:( Sports (:

Sports are my life. Well, it's fair to say that a lot of my life has been consumed by athletics. I was a three-sport athlete in high school and went on to play college baseball. This was family life as well. My mom and dad met when he coached her fast pitch softball team. My sister played college softball. And the coaching gene passed on to me. I’ve coached high school baseball for 9 years and football for 5. In the McDaniel family sports = life. Did I mention our family obsession with Nebraska football? I can’t go there. I need to move on.

In a culture obsessed with sports it’s easy to get caught up in the madness. I saw this piece the other day at Youth Culture Report in response to a Texas school district that has decided to boost academics by “banning sports.”

What is your reaction to this announcement? What impact will this truly have on the youth of this school district?

Let me be clear. My own participation in sports has been mostly positive. As a coach, I’ve felt my ability to influence young men in the areas of character, integrity, commitment, teamwork, and leadership. As an athlete I learned these things through the ups and downs of competition.

But I’ve seen and experienced some, well, pretty messed up things as an athlete and coach. I’ve seen kids get belittled, broken, and used by coaches. I’ve seen kids and families throw A LOT of money, time, and energy away to chase the dream of scholarships and stardom. And I’ve been one of those kids.

I have hindsight on my side. I’ve chased the dreams. I’ve seen athletics for what they are at their best: Education, character formation, and entertainment, and their worst: Proud, arrogant, manipulative.

I don't know why this thought just came to my mind, but you know what, no one really cares what my batting average was in high school and college. No one really cares about the great high school football and baseball teams I was a part of. At the time all that seemed VERY important. That was my identity. Stats. Numbers. Playing time. Stardom. But for some reason, no one cares today. And for some reason, for some weird reason, it bothers me that no one cares what Chad McDaniel did on the baseball field in 1999. Why do I care? Why should anyone else care?

I hope to provoke some discussion on our culture’s obsession with sports. I hope to provoke some thought on my own participation in a culture obsessed with sports.

But what about you? What is your experience? What do you see?

there's more to come…trust me, i'm going somewhere with this...at least i think i am...


Ben Mussmann said...

Good question bro. Made me think. People often say that sports teaches some great life lessons. Teamwork, commitment, dedication, resiliency, how to win graciously, and how to accept losing, just to name a few. (If you don't want your kid to cry and whine EVERY single time they don't get their way, I'd highly recommend signing them up for sports and forcing them to deal with a few seemingly life-ending loses.)

Unfortunately for kids...sports are dangerously corrupt these days. It all starts with idiot coaches and idiot parents as early as little league and all the way through HS. I can't even talk about these people without blowing a gasket. When parents and coaches think and act in ways that makes playing time, winning, or control seem more important than the fun and camaraderie...the kids are bound to emulate and become jerks themselves someday.

Then you have the NCAA being greedy, pro sports being all about "business", and pro athletes being total asses (not all their fault; they are been taught throughout their entire lives that they are special and thus don't need to follow rules or even laws).

So what is the result? More and more kid athletes emulate and become jerks themselves. And soon they will turn into jerk adults. I don't think it is sports' fault...it is the ignorant adults that shame our great games.

With good parents and coaches, sports are great. However, they are much less valuable to kids when the adults in charge are idiot jerks.

Lastly, I think balance should be encouraged. Sports was my life growing up as well. Probably way too much of my life was sports. I think maybe a secondary hobby or two may have been beneficial Soooooo fun though.

Kim Harris said...

Like you, sports was and still is my life. I love competing with my friends and I like challenging myself. It really wasn't until late high school that I even started thinking of playing sports at the college level. Even then, my purpose of playing wasn't to earn a scholarship, but rather to play a game that I loved. I realize that my experience is quite a bit different in that the opportunities for female athletics is limited. I never had the pressure to make it to the big leagues to earn millions bc that doesn't exist. The reality is that for the majority of youth playing sports, a very small % will actually go on to play in college, and even a smaller % will go on to play professionally. So why can't we take sports for what it is, and make that the focus? Physically acting out the meaning of integrity, showing our true character through adversity and success. Learning to respect ourselves and each other even through all our differences and challenges. Being responsible for our actions and caring enough about a teammate to keep them on the right track too. Our best memories are hardly ever about personal accomplishments, but rather overcoming obstacles together with our teammates.
I'm in my 4th year as a head coach and while I want to believe I'm making a positive influence on these young ladies, I can't tell you how discouraging it is to see the expectations of some of the parents. The more they push their kids to specialize in their sports, the more my administration is pushing the coaches to cater to those demands. While I understand that my goal as a varsity coach is to win games, I'll never be a win at all costs kind of person. I refuse to practice high school anything all year round, and bc of that, I'm an outsider at my school. These are the times that I get mad that nobody cares about my background, bc I can guarantee that nobody in this city has my resume when it comes to this sport, especially parents, yet I'm the one who doesn't know what it takes to play at the highest level?
Ben is right on with the path that sports seems to have gone. My sport has been tainted w/ coaches who disrespect the game and families who transfer schools or pay big $$ to play on teams that can get them a scholarship. I had a parent complain bc I didn't allow her kid to play when she had a 27% in her class, instead i made her do schoolwork in the dugout. How is it that I was the only adult caring about her grades?
So, to answer your question. I dont think that sports are the problem. I think it's more of the fact that society has placed a greater interest in the material things of sports (winning, scholarships, money, etc) over the skills it can teach. Let us also be honest about education these days though. As a parent, I am scared to death about where to send my girls. We all hear stories about the athletes in college that just aren't good at school and teachers and tutors just give up saying they'll never learn. The athlete doesn't care bc he's heard it his whole life but has gotten away with his physical talent. Yet this same athlete has memorized a play book the size of a dictionary and we say he just can't learn. Yeah right he's not capable. He was smart enough to figure out that he could get through high school doing minimal work bc a group of adults allowed him to do so (parents,teachers, coaches, and administration). That's a problem, and it happens everywhere, all the time.
Eliminating sports all together is a mistake and will likely just result in a whole new set of problems. I feel sad that fewer and fewer kids will get to experience the things we got to be apart of playing sports. That's why I got into coaching in the first place.
Anyway, very interesting topic. I think we'll find that the ones who support sports are the ones that understand that it's so much more than just a game. I'm anxious to see where you're going with this as well as to hear other responses.