A coach’s email
Sent to the parents,
But meant for the players
Has me shaking my head
Over the lack of perspective
Rampant in youth sports.

We are teachers, coaches.
The lessons we teach
Are bigger than the game,
The scholarship opportunity,
Or the potential business to our
Local sports store.

We should be thinking beyond
Wins and losses and
Looking ahead at how pronouns
Shape the way kids see the world
And accept responsibility
For the way they act
Under the pressures of a game.

Stop with “They,”
Deny the ease of putting blame on others,
The hard play of competition
Does not need to be countered
With chippy attitudes and petty fouls
Or calls that,
“They played aggressively because of where they are from.”
No, that’s borderline… I take that back,
It’s insensitive at best, elitist on some level, and
Culturally insensitive for sure.

I’m not quite prepared to say racist yet.

The game is about “US,”
How we play as a team,
How we stay true to our values,
Even when the games heat up
Or the calls seem questionable.
Resorting to the same style of play
That we find so objectionable in our electronic communications
Is a white-washing of our culpability
In the farce that is getting bent
Over what happens
In recreation basketball games
On cloudy Saturday afternoons.

Emails that mask the failures of our children
Should not be the way of our teaching and coaching,
When we respond to pressure the wrong way,
We need to place blame where it belongs,
With our coaching, our playing,
Not the other team or the referees.

Coach your children well…

I seem to remember it going this way…

Late afternoon baseball games on July 4th can be incendiary. The heat and the time team with a day full of consumption to make people act in ways that they are normally able to hide. On this day, the Jaycees were kicking the snot out of the Exchange and the coach of the losing team was done. 

Literally…

Williamsburg, being a Busch town, seemed to let people think it was okay to tote a Bud wherever they wanted and Mr. Spitz had carried a six pack to the hallowed grounds of Kiwanis Park. Now with his beer gone and his drunk in full force, he was about to show his true character. His team was down by ten and about to forfeit the last two innings of the game. The bases were loaded and with two outs he sent the runner home from third on a passed ball. The thing about passed balls on the little league field was that the ball sometimes hit a board under the screen and ricocheted back to the catcher. With Coach Spitz staggering in the coach’s box and his runner laboring for home, the ball shot right back to the catcher, who turned, tagged the runner, and put an end to the drubbing Exchange was receiving.

The umpire called a hearty, “OWWWoooooTTTT!” With that, the game was over and insanity was about to begin. Mr. Spitz limp legged it down the line and started yelling at the umpire, who was all of seventeen years old.

“Are you eff-ing crazy?” he said with Bud inspired breath.

The umpire was tired from doing two games in the hot sun. He had listened to the drunk-speak from this little country bumpkin for just about two hours and now it looked as if anything was possible. I was the umpire and figured if Sir Souse wanted to throw a punch, he would have to hit me through the mask or balloon chest protector. He was just drunk enough to believe that he could hurt me even though I fully protected by the tools of the trade.

“I ought to take you in a field, beat you up, and leave you to die,” he said as he drew back to hit me.

He never got the chance. He got kicked in his man brains and booger hooked for a walk off the field. I drug his sorry self around the third base dugout and up to the scorer’s box. People were clamoring for a fight and some were yelling for both of us, but I yanked him up the stairs and shut the door to the plywood box behind me.

“Say you’re sorry.”

“No.”

I gave him a deeper hook, any further and I may have been able to touch his eyes. “Say you’re sorry.”

The “man” who had been so tough during the season and so bold during this game was proving to be nothing more than a drunk. Since we were away from everyone and I was protected in the umpiring equipment with my fingers firmly entrenched in his nasal cavity, sobriety began to creep into his thinking.

“Sorry.”

I released the booger hook and wiped my fingers on the chest protector. I knew this was going to be my last time umpiring baseball. The ridiculousness of adults at their kids’ sporting events was already starting to become too much to believe and it was only 1984.

“Why do you act like this, Mr. Spitz?”

“Because you, suck.”

I lunged at him like I was going to hook him again. He turned his head and cowered. I didn’t know at the time what it would be like to be a parent, but I was pretty sure that I would never act this way at an event where my children were playing. Still though, I wanted to know why Mr. Spitz was so sure that it was okay to get drunk while coaching his son’s team and then threatening the umpire’s life.

“I suck? Look at your drunk ass. You got tuned up by a high school kid. How do you explain that to your son? To your wife?”

He had no way to answer those questions and I was just sick of being around him. To that point my life had been about lessons that sports taught virtuous values like sportsmanship, honesty, hard work, and integrity. On this super hot Day of Independence, I learned that those lessons weren’t entirely true. Sports are only as noble as the individuals who are a part of them.

I opened the door, walked over to the field house, dropped off the equipment, and took my check from Pete. I realized then that I was changing and sports were becoming a whole lot less important. It’s a shame really…

At least that’s how I think it went…

My butt plastered to the bleachers
Usually pushed back
When I’m at work
Provide the lack of cushion
For this morning of watching kids try out
For rec basketball
I’m just an observer
Watching the parents
Who are so critical of my profession
Getting frustrated as the kids get rammy
While waiting their turns
Watching the coaches
Grade players against the skills of others
Something they forbid
Teachers to do
Most of all
I watch the kids, just wanting to play
No refs, no coaches, just
Games
With competition and a love for the run
Where records don’t matter
And drills are better left in shop class

If we had “Shop” anymore

I shouldn’t judge these volunteers
Or parents driving their children
Towards athletic greatness
And the scholarships they are statistically destined
Not to earn
But youth sports does not hold the same value for me
That it did when I was a kid
I’m sure there were snarky parents back then
At least mine stayed out of the way
I’m sure the teachers who might have been there hid
When they saw the unscheduled conference coming their way
I’m sure that we,
The adults,
Are different now
Forgetting that these leagues are about kids
Not all of this stuff
I’m watching

Maybe the point isn’t
To kick to the other team
But come on,
Soccer is just a cross between
Keep Away
And
Kickball

I know for most of the world
That might be sacrilegious
But the worth of soccer for me
Passed when Kyle Rote, Jr.
Stopped yelling, “Man on!”

Don’t get me wrong
Soccer players have great skill
And the game is beautiful
If you can’t stand NASCAR
Or golf
So let’s keep perspective
On the role soccer
Plays in our kids’ lives

The game must be fun
The lessons of sportsmanship,
Teamwork, and
Commitment must be the focus
Helping the kids find their strengths
While working through their weaknesses

How about we just let them play
Soccer would be much better then

I met a young man today
Breaking ground as a trainer
Certified and board approved
We talked for a bit
And I shared my focus on running and
CrossFit
Although I quickly changed my description
Of the overly hyped and super charged
Fitness program
To high intensity training

He scoffed, bringing up injury rates

Inside I’m laughing
For no one got hurt in my classes last year
But the number of injuries from the sports
The athletes were playing
Was nearly a daily ordeal

Funny how his job is based
On the assumption
That kids will get hurt playing
And he was critical of an activity
With injury rates comparable
To other fitness and sports pursuits

Only sort of informed…
Or selectively informed…?
Not professionally informed…

We think nothing of turning our children
Into missiles with the hardest shells arming them
And think nothing of the concussions, breaks, and tears.
Injuries Caused By Momentum?

But the mis-hype around CrossFit is a shame
The method is not the problem
For too many it’s the implementation
Where bad coaching
Or over zealous participation
Leads to poor decisions that allow a failure
Causing an injury
Just like with overuse injuries in running
Kids with UCL injuries in Little League

Running and baseball be berry, berry bad to me…?

Girl’s soccer, cheerleading, cross county
Each sends kids to rehab or treatment
For a variety of injuries
Yet we rationalize those boo-boos
With “part of the game logic”

I’m just saying

I question anytime a player is injured
Looking for the root of the cause
Sometimes it just happens
More often than not it’s bad
Positioning (technique)
The wise understand that it’s not
The fault
Of the game or exercise methodology
The wish also know
That one way is not the only way
Although I might argue
That performing exercises with proper skill
Is right way

The wise see opportunity in that which is
Different
Planning for safe implementation
Without a reliance on the
“He said, she said”
Media hype machine
Or the potentially faulty
“As we’ve always done”
Philosophies

So young man of credentialed excellence
Think not with disdain of our high intensity approach
We are scaling and spending great time on technique.
You worry about those dislocations, separations, and
Twisted bodies out
On the field