Time to Give Youth Sports a Much Needed Enema

Like most kids growing up, through going to school and being present inside other notable germ factories I had my share of colds, flu, etc.  My late grandmother would come visit the house and offer some sage advise.  “What you need is a good enema and an alcohol rub”.  The idea was for these two elements to flush any toxins out of the body, bringing a renewed status of health.  I never followed her remedy but then when the cold or virus stuck around for several days maybe she was on to something.  Gram didn’t have a nursing background but that didn’t stop her from granting unsolicited medical advise.

Just as our bodies need to be cleansed from the toxins that prevent optimum health, so too does our youth sports culture.  If you haven’t noticed these youthful rites of passage are rife with selfishness, greed, and unrealistic parental expectations.  We have turned what are supposed to be educational experiences into anything but.  Oh, I digress there are still some life lessons being taught.   If situations aren’t going your way or a coach is too demanding, have mom or dad circumvent the proper channels to achieve their means.

We see too many instances of parents living vicariously through their offspring.  We watch youngster after youngster burn out of sports by the time they should be hitting their youth athletic stride.  Elite travel leagues for kids as young as eight years old, with winning, not player development as the primary objective.  The look at me culture of social media where everyone can receive their fame and accolades no matter how trivial in the big picture.

It should not be surprising this is our current state of affairs.  After all, athletics mirror our society at large.  Why should we expect those who are prideful and selfish to become someone else when they enter a gym of playing field?  Why should our collective attitudes of entitlement not carry over to the athletic arena?

When a spectator is out of control at a youth sporting event or a parent has undo influence, we need to keep in mind this is still a small minority.  The vast majority of parents are supportive and maintain a proper prospective.  So how have we reached this point?  There are a couple of reasons, really.  Those in the majority are unwilling to speak out.  The loudmouth parent intimidates those who disagree into silence.  When a parent is being unruly at a contest we would rather move to another location than confront the person in question.  Admittedly, I do the same when attending games.

I still enjoy my involvement because the kids by and large are great.  The sportsmanship I see for the most part is tremendous.  While we grip about our current state of affairs, the vast majority of people who attend contests behave in an appropriate manner.  It is the few that can poison the whole.

Davidson College Men’s Basketball Coach Bob McKillop perfectly described the reason for society’s ills the best.  The reason our society is in the mess it’s in today is because those in leadership positions have abdicated their responsibility to lead.  Unfortunately, too many administrators in an effort to avoid conflict at all costs, cave whenever parents have a complaint.

Some who are concerned about this issue have stated we need contracts developed by the MPA for coaches.  While this may be helpful, why do we need to have a larger governing body involved if administrators simply did the right thing?  Besides, remember what the voting membership consists of:  local principals.  If administrators aren’t willing to step up and be counted then why would the same people initiate a contract to protect coaches?

So what can be done to change the culture?  Those of us in the majority have a duty to ensure this is turned around.  If you support a coach, let your school administrator know.  Be an example to others at sporting events.  Each of us must do all that we can to return athletics to what it is supposed to be:  a vehicle in teaching positive life lessons.

Going forward, let all of us resolve to be a solution for cleansing in a sports culture that sorely needs it.

This is my final Press Box column for the season.  See you again in September.

Bob Beatham

About Bob Beatham

Bob, a lifelong Bangor resident, has just completed his 21st season as the Public Address Announcer at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor. Bob is also the public address voice for John Bapst Crusader football. He also currently serves as the scorekeeper for John Bapst basketball. Bob is an avid follower of Maine high school athletics, particularly football and basketball. The University of Maine at Farmington graduate is the service coordinator at Aging Excellence, which provides in-home care for seniors..