Dear Other Sports Parents… I’m Crying, Uncle
By Alex Flanagan
Dear other sports parents… I’m crying, uncle. Flag football season had just ended. It was awesome. So awesome that most of the kids on my son’s team signed up to play again. In the spring! Yes, it coincides with the Little League season, and most of those same kids have also been signed up to play. So what? All of us are complaining about how we’re soooo busy we don’t have time for family dinners or a girls’ night out, let alone an occasional date night with our spouses. Heck, we hardly have time to shove food down the kid’s throat in the car driving from one practice to another. So what’s another game, an additional practice?
I almost bought into it and signed my son up for spring ball. Almost. Then I realized the only reason I was doing it was to keep up with the Joneses. Here’s the thing. I want sports for my family to be seasonal, to be fun like all the experts suggest. But…I also, secretly, want my kids to be good. I worry if they don’t keep pace with what all the other kids are doing, that mine will be left out and left behind.
You see, when one person goes rogue, it screws things up for everyone else. It’s like when one athlete takes steroids or hormones; the playing field is no longer level. Or when one woman in your group of friends gets fake breasts or Botox, your husband wonders why you are the only one with wrinkles and saggy boobs. Could we all just make a pact among us parents? If we stick together, couldn’t we make youth sports fun again? Here’s what I’m recommending … that we ALL play by this new set of youth sports rules.
11 Ways to Parents Can Change Our Out-of-Control Youth Sports Culture
- Allow children 12 and under only to play one sport per season: Football or hockey in the fall, baseball in the spring, etc.
- Regulate seasons: No year-round teams are allowed at least until age 12. No travel, baseball or basketball, etc.
- Require mandatory downtime from organized sports in the summer.
- Limit practices for any sport to twice a week, no more than 90 minutes each.
- Prohibit the use and hiring of private coaches.
- Only award trophies to winners. Because it might actually be good for a child to feel like a loser when they actually lose!
- Volunteer coaches must read The Matheny Manifesto and educate themselves on the basic techniques and fundamentals of the sport they are teaching.
- Ban Parents (or any relative) who get in a referee’s face.
- Prioritize Birthdays and holidays over youth sporting events.
- Don’t play daddy ball.
- Commit to a 24-hour rule after all games and practices. No reviewing the game or giving pointers to their kids in the car after the game.
Alex Flanagan co-founded I love to watch you play in 2015. She was flying home from an NFL work assignment when a learning specialist, who was sitting next to her, shared 5 reasons she shouldn’t feel guilty missing her son’s game. She shared their conversation on her own website alexflanagan.com and the response was so overwhelming it inspired her to create co-ILTWYP to help parents like herself navigate youth sports.