My son’s rec basketball team is getting spanked for the second time this week by a team they played last Saturday. The opposing team’s coaches look like two Foghorn Leghorn’s strutting up and down the sidelines. Their chests puffed up and silver whistles tied around their necks. The team they coach is made up of nine year old punks who nail every basket, grab every rebound and have managed to give one kid from our team a bloody nose. Another little boy is rubbing his neck after another kid strangled him. Neither side calls a time out to address the aggressive behavior.
I am fuming, making sure that I cheer as loud as possible every time my son’s team gets 2 points. I cheer five times this game. Each time my son nabs a rebound I yell “RUN” or “Good try” or “GO Blue” because they wear blue pennies. I am the only parent yelling. If a kid has a good angle on the basket I holler, “Shoot!”
The moms of the winning team sit on the side lines, twirling their ironed hair, sporting their new riding boots and coordinating bags while ignoring the game and gossiping to one another. Dad’s scroll their iPhones not trying to hide their boredom.
What I want to do is cry foul on the sidelines over the inequity of how each third and fourth grade teams are placed. At the start of the season there is a bogus try out that lasts twenty seconds and the cool, jock dads stand around with clip boards and take notes. As I sit at the twelfth game of the season having seen my son’s team win only three games, it is apparent to me that all the jock dads have teams loaded with star elementary school athletes, and the nice dads coaching because the league didn’t have enough volunteers get a hodge-podge of interest and athleticism.
The thing is, my son’s team actually has some talent and frankly the right to learn how to play the game. However, the nice dad with no coaching experience isn’t able to provide a lot of skills training. And in his defense, there is no time for practice. Fifteen minutes of practice followed by an hour game.
This doesn’t just happen in basketball. I’ve seen inequity in soccer and baseball too and there is a definite correlation. The same dads are running those programs as well.
So what do I do? I sign my son up for sports camps and clinics so he improves. But then he’s assigned to another misfit team with a novice coach, gets frustrated over losing and then runs to me.
“I’m sick of these kids fouling us so now I’m fouling them!” my son says in between pants.
I know I am supposed to reinforce sportsmanship, but I just don’t like this team. Not only are they jocks, but some of the kids aren’t very nice.
There’s this one kid I’ll call Caleb. He’s been to our house for a play date or two. He once approached my son during recess and said, “Why are you friend’s with that kid. You know, I’d be your friend if you didn’t hang out with him.”
My son’s response, “Well I guess we won’t be friends.”
I glance at Caleb’s dad a few feet away from me: middle aged paunch, a receding hairline, a saggy expression signifying that he has given up. I’d like to pull Caleb aside and whisper in his ear, “see your dad over there. That’s you in forty years so enjoy your fourth grade hey-day while you can.”
I know I am not nice. I know I am not reinforcing appropriate behavior. But I don’t see these other parents reinforcing good behavior like encouraging their kids to see the positive in others, discouraging their kids from teasing other kids, playing fair, doing their best, each for all and all for each …
So what is a mom to do? My husband says that’s the way its been for years, even when he was a kid. But I’ve vowed to talk to the head guy of the rec league. I’m no coach but why not have the first month of the season be a series of clinics. No assigned teams, just the kids coming together based on random time assignments and get coached by the best coaches. Teach them the game, have them practice and then organize the teams when the kids have an understanding of skills, techniques and rules.
As spring approaches and basketball transitions to baseball, my son is refusing to play baseball because it’s boring. And frankly, I am tired of watching him kick dirt on the diamond by third base. Instead, he’s going to try lacrosse. I hope I don’t lose control while watching him play and yell “whack him with your stick!”