As I suggested in my last post, sports for children needs serious re-thinking. That doesn't mean I believe kids shouldn't play sports. And if kids do play sports, the only way to do play sports is the right way - not a softer way, or a gentler way, or a way that makes everybody feel like a winner.
In New Haven, CT, a 9-year old boy - Jericho Scott -- has been barred from his youth league because he pitches too fast. When little Jericho refused to quit and took the mound last week, the opposing team forfeited. They just packed up and left the field. This is an entirely wrong lesson to teach kids.
Sports can teach valuable lessons for those willing to engage. In sports, the point isn't to be guaranteed a hit every time. The point is to step up to the plate - to try. In Rocky, the protagonist didn't think he could be beat Apollo Creed. He just wanted to prove he could go the distance. That's what makes Rocky Balboa a hero. How do we know who we are until we test ourselves against the seemingly impossible? How will anyone ever climb a higher mountain if they keep lowering the peak to make it easier? Would the Giants have upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl if they sat around before hand and lamented the difficulty of beating those who were to that point unbeatable? Would Buster Douglas have shocked the world and Mike Tyson if he refused to face the one who sent all others running?
Sports are all about stepping up to the plate. It's about confronting your dragons. If you win, great. But if you don't even step up, you'll neither win nor lose and you simply don't grow. Like to or not, competition is the essence of sports and it's a fact of life. Sports gives us a reality-like context to learn about ourselves in victory and defeat.
You know, one of these kids in New Haven might just get a hit off Jericho Scott. And then the other kids might see it's possible. And then ...
When we take the focus in sports off the result -- off winning and losing -- and place it back on the challenge, we'll be teaching kids something useful and enduring - something a lot more valuable than what's currently being taught in New Haven, which is "If you can't win don't play."