Friday, May 25, 2012

Why I hate children's sports

My kids have all reached the age where any sports they choose to participate in require try-outs. I myself lived through try-outs as a child (although I think our time trials were more of a placement tool than anything since to my knowledge no one was cut). Try-outs stink. And managing your child's disappointment with the results is even worse. I prepared W. for potentially crushing disappointment over high school tennis because he's a decent player but not great before finding out that the coach wasn't going to cut anyone (bless her!). Telling R. that she didn't get chosen for a solo or small group dance was hard and telling her that she wasn't placed in the more advanced classes with her friends was even harder. But we worked through it. Neither of us may have been happy about it but I didn't have any reason to climb up in arms over the results. Not like the soccer debacle for T. this week. I've written a letter to the coach and I know I can't send it as it stands. But I really want to. Really, really want to. And since I'm sure you want to read it as it is, unedited and before I reduce it to milqetoast and pablum so I don't offend anyone, here it is mainly for your reading pleasure but also so I can rage away in full without offending people who could blackball the kid from the sport in future around here.

Dear Coach,

I am writing because the more I reflect on our conversation last night, the more I am bothered by it. Certainly there was disappointment here over T. being only one of two boys who tried out Tuesday and yesterday to be placed on the B team but if that’s where he belongs, that’s where he belongs. I do, however, feel like I need to address several things.

First of all, you’ve completely misread my child if, as you suggested, you think pushing him hard would cause him to lose his love for the game. I’ve known him for 10+ years now compared to your fewer than 3 hours (and I’m giving you the benefit of a doubt on that 3 hour window given that you spent all of Tuesday mixing my child up with another child) and can tell you unequivocally that he does in fact need to be pushed or he will goof off. This “concern,” if you will, knowing it to be based in anything but fact as I do, is simply a ridiculous and transparent excuse. T. and I would both have preferred to hear the truth, painful as it may have been. I appreciate that you were trying to soften the blow but there are more honest ways of doing so. Telling us that he has potential but his ball handling skills are not quite there yet would have been far more palatable to hear than an uninformed let-him-down-easy lie. And yes, I repeated your “concern” to him this morning when I relayed your decision to him. Even he, at 10 years old, took umbrage at your assumption and dismissed it as incorrect, reminding me that Coach A. pushed him hard last year and he improved as a result even as he acknowledged that many of the kids out there this week were head and shoulders better than he was.

Assuming that you truly believe this “concern” (and for the record, I don’t believe you do), there’s more wrong with it than me simply disagreeing with you about my child’s innate personality. Making a comment like this implies that whoever the coach is for the B team will not be pushing my child to play well. If we wanted a program that did not have high expectations for its players or did not want to make their players the best soccer players they are capable of being, we could have chosen to play on a much more low key level elsewhere. But T. wanted to learn to be a better soccer player and to rise to a higher level. Please note that this is his desire. You also told me, almost in the same breath, that the two teams, A and B, would be practicing together frequently. If this is the case, will you only be pushing half of the boys on the pitch during those practices? Because based on your comment to me, the B team coach certainly won’t be pushing the boys or my child shouldn’t be on any team per your “concern” lest it burn him out on the game. Makes your “concern” sound pretty ludicrous now, doesn’t it?

In your comments to the parents on the sidelines yesterday and to the boys on the pitch, you were also less than honest and that bothers me a lot. You told the boys that no one had been called and you told the parents that calls would be going out last night. Now, in talking to another parent before you came over to us, she mentioned having received a call on Tuesday night telling her that her son was on the team. If I, on the sideline, found this out completely unsolicited, don’t you think that the boys also knew that calls had gone out to some and not others? What purpose was served by telling them no one had been called? All you’ve managed to do is cause me to have to have a discussion with T. about honesty and why lying is never the correct option. Based on my knowledge of some calls already having been made, I had started preparing T. for the probability of being on the B team before we even left the parking lot Thursday evening. Parents and children are not stupid so please don’t lie to us.

You also said that at this age it was as important to you to see how the boys worked together as it was to see what ball skills they had. So I am pleased to note that, without knowing which other boy at the tryout was also placed on the B team, you most likely chose to keep a child who didn’t pass to another player even once during your practice game despite his teammates being open, children who only came to one of the two required try-outs, and a child who spent a lot of time in the back field yelling at his teammates about what they were doing incorrectly over my child. I shudder to think what unsportsmanlike conduct I missed about his playing that made him less appealing as part of your team than these children. If you sense a little sarcasm in that statement, I am sorry. You should sense a lot. Again, if your criterion for selection to the A team is going to be solely skills based, then be honest about it rather than mouthing platitudes that you don’t intend to honor.

And finally, while this last might seem small and insignificant, it is what set us off on the wrong foot on the call last night right from the get-go. You did apologize for the lateness of the hour (and yes, it was quite late to be receiving a phone call) but you ruined your apology by mentioning that you had had a lot of calls to make and that you were also having to help out and call another team. So, not only was my child last on the list to call for his age-group but he fell behind an age-group that is not even your responsibility. That was simply charming to hear. In short, you may have been concerned about T.’s continued love for the game but after last night this mother is completely disillusioned with the process, the organization, the integrity of the coaches, and frankly the game as a whole. Disappointment is a part of life but insincerity and lying should not be.

Love and Kisses,

One seriously peeved tiger mama

Am I being too sensitive? I know stuff like this will only get worse as he gets older but I feel like no one ever calls the coaches on it and I think someone should. I guess that means that someone should be me. If you disagree with me, I'm curious to hear your reasoning. I will add that I left out the fact that T. is wildly disappointed not to be on the same team as his buddies because I don't think that's a valid complaint. It's a feeling we'll have to help him with but not anything that should impact the selection process. So I'm not totally unreasonanble, ne? ;-)

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