A story in the Dallas Morning News today confirmed one of my deepest beliefs. The biggest problem with kids sports is adults. As the father of three sons; I have seen the effects of the traveling squads and elite teams. Sure, some scholarship athletes come out of those programs. But the unseen consequence is that we (alleged adults) have sucked the fun out of childhood sports for a large percentage of the participants.
Warning…geezer rant directly ahead:
I remember playing sandlot baseball for hours because I loved the game. I also played in an organized league but my joy and love for baseball came from the hours of camaraderie built around the sandlot games. I learned more about tough negotiations playing in my friend Vic’s backyard than I ever learned in school. For example, we were able to hammer out the Hirn Street Treaty with this rule. Any ball hit into Mr.Moore’s garden is an automatic out because we are afraid of him. And so I learned to hit the ball to the opposite field because of a grouchy old man. When was the last time you drove through a neighborhood and saw of group of kids playing baseball just for fun? What you likely saw was a bunch of dads in bad coaching shorts yelling at eight year olds for being, well, eight year olds.Why do so many of us feel the need to live out our athletic prowess, real or imagined, through our children?
Geezer rant over…resume normal reading.
I have been one of those dads. I dreamed that one of my sons would be an great pitcher or all state basketball player. Now that I am 50 something I can ask myself the question that I apparently never considered before. Where did I expect my sons to get those athletic genes? I have coached youth all-star teams in a competitive league so I am not naive about the topic. I wonder in retrospect if I allowed them to have enough fun in the process of teaching them the game I love? I wonder if winning was just a little too important? I wonder if I caused any of them to love the game less? The ugliest split I have ever seen outside of church was a group of parents fighting over all-star selections and playing time. It was an early indoctrination to the perils of writing this humble blog. I have had to come to grips with the fact that people will call you names and question the marital status of your parents just because they disagree with your opinions. And the all-star parents were even worse.
So it was with that background that I read about the girl’s version of competition gone wild. This story was about the selection process for cheerleaders at a Dallas area high school. Southlake Carroll high school is in the midst of turmoil over the results of the cheerleader selection process. The controversy has actually reached the school board trustees who are being forced to weigh in on a no win issue. Parents are filing grievances. Classmates are choosing sides.
Fight, team, Fight!
Fight, parents, Fight!
Fight, fight, fight!
Initially fourteen girls made high enough scores to make the squad. A grievance was filed. The school decided to add four seniors. More grievances were filed. Then the school decided to include all thirty-two of the girls who auditioned on the team. More grievances were filed. The parents of the original fourteen argued that their daughters demonstrated the skills required to make the team. Those parents ratcheted up the battle by going over the school administration’s heads to the school board trustees.
The Dallas Morning News picks up the story. After several hours in closed session Monday, board members ruled 4-2 that the 14 girls who initially qualified for the squad should stay. The rest of the squad will be selected at a later date and time. Some of the original 14 cheerleaders applauded after the board vote. One cheerleader who made the first cut, said allowing everyone on the squad who auditioned “doesn’t teach anyone a lesson. It’s the principle,” she said. “It’s the work ethic behind it.”
There are a lot of lessons that can be taught through life experiences like this. For those who have the attractiveness and skills to make the cut there is the lesson of humility and grace to those who haven’t been so blessed. Some could work just as hard and not make the cut. It is not just about work ethic.
For those who feel the process was biased there is the very real lesson that life is hard and often not fair. I am sure my sons would tell you that if they had five dollars for everytime I told them, “life isn’t fair”, they could likely buy a new car. When we try to protect our kids from life we really aren’t doing them any favors. I have had my heart broken watching my sons go through the often brutal process of adolescent and teenage passage. But as a father, my job was to prepare them to go into a world that is every bit as difficult. So sometimes I had to lay out and let them experience some pain and then help them get through it.
As Christians we make the same mistake. “Jesus is the answer” we say with giant smiles on our face. And He is. He is the answer to the search for significance and to fill the longing of our soul. But He does not guarantee perfect health or a trouble free life. We do seekers a disservice by intimating that following Jesus results in nonstop green lights and blue skies. That is why Jesus prioritized a few things for us.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Jesus knew that trouble was a part of the process. He also taught us that God will provide our needs. We too often are disappointed at God when we feel He doesn’t provide our wants (that we perceive as needs). Life isn’t fair. The sooner we can teach our kids to understand that truth the better they will be prepared for the journey ahead. Perhaps if we understand the same lesson we will be better prepared to accept the troubles of life and trust God to help us get through them.