I once thought that my coaches were the most powerful people in the world. I also used to think that being an athlete, especially in school, brought with it extra expectations of behavior and conduct when in the public representing my school or team. The idea used to be that athletics can build character, help with teamwork and enable a young person to appreciate the efforts of other people. I’ve now come to the conclusion that our current social mores have changed so much as to nullify any positive effects sports can have on our youth. I am often challenge in my own head whether or not athletics does any good for young people today and here is one reason why I feel this way.
I recently went to a local restaurant to enjoy it for lunch. When I pulled into the parking lot there were dozens of minivans and SUVs on all of the caliber of BMW and Volvo. When I went inside it was nothing more than pandemonium kids in soccer uniforms running and screaming throughout the place small pockets of parents and/or coaches seated down enjoying their meal while the kids continue to destroy the restaurant. I was seated by a local hostess who I know fairly well and I could see she was haggard and tired. In the back I could hear one kid yelling bacon, bacon, bacon!
I sat stunned waiting for my coffee and then realized that all the parents (and coaches?) were looking down enjoying a conversation with each other but not one would dare lift a finger or voice to correct the horrific behavior going on around them. Booth after booth I saw little soccer players destroying tables, emptying salt containers and generally causing a fantastic nuisance with the staff of the restaurant. As I watch the worn out waitresses patiently try to help each and every demand of the children, I wondered how could this possibly happen? Where was the parental or adult supervision? Where were the expectations that athletes behave better, especially when they are representing their team in public? I absolutely could not believe that these were kids had just finished some type of athletic event and they now find themselves destroying a local restaurant. What type of lessons do they truly learned in the efforts on the field? The disrespectful character of their behavior was completely ignored by the parents in attendance.
Perhaps I am being too hard? Maybe they were just letting off steam or maybe the parents were actually just innocent bystanders and there were actually no supervising adults with these teams. Of course, I don’t believe that for a second. Having been a school administrator and also having experienced screaming, angry parents spitting in others faces during basketball and soccer games, I knew full well this is what sports now has become, with the full and expected entitlement that their kid can and will do whatever they want and whenever they want.
So I’m now led to believe that maybe sports isn’t the answer to character education and in fact I’m wondering what it truly teaches now. Behaviors that would have gotten me endless trips around the wrestling mat, extra pushups and a full report to my parents now appear to be the expected norm. Perhaps with the advent of the superstar athlete, sports is no longer about character or about making your best effort, or even teamwork. It is more about just the individual. About what they can do and how they can lord it over somebody else, kind of like being able to go to North Korea, one of the most oppressive regimes in the history of man just for some cognac and a birthday party of a dictator. Please don’t get me wrong I really do appreciate the efforts of a single individual in an event and I think they should be honored by the think they should be recognized for those efforts but I also used to think that participating in sports used to build and foster “responsibility” and “respect”. I struggled that day to find any redeeming behavior from those kids. Aside from the one or two kids sitting quietly what I mostly saw was anarchy, disrespect and irresponsibility. Worse yet, it seemed to be completely parent approved.