Whether you are from the Baby Boom Generation, Generation X or Y we’ve heard from parents tell us stories about how their lives were so much tougher than ours because they had to walk to school uphill both ways in five inches of snow. There are some major differences between each generation and society has definitely played a part in these changes. However, to me each of these eras share a similar title that is sadly becoming extinct.
As a person from Generation X, I recall playing in the streets from dusk till dawn; well actually till the street light came on. I remember making up games and spending all the summer months with friends causing enough havoc to keep us out of big trouble. We even had playtime at school three times a day which gave us the opportunity to play football (soccer) with about 15 people on each side with a ball from Woolworths which cost less than a pound. These days are gone, but I can guarantee most people reading this will be reminiscing about your own childhood memories and realizing that you are part of this multi generation that has since died.
Unfortunately the generation of the Sandlot Kids may be a thing of the past and we can now only moan to our children that their lives are so much easier than ours. The question that can be raised is are we a culprit for causing these great times to no longer exist?
Some people blame technology and video games, but people from the Baby Boom era had televisions and those of Generation X were the proud owner’s to some of the first game consoles. Others say that the world and especially the neighborhoods we reside in are not as safe as they were 15 plus years ago. To some degree I can understand that argument but there have always been predators in our towns. Having grown up a country which seemed to have a terrorist attack every week, I don’t recall my parents ever having a problem letting me go down to the park to put our jumpers down for goal posts and playing a game with whoever showed up.
Why is the Sandlot Kid generation a cause of our own death? Maybe we simply forgot what it was like to be a kid. I look at the play life of today’s children and I see a schedule that is as busy as an adults work life.
Monday = Soccer
Tuesday = Baseball
Wednesday = Soccer
Thursday = Swimming
Friday = Basketball
Saturday = Basketball & Baseball
Sunday = Soccer
We are also missing school, homework, visiting grandparents, church and being a kid. The Sandlot Generation may be a thing of the past which has been lost by those that lived it because it does not always suit the schedule of an adult. If we are not willing to allow our children to be young, care free and play in the streets because some sporting organization is scheduling playtime for them, then let’s not become a generation that moans that our future is full of people unable to solve problems and expects everything to be done for them.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with some structured play. After all I need to keep my job, but let’s see if we can evolve to where at least kids spend a couple of hours each week playing outside in unstructured environments! Then perhaps you may see more success when they do go to participate in organized sports.
I was introduced to Twitter about six months ago, and like majority of the world I have been on Facebook for many years. No offence to the creators of this networking enterprises, but I am not sure that either of this have satisfied my hunger in being able to express my true opinions about my passion in life, Football.
11 years ago I moved to the US but I still remember my roots, so it has been hard not to call the game ‘Soccer’ considering it is not only my passion but I am fortunate enough to have a career in the world’s best game. So I have given into the world of blogging, to express my opinions and thoughts about this game which the English supposedly created and the Brazilians perfected. By no means do I feel like I have the answers to all player development issues and strangely enough this past spring actual found myself in the role of the person us coaches seem to have the biggest issues with. I did and still do coach my own six year old son in soccer but this spring he started playing T-Ball, so there I stood bewilder, trying to hide my disappointment that a new sport was entering his life.
So how did I deal with it???? BADLY
I was not the parent that yelled at the coach. I was not the parent that screamed at his own child for not running fast enough. I was not the parent that abused the umpire and officials for making a bad call. I was simply the parent that sat in the outfield away from the others and observe. So how come I was still the bad parent?
I simply hated the sport and with great passion; I despised watching my son play a sport where he stood around for well over half of the time. However as I slouched down in my fold away chair back beyond the outfield I could still see him smiling as he squatted down on third base ready to try and catch a ball. But in my stubbornness I refused to believe he was quitting soccer to play Americas number one past time, so I kept belittling T-Ball and making sure he knew that my heart was only set in the sport of soccer. It was not working; he was not quitting T-Ball and when I finally grew up I realized he was not quitting soccer.
Every experience in life can teaches us a lesson and sometimes when we are being taught as adults the lesson comes from those younger than us. Realizing that my six year old son was probably acting more mature than me, I slipped on my new pair of shoes to see if the game of T-Ball could give me any guidance in how to make soccer more enjoyable and challenging.
Sitting back and observing the T-Ball practice sessions I just could not see why he enjoyed the game. The drills were kind of stagnant, but in my opinion so is they game. However in his eyes the practice sessions related back to the real game of baseball. They did not include the story book type of activities which were involved in the U6 soccer, so despite his age and including plenty of slanty line activities he was not being challenged in soccer.
We all know that the game needs to be challenging yet fun, but I start to question the story book approach for the younger players. Having read the material put out by US Soccer and how a lot of work needs to be placed into Zone 1 we can still make the game fun but keep it real. This fall he is back playing soccer but in the U8 league, a great opportunity for me to now experiment. We have played plenty of fun tag games, but having worked with professional players down to grass roots all players love a tag game, but we have played games which have been challenging building up from 1v1 to 3v1. It may not be pretty but don’t we need to challenge the higher caliber players even at this age so we can keep them at this level when they are playing as an adolescent and beyond.
Little League Baseball League and Pee-Wee football have had it right for years and during my one of my daily rants with my work colleagues about how much T-Ball parents yelled and screamed and the coaches belittled kids one of my fellow work buddies brought it to my attention on how else kids use these youth sports to relate to the real game.
My son had spent his first T-Ball season on the LA Dodgers, which now became one of his favorite baseball teams to follow. I grew up in a country where football was our only sport and also grew up when my beloved Liverpool FC were good, the likes of John Barnes and Rob Jones became my hero’s. My son watches the game, knows players in EPL and even has his own Fantasy Team (which is better than mine), but surely we needed to get all kids to identify more with the game beyond their little league. Thanks to the wonderful idea from my work colleague all the teams in the local recreational league are now named after Major League Soccer teams.
The coaches, players and parents love this concept and I see kids starting to learn more about the game than just playing, just hope more recreational leagues will follow this concept.
But the major lesson I learned through it all, was not about coaching or indentifying ourselves with the real game. The lesson was to simple sit back and enjoy watching my kid play, whether it be baseball, soccer or some other sport you can’t beat it when you see kids laughing and smiling because it’s a game. A game for them to play and for us to enjoy watching them play.