You’ve likely seen the nostalgia-laced posts comparing life as a kid “back then” to life today, from school to the playground and everywhere in between.
For example, a recent list contrasted a 1970s school lunch with the typical fare of a child in 2014:
1970s: “Spread yellow mustard on bread. Slap baloney on bread. Unwrap American cheese slices and put on top of baloney. Put top on sandwich and wrap sandwich in tin foil or wax paper. Every kid gets the same exact lunch. Period.”
2014: “Intently study the allergy list the school has sent you which lists all the items that other children in your children’s classes are allergic to and thus cannot be sent in your child’s lunch either. This is extremely stressful because the last thing you (or anyone) wants to be responsible for is sending a second-grader into anaphylactic shock. Make notes on your phone so you can remember what not to buy when you go to Whole Foods.”
It’s easy to think life was simpler in years past, because in many ways it was – but every generation faces its own set of challenges and circumstances.
I was thinking about this the other day as I was helping coach my son Trent’s junior high football team. It’s fun to be back on the field, to hear the sounds of the game, the familiar crackling of pads hitting.
But something happened during a recent practice that made we wonder if the current culture in general, and youth sports in particular, are coddling our kids.
We were running a routine drill and working on the art of the handoff. They just weren’t mastering the technique. So, I decided to implement a good old-fashioned threat tactic:
I told the boys the entire squad would have to do ten push-ups for every subsequent individual mistake. The very next player up got it wrong.
“OK,” I replied. “Everyone give me ten!”
One of the boys burst into tears.
I am happy to report that it took only one set of push-ups. After that, they all seemed to remember the right way to take a handoff! They’re a great group of kids.
I might also add that I think generally, moms don’t do too well observing this environment of on-field correction. Jean can attest to feeling defensive for Troy who is on the 6th grade football team. She almost chewed out a coach for making Troy run a lap for being late to practice! Her better judgment prevailed and she restrained herself.
But when I was boy, I don’t recall responding to a coach’s admonishment on the field with a river of tears. Of course, I wasn’t happy with the reprimand, but I understood it to come with the territory.
A colleague of mine shared that at a recent high school varsity football game, the first of the season, he saw the losing team walking off the field openly sobbing.
Perhaps we’re a more openly emotional culture whereas in the past we suppressed our feelings, often to our detriment. But does that alone explain these emotional outbursts and seeming lack of balance?
Or could it be that our kids are growing up in a culture where nobody wins or loses anymore, where trophies are handed out like bottles of water, and where out of fear of offending we fail to lovingly correct with truth and honesty?
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we need to turn the ball field into a Marine boot camp, but in the desire to adjust, have we overcorrected?
I’d love to hear from you. What’s been your experience with youth sports and the emotional balance of our kids on the field or court?