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A Different Kind of March Madness: The Scummy Underbelly of Kids' Sports

The start of the spring youth sports season is still many weeks away. The fields remained closed. Most kids and parents haven't a clue where the uniform and equipment were stored at the end of last season. Doesn't matter.
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The start of the spring youth sports season is still many weeks away. The fields remained closed. Most kids and parents haven't a clue where the uniform and equipment were stored at the end of last season.

Doesn't matter.

The posturing, threatening, and grandstanding have begun. Parents advocating for their "super-star" to be put on the A Team roster; coaches threatening not to participate due to all the griping -- by players and parents alike; players coming home from school to report that so-and-so said thus-and-such about being put onto the "best" team.

These ugly scenes unfold in small towns across America where ridiculousness gets sprinkled with magical -- even delusional -- thinking. None of the children from my town of 9,000 will ever go off to a Division I college to play a team sport -- never mind the pipe dreams of hoisting a FIFA, Stanley Cup or Commissioner's trophy aloft.

Ever.

I realize that it's impossible to predict the future, and some devil's advocate might be willing to assert the optimistic "You never know."

To that, I say, "Wrong. I do know. It's not going to happen. Ever."

How I can be so very confident in my claim? Well for starters, so far as I am aware, my town has never produced a professional-level player. Ever. However, I know local parents who operate under the presumption that it is essential to prepare their child now -- starting as early as age four -- for professional level play by rigorous training and a win-at-all-costs mentality.

I deem their foregone conclusion a fallacy. The best predictors of future outcomes are past results. Therefore, I'm confident that tomorrow will look like yesterday. There are no future professional players sitting in an elementary school in my small New England town.

I am a coach who comes to the role from a starting point of logic infused with plenty of evidentiary support. I will not adopt a win-at-all-costs attitude with children playing a game.

This approach was what separated me from my peers when I played decades ago and what separates me from some parents and coaches of today: I don't care about winning. I want the children on my team to have fun. I want them to play as a team. I want them to learn skills. If my players do all these things, they very likely will win -- and they will lose.

And I don't care.

Don't get me wrong: I like to win. I like to coach a team that bests its opponents. However, liking and caring about winning are greatly distinguished in my mind. People who care about winning will take radical steps to enforce their delusion beliefs that they can control the future professional sports careers of their children if only these children are worked hard enough from an early enough age.

But I don't see it that way. At all.

Some may see this as a failing as a coach. I'm all right with that. Those who would harshly judge my apathy toward victory usually have a vein or two jutting out of a neck or a forehead when they bark commands at their child from the sideline.

Me?

I've got a big ol' smile on my face. It's one of the benefits of living in a reality where all I can see are kids -- divided into two teams -- and a ball.