In the world of peewee sports, I say let every child play equally

If you’d asked me 20 years ago what I thought of sports, I’d said “it’s a bunch of people chasing around after a ball for the sake of calling it a win or loss.”

Twenty years ago I did not see the point. I did not see why people would spend hours each week preparing for a two or three hour game. I just didn’t get it.

Now I do.

Sports teach our kids the importance of being a part of something bigger than themselves. The old saying, “there’s no I in the word team” rings true. Sports teach our kids about teamwork. Sports teach our kids how to work together for a common goal. The things learned on the field or court will stay with a child throughout his or her life.

My boys have played sports since they were 3-years-old. Jordan and Cameron started out with t-ball while Gavin’s first taste of sports was last year’s soccer season. They love to play, and for the most part, they’ve always gotten to play.

They never have been the big star of the team, but they always got to play…until now.

This year’s peewee football experience has been very disappointing up to this point.

There are over 40 players on Monticello’s fifth and sixth grade football team this year. When Jimmy signed Cameron up, he asked if there were going to be so many kids on the team that Cameron would never touch the field. The man behind the registration table said they only expected 30 kids to sign up for Cameron’s team so everyone should get to play.

For weeks, Cameron and his teammates have been going to practice three days a week for two hours each day. That’s six hours per week of football practice.

Jimmy and I were excited to head to Cameron’s first game in Hermitage a few weeks ago. As we sat there, we couldn’t help but get angry because our child never touched the field during the first half.

When the second half came, he only got to play one minute and 20 seconds. We were fuming mad. The next week, Cameron got even less playing time. In fact, a large majority of the team got less than two minutes of playing time during each game. Some players never touched the field.

I made a post of Facebook this past weekend about my disappointment, and I was surprised by the response.

We are not the only parents who are angry our son isn’t playing. I also found out this problem is not isolated to this one football team. It seems to be an epidemic.

It happens everywhere. The coaches have their picks of who they want to play so they play them over and over again regardless of how many mistakes the players make or how tired they get. I’m here to stand up and say it’s wrong.

In our case, it’s the children of the league’s board members and the coaches that are seeing the playing time. I cannot speak for any other teams because I don’t know who plays and who doesn’t.

I have talked with several parents. Many kids want to quit sports because of this problem.

I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking I am whining. You’re thinking I should tell my son to suck it up because life isn’t fair. If you have these thoughts, you’re only right about one thing: Life certainly isn’t fair. While my son already knows that fact, I certainly don’t think it should apply in this situation.

When parents pay $100 to register their child for a sport; buy $40 cleats; and pay to travel to different places so their kids can play a sport, it’s just wrong to only play a select few.

This problem is why kids don’t want to play sports. This problem is why parents won’t pay for the kids that do want to play. This problem is part of what’s wrong with our world because it teaches our kids they are simply not good enough. It teaches our kids that hard work doesn’t reap the rewards they’ve always been taught it did.

In addition to teaching our kids the wrong values, this practice handicaps them in the future.

How do you expect a child to learn how to play the game if they’ve never been given the opportunity? Practice is great, but game time is when the real lessons are learned. They cannot get better if their cleats don’t touch the football field. This is true with any sport and on so many levels.

So I say, let every child play equally. If you have 40 players and 40 minutes of a football game, then let every child play one minute.

What about winning? Winning shouldn’t matter when we have children’s self esteem at stake. Winning isn’t really an issue because in Saturday’s game—where many kids didn’t even touch the field—the Peewee Billies lost to Crossett’s peewee team.

So the problem isn’t rooted in the need to win. It’s rooted in the need to play certain community members’ children while letting other kids sit the bench. It’s wrong and it needs to stop.

<em>Melissa Cason is a staff writer at the Advance Monticellonian. She can be reached a 367-5325 or by email at</em>

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