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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

That's My Story and I'm Stickin' To It*

Side note before I begin:  I've found, serendipitously, that one of the benefits of writing this blog and titling entries with popular and classical songs is re-discovering the story behind those songs.

As my children move in and out of youth sports and performing arts programs, I've noticed more than a few disturbing trends. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar:

Youth Coaches take the path of 1) least resistance or 2) what advances their children's best interests.  I saw a husband and wife taking the job as coach of one of our church's CYO teams, but it soon became apparent that they were just running a practice team for their girls (starting pitcher and catcher), who competed on a "traveling squad".

I played on a summer league baseball team.  I wanted to try out for first base, but the coach's son played first base for the two years I was on that team--and I never started, not even in the outfield.  The last year I played they changed the rules so that not everyone had to get an at-bat or turn in the field, and I only played 3 of the 9 games that season.

Coaches don't teach defense (football or soccer) or fielding (baseball) or emphasize passing and footwork (soccer) and don't reward their players for unselfish play.  I watched one game where one boy, every time he got the ball, kicked it solo for about 50 yards once he went out of bounds. I heard parents complain about the few coaches that do.

When it comes to Performing Arts, too many parents follow the lead of that dreadful witch Abby Lee and become "Dance Moms", becoming horrible, judgmental, petty, poor examples for their daughters.  The dance teacher at our daughter's school (both of them take pointe) is under increasing heat to have a "competitive" dance team, and I'm afraid she's going to buckle.


1) The program is there for all the kids that qualify, not just yours or the coach's.
2) While many trumpet the statement that "a parent is the child's first teacher", there are those who know  how to communicate the skills of a particular sport to kids so that they can do it, too.They understand that kids don't get it the first or the tenth or the 120th time.  They are firm with discipline and patient when the kid is doing his best to learn.  If you're lucky, this person is your child's coach. Let them coach.
3) The intention of youth sports is to train kids in the ways of sports, to teach them about life, and--this is where most youth sports programs get it wrong--give kids a vehicle and a properly supervised avenue to improve their skills. Same goes for performing and visual arts.
4) Winning is nice.  Winning is good.  Winning is preferable. But what are you learning when you win?
5) More importantly, how can you benefit from losing? If you're able to answer that question, before long you'll be able to answer the question in #3.
6) For those performing arts parents who turned up their nose and rolled their eyes at questions 3 and 4, re-read #2.
7) Initial struggles are essential to future success; positive success that comes to late-bloomers is all the more sweet.  If your kid finally makes contact with the baseball after 20 at-bats, great! It was a shock to me too.  I had a student 20 years ago that took all year just to play Hot Cross Buns--but we made it happen, and he was proud of himself.
8) Sometimes learning that you're not good at something you attempt can be serendipitous.  My daughter tried flute and trumpet before she settled on mandolin.  Happy as a clam with weekly lessons now.
9) Learn to listen to your kids.  Observe your kids.  Be honest with yourself.  You may not have the next Joshua Bell or Yvgeny Kissgin or Midori.
10) If your child fits in with a particular group of people, embrace it (and them).  Welcome them into your home. Get to know their parents.  My youngest was having a difficult time at school.  She got involved in theater and a local youth choir and has a new slew of friends (and so do we).

Onward and upward.  Cheers.

*--Tony Haselden and Lee Roy Parnell, for Collin Raye's album Extremes, 1992.
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