Hey Coach – We Want Out!

Yesterday I got an e-mail from the leader of my daughter’s basket team. He’s new at the job and full of energy, so he outlined a very ambitious programme for Summer, with several tournaments fitted into the schedule, both at home and abroad. He also told us about his background as a professional player and how many injuries he got during his playing years (don’t know if that was supposed to inspire or frighten us…!).

He also took the opportunity to remind all parents of our choirs for the team. We’re supposed to take care of the catering for several of these tournaments and drive both our own kids and others back and forth. Also, in order to raise money for these (expensive) tournament trips, we need to do odd jobs here and there – selling this and fixing that. He explained that any deviations from the team rules (e.g. bailing out when you’re supposed to perform) would not be tolerated. If you can’t make it, you need to make up for it. And he wasn’t referring only to the players…

The girls in the team are 11 years old. Perhaps some of them are extremely ambitious and driven – I wouldn’t know, because my daughter sure isn’t; she just wants to play ball. At first that seemed to work out fine: her team had 2 separate training groups, one for the “professionals” and another for those more laid back players. But after a while it started to look like all players (and parents) were supposed to put in the same amount of work – regardless of whether your child just wants to throw some ball – or train for the NBA.

Both groups are now working out 4 times a week, with 2 hour sessions each time. On top of that there are games and tournaments. Of course you’re not obligated to take part in these – playing, that is. But you’re most certainly obligated to take part in the work.

We all know what the statistics say: youngsters shouldn’t be focusing on just one sport – they should exercise in versatile ways, because their bodies are still growing and developing. But with 4-6 training sessions a week, who has the energy to take up another sport (not to mention any other time-consuming hobbies)?

The saddest part in all this is that when the pressure increases, the less fun it is to play. My daughter’s very admirable enthusiasm now seems to be fading – and I can’t blame her. What used to be a fun pastime, has now become semi-professional performance, where everybody is expected to make the cut – or else…? For now, she’s still hanging in there. But, with this rigorous regime, what’s going to happen in another 6 months?

Yesterday I made a Facebook status update about this and immediately got a bunch of responses. It seems to be an issue for many people, most of whom agreed with me. This makes me wonder: if we all feel this way, why do we let the sports fascists run the show? Or is it just (as one of my FB-friends said) a question of going with the flow. Everybody thinks it’s nuts, but nobody has the energy to fight it. But surely, for our kids’ sake, we should?

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