What did you do this weekend?
Some of you with older kids, stayed home to help your child get ready for prom. Then, there were some of us with middle-aged kids who had a weekend full of sporting events to keep us occupied. My son had four games this weekend, two in Mahomet on Saturday and two in Bloomington, maybe, on Sunday. All were canceled due to the rain.
If you were out in the rain this weekend, it may have felt like a scene from Forrest Gump. I know because my daughter was fortunate enough to be in an exciting tournament in Schaumburg where we experienced drizzle, pouring rain, sideways rain, almost ice rain and lots of puddles.
So, that’s what I did this weekend.
My daughter’s team has 40-ish girls on it. So, they split the girls up in tournaments, friendlies and league games so that all of them have the same exposure because all of them are paying the same amount of money. She was chosen to play in Schaumburg where the “top-level teams from around the region” are required to pay a tournament fee and have a certain percentage of their team stay in a particular hotel for two nights (and oh, yeah, you can’t cancel one night if your team isn’t playing until Saturday morning).
I mean when we’re making, I mean paying, that kind of money, we can’t say the tournament is canceled because of a little rain, now, can we?
If we did, the kids (or the hotel might lose out on money and Nike might lose out on money and the tournament hosts might lose out on money and the town of Schaumburg might lose out on money) would lose out on a great opportunity. The kids and their parents are going to have a great time because youth sports are all about the kids working on their fundamentals, teamwork, character and game.
You’ve met these kids. They are the kids who dreaded going to the game because they knew how cold they would be. The kids who got in the car after the game drenching wet with red fingers. The kids who couldn’t get warm for nearly two hours after the games were over. Yes, we did this so those kids could have the opportunity to make it into “Regional Leagues and State competitions.”
But I’m tired of saying this is about the kids. Because if this actually were about the kids or youth sports, then my son, who had games in Mahomet and Bloomington would have played this weekend, too. But they didn’t because there wasn’t any money in the game, and the adults knew it was not in the best interest for the children to play in those conditions.
But, when you have a machine, an operation such as a high-stakes tournament in Schaumburg, then people do lose a lot of money, and so the game must go on.
We parents pull our kids out of rec league to pay at best $500 on a weekend such as this because we are “giving our kids better opportunities.” But the youth sports industry is a $7 billion travel industry, and that, my friends is what all this hulla baloo is about. It’s about telling you that your child will not be good enough if they do not play in these events. They won’t have the level of competition, exposure and opportunity they need to make it in the big leagues if they do not play in these types of events.
And with that fear that your child may not be in the best opportunity to achieve their greatness, these organizations make a ton of money by being the hero that creates that event for you.
What children really need to become great athletes and great people is just the opposite of this environment. They need a parent who will go out and shoot hoops with them, helping them with their form. They need a mentor who will demand the repetition of perfection so that they can master a skill. They need time to freely play with their peers so that they can learn the nuances of the game and become problem solvers. They need environments where they are not competing against someone in Minnesota who they will never see, but against their friend in a neighboring school who they play against a hundred times during their childhood because that camaraderie in itself will build the competition needed for greatness.
And do you know how much that costs a parent? Maybe $500 a year. Maybe. Do you know how that boosts an economy? Well, I’m not sure exactly, but youth sports aren’t about boosting an economy. Youth sports are about kids.