I have many dad friends who are excited to start coaching their kids’ sports teams. Frankly, I don’t get it. When I was a kid, I had far more fun at pick-up sports than I did in organized sports with adults running the show.
So, why are these parents so excited to coach? I’ll deconstruct the most commonly mentioned reasons below:
“We want our kids to be great athletes, and we think we can teach them things that will accelerate their athletic development.”
Well, do we really want our kids to be great athletes? I mean, sure, we don’t want our kids to be klutzes, but do you really think, with our help, your kid will be the next Tiger Woods? C’mon, folks…
“We want our kids to know the ‘right way’ to play different sports.”
Sure, we don’t want our kids running around with the basketball and jumping off the wall to dunk it. On second thought, why not? You know, kids who play without adults around come up with some very interesting, athletically challenging games. I’ve got some stories, and perhaps you do, too. What does it matter if they make up their own rules? Perhaps they’ll hone their creativity and problem-solving skills without you around to tell them what not to do all the time…
“Adults teach kids ‘character’ in sports.”
If we really want to teach kids character through sports, I believe we need to let them make a lot more of their own decisions when they play. I’m talking about decisions like game strategy, what the rules should be, how to interpret rules in different situations, and how to settle disputes. So, kids should be doing a lot more of what coaches do if we want them to learn character. If adults determine all these things, then the sports really are all about kids’ athletic performance and nothing else.
“Kids will get hurt if we don’t watch and monitor them while they play sports.”
Certainly, I do agree that kids are probably somewhat safer when they play sports with adults around. However, I believe that parents’ fears of what would happen if they weren’t in control are exaggerated. What would happen would be a few more small injuries, not large ones, and small injuries like skinned knees and sprained ankles can provide great character lessons.
“The time we spend with kids at their sporting events is ‘quality time’ that our parents didn’t spend with us.”
Research shows that the single most important time families can spend together to benefit children is the time spent eating meals together. Organized sports are often the primary reason many families don’t eat dinners together. So, if you’re really serious about spending quality time with your kids, you and your neighbors should curtail or eliminate organized sports, encourage your kids to play sports in the neighborhood after school, and call them in to eat dinner every night.
Mike Lanza is Founder and Chief Play Officer of Playborhood.com.