I was sitting in a sports bar in Berlin, Germany this past January to see New England push Indianaopolis’ receivers all over the field in the NFL AFC championship game. I sat next to a guy from Massachusetts who used to coach youth football. He loved it but gave it up because he was so tired of dealing with interfering, pushy parents. Now he trains trotters, I guess he’s given up on humans.
Youth soccer programs have started Silent Saturday programs. Parents can watch their children play but they are not allowed to yell at them or urge them on in the hopes that their six and a half year old will be the next Freddy Adu and get a $500,000 contract by the time they reach age fourteen.
We already have this in tennis. The umpire won’t start the point until everyone is quiet. It doesn’t seem to help though. Mary Pierce’s father, Jim, was barred from all WTA tournaments for five years after creating numerous disturbances. Jennifer Capriati’s born to be a rebel adolescence is a good warning of what can happen when your father pushes you onto the professional tour far too soon.
I applaud the organizers of the youth soccer leagues for trying to do something but it might be fighting a dragon with a toothpick. Sports has become huge, huge business and anyway, how is a parent supposed to pay those twenty five thousand dollar college tuition bills?
Sport has taken the place of education as a way of getting out of poverty. Did I mention college tuition already? Our country has the largest gap between the rich and poor among industrialized nations. Certainly the tax cuts of the current administration only makes things worse. It’s probably a bit much to expect youth sports organizations to be able to handle the fallout of our society’s problems.