You can almost set your clock by it. This time of year, our popular Speakout column receives calls from parents complaining about how their child was treated in the summer baseball programs. Invariably, the parent is saying a coach is showing favoritism toward his child or the child of some "prominent" person in town. We run a sprinkling of these comments and kill many more than we publish.
Year after year, for about as long as I can remember, some parents voice these same complaints. I understand because parents view the accomplishments of their child through a different prism than others. That's only natural. And there may indeed be some instances where coaches - who are only human - tilt the balance of support toward a familiar child for whatever reason.
I was thinking about these Speakout calls a couple of weeks ago when I was watching a youth softball game at the Sports Complex. The stands were filled with parents and grandparents all supporting a specific child. And their view of that child's level of play was prejudiced by the relationship with that child. I'm just as guilty as the next fan.
But then I noticed on another ball field what was really important. The game on that second field had long ended and the stands there were empty. No parents, no coaches, no umpires. Just the bright lights. an empty field and a warm July night.
And there on that field were a half-dozen kids having the time of their lives. No one was keeping score, at best there were limited rules and most important of all, no adults were there to supervise. There was no intensity of competition. Just smiles and laughter and kids being kids.
We adults all too often are the problem. In our zeal to win, we adults put competition above fun. We often want to win much more than the kids do. We moan when a call goes against our team and yell when we think a wrong has been committed. I've seen adults more than once try to gently twist the rules in their favor and, in the process, the aspect of sportsmanship is thrown out the window.
The problem with youth sports all too often lies with the adults. The kids become just pawns manipulated by adults who should know better. And in this process, the fun slips out of the "game."
The best game in town is with the very little kids. The T-ballers play the game with unbridled enthusiasm and with limited regard to the rules established by the adults. They couldn't tell you the score if they had to. Because to them, it's the fun of the game and not necessarily the outcome.