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Just Because You Can...

Growing up in Iowa my father had a million adages that he used whenever the appropriate situation arose - ones like "let's not and say we did" or "if it's not one thing, it's two others" but it was the one above that he used quite often.

"...doesn't mean you should."

You know like, saying I could walk to school barefooted in the winter or jump out of the second floor window on a bet from my older brother. It might have been possible...but probably not a good idea - though it didn't always stop me. Yet there was wisdom in my father's simple words.

I've never been so concerned about the state of youth sports than I am in these times, well-intentioned parents and immature (physically) children getting too caught up training and racing year around. As though their kids were mini-collegiate athletes.

"Things are going to hell in a handbasket"...what?

In circa 1970B.C. we always took two weeks off from running after the cross country season before resuming training, typically a 6-8 week break before we returned to competition. I know, we probably couldn't have found a meet to run in anyway...but maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.

Now there are more off-season meets than "you could shake a stick at." What in the hell does that mean? Anyway, today cross country has post-season Champ Sports and Nike National races, indoor/outdoor track New Balance-Adidas-Nike, and a thousand other smaller meets for pre-teens and teens during the two seasons.

Note to parents: A twelve year old is not a mini-sixteen year old. And a good seventeen year old is not as physically mature as a sophomore in college. Although, from my thirty-five years of collegiate coaching experience - there are still far too many immature (physically and mentally) college sophomores.

And I don't want to hear...

But they won't get a college scholarship - dream on. Or we spent so much money - did your child put a gun to your head? Or she/he enjoys it. I enjoy ice cream but if I had to eat it at six in the morning, or standing in the rain for ninety minutes, or only after a four hour car ride I guarantee I'd be eating a lot less ice cream!

Groucho Marx's response to a woman who said she had ten children was, "I like my cigar, but I take it out every once in a while." If the only sport your son/daughter participates in is running, or the coach demands it's "my way or the highway" then find another coach. There are far too many other activities crying out for them to try - even if your kid sucks!

When I was 8-16 years old we played whiffle ball with neighborhood friends, rode bikes to Creekside diamond for baseball, pretended to be tennis players, or organized two-on-two basketball if the picnic table wasn't in the way - most of our activities disorganized and haphazard. These were our off-season activities.

Heck, my brother and I even kicked field goals over our neighbor's garage!

What could go wrong? I wonder what my father would have said if we asked if it was okay to give this a go? "Let's not... Oh, and by the way, I take back the above parenthetic statement about teens being only physically immature - because we were definitely mentally immature!

A wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse! Huh?

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