Category Archives: youth sports

Football + Boys = Life Lessons

Football coach to a player: “Keep working to lead by your actions. Take every opportunity to show someone how to do things the right way. Leadership takes a strong belief in yourself, taking a risk by extending yourself and let your game do the talking.”

Our boys’ football seasons are about to wrap up so I’m in a bit of a reflective mood.  One of those boys will be wrapping up his high school season this week.  So I’m sentimental, too.

Here are some thoughts from some of his teammates on what they learned playing football:

Never give up when faced with adversity.

You can achieve anything if you work hard enough for it.

Success is never final, failure never fatal.  It’s courage that counts.

The meaning of team.

It’s all about heart.

What you put in it what you get out.

It looks like they each learned some important life lessons.

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Think before you fill out that next youth sports registration form

We are just coming to the end of another season of youth sports in our home. Two of our kids tried new sports this season: track and field for the junior, who wanted to work on his strength and conditioning for football, and lacrosse for our 7th grader, who wanted to join the wave of young people trying this growing sport. Our 5th grader did a stint with a spring hockey team as well as joined the middle school track team (consider it additional speed and conditioning to complement the once/week practices for the spring hockey).

I’m guessing there’s some eye-rolling  from readers about “crazy youth sports parents.” And we might deserve it.

We’re not alone. Mark Hyman, a sports journalist and parent, was prompted to explore the youth sports complex based on his own crazy parenting. He discusses it in his new book, “Until It Hurts: America’s Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids.”

Jane Brody’s column in today’s NYT covers the book.  While injuries are part of the problem, what caught my eye was this:  “with each passing season youth sports seem to stray further and further from its core mission of providing healthy, safe and character-building recreation for children.”

I hope you’ll join me, as we move from one sports season to the next, in using Hyman’s standard to determine whether or not it’s the right choice for your child.  Ask yourself:  Are my kids involved in healthy, safe, and character-building recreation?

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Uncle Jay wants you to say “please and thank you”

Today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has a nice human interest story about three families at USM who have a daughter AND a son playing in this weekend’s state hockey tournament.

Talk about family-based education.

However, my experience is you don’t have to be related to be treated like a member of the family.

I call it co-parenting–please, anyone who can come up with a less “social-science-y” name for it, I’m all ears–and it’s one of those features in a community that I’d argue makes for a great place for kids.

Here’s an example involving one of the dad’s in today’s Journal Sentinel story.

Jay Wigdale and I were talking between periods at a hockey game.  My middle guy had hockey practice after the varsity game and was panicking because his gear was in the car.  “Mom, c’mon!” he urged.  I sneered at him–the look that should say, “I’m talking to another adult here.  Give me a minute.”  But he was fixated on getting that bag, torn between waiting politely and being on time for the team meeting before practice.

After interruption number three or four, Jay said, “Hey, how about ‘Please Mom?'”  That broke the spell and a few minutes later, Son #2 and I were on our way.

Maybe it’s that Jay and I have stood at football, baseball, and hockey games together for the last couple of years watching our sons play.  Maybe it’s because Jay’s wife and I serve on the school’s Booster Club board together.  Maybe it’s because, by my count, Jay has 13 nieces and nephews living nearby, or that about half of those nieces and nephews have played hockey with my own kids.  But Jay felt perfectly comfortable scolding my son.  And I was completely thankful he did.

To the best of my knowledge, I am not related to anyone at University School, save my own children.  Still, there are plenty of days that we feel we are part of a family.

Thoughts on a coach

Milwaukee Winter Club Wildcat

For those of us whose kids play youth hockey, we’re used to the response when we talk about how much time we spend at ice rinks.  Basically, non-hockey parents think we’re crazy.  

But, at least for our family, the commitment to a youth sport comes with the promise of  coaches like Bob C.  

Parenting is a demanding job and you’re more likely to do it well if you don’t go it alone.  Youth sports has been one of the ways we connect to great adults who can help us raise our kids.

Milwaukee Winter Club, where our two hockey players compete, is full of  dads (and some moms) who have lots of experience playing hockey.  Bob was not one of those dads.  

But what made Bob a good coach–what makes any coach who signs on to coach children “good”–is the joy they take in teaching children the life lessons that competitive sports can teach.  Sportsmanship, teamwork, hard work, disappointment.  The nearly seven months that most families commit to youth hockey means that the “fun” is no sugary sweet cotton candy version.  When you win, you know you earned it.  And when you lose,  you know you gave it your best.  

And with coaches like Bob, kids learn that they are valued for who they are and what they bring to the team.   The joy Bob took in coaching his son and his son’s team mates was evident in his relationships with the kids.  He was no polly-anna where people were concerned.  While I never heard him say a negative thing about a child, he was always honest–and, it seemed, delighted by each kid’s quirks.  

That perspective served him well in coaching my “charming” daughter in the net.  I emailed him about a month before he died to say that he was one of the few coaches who could keep up with her “sense of humor.”  He responded:

Tell L. I’m very proud of her. Tell her to always keep her beautiful smile. And tell her (if you feel it is appropriate) I always tell [my kids] when they can’t get the answer they need from family or friends — get it from their gut. I consider the gut the combination of heart, mind and soul and that combo will keep us sane and happy with our choices in life.

If you allow YouTube — Dream Big – Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband — is a pretty fun song. Keep smiling.

We’ve been fortunate–a lot of our kids’ coaches have been like Bob.  That doesn’t mean we won’t miss him.