The summer is putting up a good fight but will lose out soon to falling leaves and sweatshirts. So let’s take a little break and revisit a few of the issues from last week and have a little fun while doing it.
Each year in my youth football newsletter I take the opportunity to interview myself. There is not a good reason on this earth to do such a thing except to further prove that I need a good therapist. There are no guidelines. I have not set any limitations on the subject matter that I can ask myself. So unless the editors of the Patch find the line of questioning to be too bizarre or inappropriate — the following is an unfiltered text of our discussion. (This is probably where they’d insert a disclaimer of some sort.)
Ron: To start off I’d like to say that you’re much better looking in person. The whole chin issue is probably a little overblown.
Me: There you go already with the jokes. Overblown? Nice.
Ron: You seem to have rather strong beliefs when it comes to allowing for more of a balance of playing time between the starters and the benchwarmers on a team. Umm … (searching for the right words) you stunk at sports (probably should’ve searched longer), didn’t you? Me: I didn’t play a lot of organized sports as a kid, RON. I did star for many years in the PFL (Parking Lot Football League) which was headquartered at the Carabetta Apartments in Bristol (ANYONE FROM BRISTOL IN THE HOUSE?). We hardly argued the rules; we all played the entire game; and if the score was lopsided we traded Vinnie for Bobby or Keith for Dave. The two-minute warning was when our moms called us in for supper. We rarely remembered the scores from day to day and picked new teams every morning.
Ron: So is that your vision for youth sports today? Give the kids a bat and a ball, a football, or a hockey stick and let them play?
Me: No, but we’ve become … supersized … in a way. If we would all just call a timeout once in a while … and remember how we thought about the game in that parking lot or that dirt field with the tree-line in perfect formation to signal a homerun. Think about how it didn’t matter if Billy was shorter than Jeff. He still got to be the QB for a few plays because he could drop back and heave the ball way before Phil got to 3-MISSISSIPPI. Obviously, I know that you can’t run an organized youth league (nor would you want to) like that … but don’t ever forget what it was like. Don’t let coaching youth sports become such a serious business that we forget why we are really out there.
Ron: I can tell that you want me to ask for an example of how we feel that some parents have taken things a teeny bit too far.
Me: Teeny bit? OK, well several years ago we started a flag football program in the Farmington Valley for 5- and 6-year-olds. And we’ll never forget the one coach that had one of those laminated play books that attached to a chain and then his belt loop. Honest to goodness, he looked like he was coaching in the National Championship Game! I think he was even changing the play at the line of scrimmage if he saw a kid on the defense watching an airplane or playing with his flags.
Ron: Crazy — right?
Me: You tell me! (Or I tell you?) But c’mon can we let them enjoy the sport for a couple of minutes before sending them home with a playbook diagramming what the monster-back needs to do in the 3-4 defense? (Do we sound like we know what we’re talking about?)
Ron: Do we?
Me: Not really.
Ron: Do you think anyone is still reading?
Me: Well, assuming this makes it to the website, maybe Dad … Keith … Karen … Shelley … oh, probably Don and Amy only because they are so nice and supportive of us.
Ron: I see you keep checking the word count.
Me: I’m trying to figure out how we are going to come up with another 250 words.
Ron: It’s not like this is Sport’s Illustrated or ESPN The Magazine.
Me: Regardless, we need one more really good question and end this on a high note.
Ron: Oh wait … remember we wanted to add another thought to last week’s discussion on running up the score?
Me: Yes. To me the most important goals of organized sports at this age are:
1. Learning the game
2. Learning good sportsmanship
3. Handling adversity
4. Building confidence
5. Having fun
Most of us would agree that soccer is king in Farmington and Avon (and probably Canton and Burlington as well). For high school football to succeed on a high level in these towns it needs to attract as many of the best athletes as possible. And we’ve seen more and more kids from other sports giving football a try at the youth level. It takes one horrible season to lose great athletes back to their original sports. We want them back playing football. Can you blame a 10-year-old because he wants to rejoin soccer and score five goals a game? NO! He's fast, fit, and a top athlete. But he did not have fun playing football. He did not gain a stitch of confidence. The team was overmatched on every play and in every game. He learned how to lose and that’s fine. He just needed to experience a little success: break a long run; sack the QB; or be a part of a scoring drive — and we get him back for another season. And maybe one day he gets a shot to become the QB at AHS like Dee's son (read her comment from last week).
Ron: Nice job. I agree with us 100%.
Me: I was just looking at some of the latest comments from last week. Some people are resorting to name calling. That’s not cool. PEOPLE - LET’S BE ORDERLY PLEASE. STOP THE FIGHTING AND LOOTING.
Ron: People are rioting over this?
Me: No, but it makes for good pub. We’ll talk later. Have lunch ready for us when we get home.