Let me first say this: I love youth sports. It develops young men and women in so many ways, ways that might otherwise be missed by parents and teachers. Do you know what can be life-changing for a young person? Being held accountable by someone other than a parent or teacher for the first time. Have you ever seen the reaction from a youth football coach when a boy misses a blocking assignment on the field? It can be volcanic, but it can also be the first inkling for a youngster that they may just be held accountable in this life.

Children develop a comfort level rather quickly. With their parents this occurs within the first year of life. With their teachers they will typically develop a sense of trust and comfort after the first month of school. But put a child on the athletic field and the game is changed entirely. Seasons are short. Coaches and assistant coaches demand results quickly, and if the child does not produce they will be talked to in extraordinarily loud tones. It may be the first time in their lives they are being told no, that is not good enough, do better!

So why talk about youth sports at all? First of all it is a part of many families’ lives in our area. There are days when I cannot even make it home from work because I report directly to the softball/baseball/ football field to help out with coaching. Many men and women here in the South do the same. I am not complaining about the activities of my children, simply putting the importance of them in perspective. If one of my children expressed an interest in competitive curling I would sign them up tomorrow.

Secondly, we have another recent example of youth sports gone wrong. Recently, the Jackie Robinson West Little League team was stripped of its wins in last year’s Little League World Series. They cheated. Not the children on the field, but the parents and coaches. They chose to expand their boundaries and recruit players from neighboring associations with blatant disregard for the rules. At what point could someone have said something about this? Should a parent of one of the illegal players have stepped up and said something about not living within the specified boundaries? In my opinion the answer is yes. Being told by a random coach that your child is the missing piece for the team could certainly be flattering. If you want your child to be on that team move into the district.

Of course there are parties claiming the stripping of the title from Jackie Robinson West is racially motivated. All of the players were black and therefore America at large simply could not want them to succeed right? The Rev. Michael Pfleger of Chicago’s South Side has proclaimed this a “racially motivated witch hunt.” Jesse Jackson showed up (you’re not really surprised by that, are you?) and essentially exploited one of the boys from the team simply to gain some more camera time for himself.

Now let’s say you are the adults in charge of this league and you have been caught breaking the rules. You could own up to your mistakes and set a good example for the boys right? Uh, no. In this case we could issue death threats to the Little League coach that brought the transgressions to light in the first place! That’s right, Chris Janes, the vice president of Evergreen Park Athletic Association, has received dozens of threatening calls. After all, how dare he question someone breaking the rules. The bottom line here is this: Adults should be there to facilitate play for kids in the hopes it assists in their development. Follow the rules and let them enjoy the experience.

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