Growing up on the baseball field and spending my summers – and winters – throwing a ball as high as I could just to make a heroic play in front of the cows across the road, a certain level of competitiveness filled my heart.
Even at a very young age I had to win. I had to be the best. But someone told me once, “you know, Josh, the sun will still rise tomorrow.”
Simple. Cliché even. But true. It may have taken a year or two after graduating high school, but that simple sentence eventually settled in and it guides and, at times, settles my competitive fire to this day.
Spending the last six years in the dugouts with high school baseball players as a coach it has come in handy when I may have wanted to throw a chair.
What shocks me is the amount of grown adults with children who, apparently, never got that simple advice. It shows across the football fields, basketball courts, tracks, baseball diamonds and even cheerleading circles of today.
That brings me to midget football cheerleading. These are 6 to 8 year olds. Who would have believed it would be such a serious affair? It’s like watching the national cheer championships in Orlando, Fla.
I’ve witnessed firsthand the conduct of one coach throughout the year and it has been an embarrassment that is the exact definition of crazy coaches making kids hate fun.
What is this outrageous behavior? Bypassing any level of fun for strict and, at times, military structure and a win-at-all-cost for the cheerleading competition at the end of the year attitude is outrageous. That is exactly what I’ve watched since July.
If I had a dime for every time I heard this seemingly win-or-die competition mentioned from the first day of the season I wouldn’t have to worry about funding Christmas presents this year. In fact, this coach went as far as to say this one evening, “We are in it to win it. We won this competition last year and we will defend our championship. Some of these girls need to step. It. Up.”
It’s a cheer form of “Toddler’s and Tiaras.” Grown adults actually do live vicariously through their children. Let’s call this episode “Poms and Moms.”
The proverbial straw came last week when this coach in question informed one girl she wouldn’t be allowed to compete in the mecca of a girl’s life – cheer competition. She missed her allotted two practices. The tears that fell from that girl seemed unnecessary. After all, this girl can’t drive. Telling this girl’s mom in front of the entire collection of parents where every parent could watch like a reality show didn’t seem very tasteful, either. But if that wasn’t enough, calling all the parents the night before and telling them that “they were going to kick a girl off the team tomorrow” sure was a good way to divert negative attention from a six or seven year old.. Adults always ruin the fun for the little ones.
I don’t mean to pick, but I’m becoming more convinced that each youth coach, we are talking about coaching ages 5 to 10 or so, should pass a competitive literacy test before getting the whistle to a group of youngsters.
Where does winning rank among your list of priorities? If the answer is higher than four then I’m sorry, come back next year when you’ve matured. 1. Fun. 2. Teaching. 3. Growing as a competitor in a healthy, sportsmanlike way.
I know, winning is fun, right? I’ve used that phrase many times but never to a six year old. Being involved in a structured environment and learning a new love should be a load of fun for a child. Coaches can do two things – enhance that experience by embracing and enjoying what they do or completely ruin it by not caring or taking themselves to an extreme meant for scholarship athletes.
I hope that ever-important competition goes well. If not, I fear the sun may not rise.
But then again, I’m told it will.
-Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He can be reached by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105