balance back in their lives. I was also concerned about the phsyical and mental health risks to kids, from overuse injuries, too much pressure to perform and excel, and too little downtime. So I explored these issues in the magazine piece and got an enormous and overwhelmingly positive response from readers. Parents were thrilled that someone was finally talking about this. And what was surprising to me was that coaches and league adminstrators were equally thrilled, I guess because they have to deal with the over-the-top parents and agree that things have gotten out of whack. When when I got the book deal a couple of months after the article came out, I was able to expand my focus and examine the issue on a national scale.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Tue 7 Aug 07 10:25
One thing that interests me and was in big factor in me reading the book was that I too have thought about how askew the whole youth sports concept has become in relation to what we knew as kids. And about how it is not so much a problem as a reaction to a larger problem. In my rosy remembrances of the suburbs of my youth, kids in the neighborhood or school chums were always around and available. Kids played freely in the streets and without a lot of pre-planning of play dates. If you wanted something to do you just got on your bike and drove down to the school yard to see if any other kids were hanging around and wanted to start a pick up game of baseball or wanted to shoot some hoops. Or you simply rode over to a friends house and knocked on the door. I remember almost always being in the company of other kids. Todays kids in many, many cases are shuffled by car to school and back again to sit in their houses and do their homework. Or to extracurricular activities and camps for computers, and drama and language arts. If they dont have extracurricular activities or are not lucky enough to have school mates living close by, at times their opportunities for social interaction with other kids outside of the controlled environment of school can be pretty limiting. That and the kind of overwhelming need by modern parents to know where their child is every second and to manage their social activities makes an organized team a natural go-to settings. There is also the factor of the lack of sports programs in many public schools. I mean, when I was in elementary school everybody had the opportunity to play every sport in P.E. classes. There was football in the fall, basketball in the winter, soccer in the early spring, baseball in full spring and track at years end. All presented by the school in P.E. and something called after school ports programs. My two boys, one now not a boy anymore at 20 and the other about to turn 12 both have gone to CCC public schools that did practically nothing in terms of sports for them. It was join a team in rec leagues or nothing. In a way rec leagues and travel teams have become my boys neighborhood. Thats a long, round about way of saying that I feel in many ways restoring the balance in our family life by fixing the sometimes overzealous sports pathology is only one step in a larger process.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Tue 7 Aug 07 13:05
I think it's absolutely shameful how schools have dropped the ball on this (pardon the sports metaphor). And it's been very shortsighted of taxpayers to cut school programs and not see that educating body and mind is important, especially with the obesity problem in the United States. I, like you, learned to play/try out many different sports in P.E. and then decide which ones I might like to play outside of school. Today, P.E. and even recess are endangered species, thanks to the No Child Left Behind act, which has led schools to focus so much on testing and grades that they're willing to cut classes or play time because they feel it won't help the kids on those standardized tests. But in fact research shows that kids learn better in school when they have time to run around during the shcool day, at recess and in P.E. I also think parents should push to bring back intramural sports. We should all be striving to have our kids more active so we can promote lifelong habits of healthy exercise. But what we've done is allowed youth sports to go from something that was about wide participation, fun, healthy exercise and skill development to a star system designed to weed out the less talented kids and promote and push the most talented ones. That's a big cultural shift and has meant a big shift in resources, as the elite club system has come to dominate the landscape of youth sports.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Tue 7 Aug 07 16:06
That really hits the nail on the head; the mention of the shift from wide participation to a star system. I was smallish and not great at football and pretty lame at baseball, but dang it I got to play at school and have fun. My older boy doesn't even know the positions on a football team (partially my fault as we don't have a TV) and he's never played volleyball or wrestling or gymnastics or softball -- all the things we took for granted as kids. My younger boy's tiny school does its best but lunchtime soccer and whiffle ball games are about all there is. There is an old hoop with no net, that I keep putting up fresh nets when i notice but the kids having never had an intramural game don't really know how to play and just kind of shoot around play some weird game called "knockout" It pains me as I was a high school and college b-ball player to see the kids get no instruction and one year I did volunteer to set up an after school basketball game for them but the small size of the school made participation a bit spotty. my time as an afternoon coach is pretty limited too. Most of the parents I know at our school would like to see something happening but there flat out isn't any money for coaches or equipment. heck, the school has to fund raise almost 1/5 of it's revenue from the community. Sports and music suffer always. it's a challenge.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Tue 7 Aug 07 18:37
I think your school is unusual in many ways, particuarly its small size, but sports programs are suffering in public schools across the country. My kids go to Catholic schools, where sports always seem to play a strong role. Team sports at my kids' K-8 school (in the CYO League) start in third grade with basketball and cross country for boys and girls, then volleyball starts in fourth grade. The kids play soccer, baseball and softball in city leagues (and later on club or AAU teams) and may do gymnastics or ice skating or horseback riding at whatever local facilities there are. In my book, I focus on team sports in particular, because in looking at how the culture has changed, what's really changed is team sports. There have always been indiviudal athletes who gave up normal life because they were especially gifted and driven, kids who chose to make a time commtiment unlike that of their classmates. But kids in previous generations didn't get heavily involved in team sports till middle or even high school. Maybe some boys did baseball or pop Warner a little earlier. But the phenomenon of everybody putting their kid on a soccer team in kindergarten is a practice that's only 15 or 20 years old. Before, kids got to goof off and have free play and try sports in P.E. and throw the ball around with their dad for a bunch of years before they got serious about team sports. Now your kid is the odd person out if he or she isn't signed up for soccer in kindergarten. And while I, as an figure skater, had a life very different from that of my classmates and missed out on social things because I was training, nowadays the whole class is locked into a team schedule from the earliest years of grade school. Now greater numbers of people are living the kind of intense, competitive life only top athletes used to live. That's a big difference. And there are special pressures that come along with team sports. For example, in an individual sport, the coach doesn't make you show up for practice even when you're sick.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Wed 8 Aug 07 05:52
In your interviewing people for your book did you find that the pressure to "team-up" came primarily from the parents, peer pressure, or were the kids in general were as happy as Brer rabbit in the briar patch at the opportunity to play competitively at a young age? I know what you mean though, Ethan's entire kindergarten class signed up to play youth league soccer en masse. For whatever reasons Ethan just didn't want to even try soccer except at the lunch time pick up games. And how common is the example of your last paragraph of a coach requiring a kid to show up, even when ill? That's one I certainly haven't seen in our 5 years of travel hockey. Maybe we've just lucked out on having really good coaches but showing up for practice when you're ill? recipe for injuries and certainly does nothing positive for the team practice is some kid is dogging it because he's been barfing for two days and still has a fever. show up and sit on the bench to support the team during a game when you're out with a broken wrist, yes.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 8 Aug 07 10:10
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put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Wed 8 Aug 07 11:45
I would think that any coach that pressured a kid to practice sick would meet with massive resistance from the parents; individual effort sports or team sports. i would certainly question his/her competency. my boy has never hardcore, tier teams or double AA travel. I'm guessing that is the kind of level where you saw that kind of obsessive coaching pressure? not in your basic rec league soccer or basketball league?
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Wed 8 Aug 07 12:30
I was exposed to a full range of sports in P.E. class, at a really good public school on Long Island. And I really hated most of it. I was not overweight or unusually klutzy, but my physical abilities were a couple years behind those of my classmates, so P.E. class was mostly an exercise in keeping a low profile and not getting hurt by the kids who played on the team of whatever sport we were practicing. Plus I was more-or-less repelled by the whole jock culture, being a geeky math and science type. Relief came when I was about 15 and started racing a small sailboat. (I took secret pleasure in seeming my performance reported in the sports pages of the New York Times every Monday.) But I still had to endure those wasted hours of P.E. that were totally geared to producing better interscholastic teams and usually left me standing out in the outfield bored to death. More relief came when I was 16 or 17, and me and some friends figured out that we could cut P.E. class and play tennis, but we got caught at it and had to stop. I did a lot of bike riding then too. 40 years later I still race sailboats, and my 11-year old, who follows the family tradition of disinterest in field sports, is finally getting interested in sailboat racing also. Plus we both participate on a dragon boat team, which is a paddle sport that I think has great potential as an entry-level alternative to field sports, especially suited to the klutzy and/or overweight kids from schools with no real P.E. program.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Wed 8 Aug 07 14:06
To answer Bill's question about sick kids having to attend practice, it definitely happens at the elite club level in soccer and I've heard of it in basketball and volleyball as well. The young athletes have told me it's required as a way to show your commitment to the team, and perhaps not to miss out on any coaching instructions, even if you're sitting on the bench and are too sick to play. I know a Bay Area volleyball club that makes the players make up any practice for any reason -- sickness, family vacation, school event -- by attending pratices of other of the club's teams who train on different days. (I suspect they are not the only club that has trhis rule.) So one family I know canceled their spring break travel plans (a family vacation they had always taken before) rather than have their 11-year-old daughter have to make up two or three practices when she got home after vacation, in addition to the two or three practices she'd be doing with her own team. The parents don't complain, they don't resist, because the message is: You don't like it? Go back to a rec league.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Wed 8 Aug 07 14:19
w.o.w. and I thought travel hockey was intense. Perhaps it is say back in New Hampshire or Mass. Our coach two years ago would ask any player who missed a practice to make up the hour with ice time of any kind. Meaning, miss that horrible 6:30am full ice Sunday morning practice due to parental laziness (waving hand) and your kid was be required to at very least hit the rink for an hour on a Saturday afternoon public session -- just to keep his legs on ice. hi Paul, dragon boat racing sounds like big fun. And hey, I was a geeky science lab assistant and math brainiac and musician and participating in jock culture gave me enough cred to not get bullied -- especially in middle school. Being on the wrestling and basketball teams gave me a tribe and kept me from being totally being tagged a geek.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Wed 8 Aug 07 14:23
also, the few times I've been lucky enough to be invited onto a sailboat the words klutzy never came to mind. Anyone who can sail and keep things together is being self-effacing if they refer to themselves as geeky an klutzy, imo.
John Ross (johnross) Wed 8 Aug 07 15:00
Is this kind of pressure to participate in sports purely a middle-class phenomenon? Are the kids in urban and/or poorer neighborhoods (there's probably some common euphemism to describe those schools and neighborhoods) under the same pressure? I know about the (mostly Black) kids for whom the goal of an NBA or NFL contract is the only way out, but do the kids with less potential talent also have the same kind of pressure to participate as their opposite numbers in the suburbs?
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Wed 8 Aug 07 15:09
also, the few times I've been lucky enough to be invited onto a sailboat the words klutzy never came to mind. Anyone who can sail and keep things together is being self-effacing if they refer to themselves as geeky an klutzy, imo. <slippage>
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 8 Aug 07 16:14
I called my sister on her 50th birthday and she was down in California (from the Northwest) with her oldest daughter, age 17, who had a soccer tournament in Sacramento. Meanwhile, her husband was with their youngest daughter, age 13, in San Diego for a different club tournament. The boy, age 16, went with his dad and younger sister. Five r-t plane tickets, two hotels, variations on this same routine numerous times a year. The boy plays school sports--football, wrestling and track, while the girls are sucked into the soccer vortex. The oldest girl plays on both her high school team and in the premiere league. She'll probably land a college scholarship. College coaches pay much more attention to the club play than the schools and, thereby, reinforce this immersive approach to their respective sports. Just a guess, but I think my sister and brother-in-law probably spend $20k a year on soccer and the related travel. This is not to mention that my sister only works part time and loses income because of all the demands of having all three kids in organized sports. The involvement with the girls, though, is far more demanding. When and why did sports become so specialized and, frankly, elitist? No poor family and few middle-class ones can participate in this costly system. Looking at my nieces and nephew, all are good natural athletes and fun to watch play. However, the boy, in playing three sports, seems to have more natural passion for the sports he is in than my nieces, who have, in my opinion, exhibited burnout, at times. This isn't to say that they are forced to play, but more that they have been sucked in by a system. The boy, on the other hand, is no less likely to go onto the collegiate level and approaches his participation in sports as a fun challenge, not an all-consuming obligation. The sporting successes of all three kids are, obviously, positively reinforced in the home. Is the competitiveness, team-building, and goal-setting of these kids necessarily a bad thing in a society that is so competitive, corporate, and fixated on measurables? This soccer fixation, though, seems to parallel the way that a well-rounded liberal arts education is supplanted by a vocational approach to higher education. Instead of well-rounded, adaptable graduates, we have come to favor the specialist. My nephew is gaining a well-rounded immersion into sports while my nieces are spending their formative years and most of their free time as soccer specialists. What will it take for hackysack to become the new national pasttime?
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Wed 8 Aug 07 16:39
funny you should mention something like hackysack. My sister up in Seattle has at times led to me an insane kids sports life. with one daughter and two boy, all who have played soccer and swimming and basketball, plus my sister not only coaches a team but played in adult leagues -- her husband the same. with everyone in a 5 person family doing multi-tasking sports it just seemed insane to me. she needs a couple fo paid drivers!! However with all that intensity of competitive athletics, the oldest daughter, now at Stanford plays on the Frisbee team. She travels all over the country to playing collegiate tourneys. And now her younger brother has taken up the sport, playing on a Washington state travel Frisbee team. The mind boggles.
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Wed 8 Aug 07 17:09
Boy, I had no idea there were travel Frisbee teams! Could hackeysack be next? The change in youth sports developed just in the past 15-20 years. There are a lot of factors that contributed to the change, including the rise of soccer, Title IX and the increase in women's sports scholarhip opportunities, the success of the 1999 U.S. Women's World Cup Team (referred to as "Title IX babies") -- so families watching said to themselves, "That could be my girls!" -- and the advent of 24-hour sports programming. So parents who at one time might have thought, when watching sports on TV, that it was an extreme longshot that their kid would make it to the NFL or be a major leaguer, now see everythign from beach volleyball to water polo to women's basketball on ESPN at any time of day and are convinced that their kid could be destined for TV and/or professional sports stardom. And as pro sports salaries have gone through the roof, and younger and younger athletes are getting multi-million-dollar contracts and endoresement deals, youth sports has become a means to the an end of financial reward rather than an end in itself of playijg for fun with your friends, representing your school, etc. These changes in culture and media have spawned a frenzy for college athletic scholarships. So that today when parents are making a decision about what team to put their 8-year-old on, that decision may be based on some statistacally unrealistic dream of that kid getting a scholarship whenhe or she is 18. In fact, less that 2 percent of kids who play youth sports ever get a college scholarhip. What many parents don't know is that there is much more money for academic scholaships than athletic ones. One college coach I interviewed said he tells parents, "If you really want your kid to get a college scholarship, get him a math tutor."
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Wed 8 Aug 07 18:20
That's darn good advice. My niece is one of the rare ones that hit the scholarship jackpot. She grew up in San Diego and swam for years and played soccer and volley ball. In high school she discovered basketball just as she was really starting to grow. She hit 6'2, dropped the swimming but not the volleyball and over 4 years of high school averaged 16 pts per game. She also had a 4.+ gpa and was editor of her school paper. She ended up getting a full 4 year ride to a division I school for basketball. She's a rare one and by her own admission, she tells us that she thinks there were three or four other girls in her high school's league who were better than her or at least as accomplished who didn't get a scholarship. There just aren't that many to go around and she feels immensely grateful. She holds out no hopes for a professional career except perhaps as a sports writer.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 8 Aug 07 19:31
<<So that today when parents are making a decision about what team to put their 8-year-old on, that decision may be based on some statistacally unrealistic dream of that kid getting a scholarship when he or she is 18. Interestingly, my niece who is 17 has been offered a scholarship at a Catholic private university, which she prefers, even though she has never been Catholic. She will probably get offers at an in-state school or two, also. So, if she insists on going to the private college--even with a scholarship--my sister and B-I-L will be shelling out a great deal of $$ to make up the difference between the scholarship and the cost of her education. So, even as one of the lucky few, it has and may well continue to cost dearly. I'm imagining my niece, after all that sacrifice and education, taking a vow of poverty, and living her days as a nun on the streets of Calcutta, just to teach her parents a lesson. [BTW, the greatest traveling hackysack players were known as Deadheads and could be found periodically playing outside the greatest sports arenas in the USA.]
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Wed 8 Aug 07 19:46
The previous niece story -- of Watadoo's basketball player niece and her scholarhip -- shows, among other things, how someone can find their ultimate sport later in their young life. One of the college athletes in my book didn't play any team sports till 5th grade, when she took up basketabll, and she ended up getting a basketball scholarship to St. Mary's, a D-I university. These kinds of stories are why I advocate having kids play mulitple sports. The parents who decide when their kids is 5 that he or she is going to be a soccer star, and has them specialize early, may be denying them the discovery one day that basketball or baseball or whatever is their true calling and passion. The college coaches and pro athletes I interviewed told me there is absolutely no evidence that starting early and specializing early has any bearing on how good an athlete a kid will ultmately be, or whether they'll get a college scholarhip. The turning point is puberty, as your niece found. For example, the kid who is the best basketball player in 4th grade because he's the tallest and most coordinated, may find in 8th grade that his classmates have caught up with him, and he's now in the middle of the pack in terms of height and coordination. So the youth coaches and personal trainers who tell parents they can see that their second grader will be a star athlete, so they should sign him up on the travel team immediately, may be selling them a bill of goods. The college coaches and pro athletes I interviewed told me that the best players on their teams were always the athletes who had played three sports in high school. But the trend now is to specialize. Many parents and club coaches will tell you the multisport athlete is a thing of the past. I bet your niece's prowess in basketball was helped by her development in those other sports. On a much smaller scale, I didn't start my daughter in soccer till second grade. She had been doing gymnastics for several years before that. I remember on the first day of soccer practice she was doing really well, getting to the ball with grace, speed, focus, agility and aggressiveness, and the other parents standing around kept turning to me and asking, "Are you sure she hasn't played soccer before?" Her gymnastics training (and natural athletic ability) served her well as she took on a new sport. And it's been that way with every sport she's learned -- and there have been many!
Regan McMahon (r-mcmahon) Wed 8 Aug 07 20:11
re scholarships: Scott's story points up how rare the full-ride scholarship is. So in this obsession among parents to have their kids get scholarhips, it's often not about the money. It's about the status of being able to say my kid got a scholarship. Because it might only be a small portion of the tution, especially at a private school. And the amount can change from year to year. You might get a big chunk the first year and a much smaller amount -- or nothing -- in successive years. And parents spend many thousands of dollars on all those years on elite club teams, with team fees, uniforms, camos and other suplementary training, plus the enoromous travel costs. So to say, as many do, that the reason to push the kids and give up family time and family vacations and free play and downtime and holidays and rites of passage from sleepovers to sleep-away nature summer camps to even the prom is because of the high cost of college is rather disingenuous. As an educator and sports reformer in my book told me, if they'd put that money in an ivestment fund, they'd have no trouble no trouble paying the college fees. In fact, as somenoe already pointed out, many of the people who can afford this expensive elite sports life often are in a position to afford college, so they are not truly depending on the scholarship to provide their child with a good education. That's another unfortunate byproduct of the rise of the club stystem: that youth sports is becoming an upper-middle class endeavor. The kids who make the high school teams in many sports -- soccer and volleyball among them -- are the kids whose parents can afford to have them on club teams. It used to be that high school was a level playing field, where whoever showed up for the tryouts and had raw talent could be chosen and developed. But now the kids with elite trainng under their belts will ace out other kids who did not have that expereince in middle school becasue their parents couldn't afford it or didn't choose the tournament lifestyle for their family. High school coaches told me it's still possibnle for a "diamond in the rough" to be selected in football or basketabll, but at this point, it's much more attractive to select a soccer or basketball playr who's already had years of sophisticated training. So I fear the day is coming (if it's not laready here) when the majority of kids on the high school teams come from privileged backgrounds.
Call me Fishmeal (pk) Thu 9 Aug 07 00:42
>And hey, I was a geeky science lab assistant >and math brainiac and musician and participating >in jock culture gave me enough cred to not get >bullied -- especially in middle school. Being on >the wrestling and basketball teams gave me a >tribe and kept me from being totally being >tagged a geek. Yeah, a good P.E. teacher could have sent me on that same route, if they hadn't been so obsessed with building the teams and winning county championships. I would have gone for bike racing or maybe even tennis in a big way if given the right kind of encouragement and an appropriate competition venue. Frisbee too, if it had been a sport back in the '60s, but that's partly because it was always a kind of anti-jock thing (and the cool gyro-aerodynamics, of course.) As it turned out, I was probably as much of an annoyance to the P.E. teachers as they were to me. Thank Gopod for the fat kid in the class (back in those days there was only one!) who prevented me from being picked last when we chose up teams. Now I get to be a doting parent as I help out in the Richmond Yacht Club sailing program, where my 11-year-old is learning how to win sailboat races. It's been a long wait - I bought the boat for him before the litmus paper was dry on the pregnancy test kit. For 10 years I was very careful not to be the least bit coercive about taking him sailing, and he showed almost no interest. Finally, about a year ago, the role modeling seemed to take hold and he decided he wanted to start sailing and racing. But I feel like my enthusiasm for this could backfire at any time. Fortunately RYC has the good sense to keep parent volunteers on different parts of the Bay from their own kids...
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Thu 9 Aug 07 06:26
Good on you Paul for letting Rocky find his passion for himself. I suffered from having a fairly pushy dad who decided early what my sport was going to be. See, my dad was a big time college basketball star for Cal. He was always on all-star teams and getting awards and recognition and from what I can tell, got most of his self-imaging from his jock basketball star status. He even claims to have had a pro contract offered to him when he was fresh out of Cal in the Fifties. hrmmm. So he decided I would be the same. From the time I could walk I was bouncing a basketball and dissecting the UCLA press while watching Johnny Wooden's championship teams in the 60's. CYO and school basketball was my main focus though in those days as I mentioned earlier, thanks to good public schools the kids all got football and baseball and track and wrestling and gymnastics and if you liked sports you had the opportunity to be pretty well rounded. However I got my height from my mother's side and never really got tall enough to be an impact player. In middle school I excelled at cross country and wrestling going undefeated for two years running. I really liked wrestling. When I was in eight grade, the local high school coach was recruiting me to join the wrestling team but I was told by my father that was out, as it conflicted with Basketball -- which I dutifully went out for and rose quickly to find my level of mediocrity -- Regan is spot on about how the kids that mature early get caught up with by 14-16 years old. Whereas at 11 by tenacity and constant coaching by my father I was a pretty good CYO b-ball player, by 16 I was just another 5'9" guy in the crowd going to tryouts. I could play smart, but physically I had challenges. I held onto a lot of resentment about not being allowed to continue doing what I wanted and by my junior year dropped out of the basketball program. I determined NOT to do this kind of pushing to my kids and though Ethan has got Grandpa's natural ability with all things physical, he also gets to pursue anything else he wants to do. This summer he's doing Shakespeare camp and playing drums in a band program, and told me last night that acting is his favorite thing (he;'s performing a role in King Lear tomorrow!!). I told him at dinner last night that if he ever felt overwhelmed and wanted to drop any other activities like hockey or playing the drums and just do drama that would be okay. He looked at me like i was nuts. Quit hockey??!!?? har. Which segues into my next question for Regan. In your interviewing parents and kids and coaches et al, where did you find the pushing mainly coming from and are the kids doing these multi travel teams (the baseball kids playing on two or three teams playing year round were the scariest case studies, imo) happy about it? Is the pushing to join these travel level teams at a young age for sports like soccer coming from the parents, coaches, peer pressure?
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