Sports researchers say that people love sports because people with talent or skills combined with determination and dedication can do very well in sports.
Americans like the idea that a person can come out of nowhere and do well in sports; it may be the ultimate meritocracy, that as Americans, we embrace. No matter the sport, who your parents are, how much money you have or who you know will not afford you an advantage.
Research also reveals that we also enjoy watching grown men and women acting like children. They play with reckless abandon; 6’7” men launch themselves into the courtside crowd to save an errant ball. The centerfielder will launch his body into the stadium wall for a chance to make a spectacular catch. The wide receiver that cuts into the middle to make a catch on the fly knowing that they may be demolished by the free safety.
The celebrations are as notable and famous as the sports themselves. In the end zone football players have their signature celebrations, baseball players huddle around home base, bumping chests and jumping in celebration over a home run.
Maybe for a few moments we forget that they are grizzled adults, some well into their thirties. Maybe it helps us all forget our age sometimes and to act like children again.
Professional athletes are rare. Out of millions of young players, they, through innate talent and hard work make millions of dollars playing games that always start out as a kid’s game, whatever the sport may be.
Over the last decade, participation in high school sports has continued to decline. Every year, roughly 57 million athletes aged 6-14 years of age participate in organized sports, by age 15 years of age that number has declined to 7 million.
Researchers have found that many factors may have influenced this decline. Now children have many more options than before. Along with sports, there is also theatre, dance, martial arts, band, clubs and gaming. Children spend many hours every week playing virtual sporting games and many other games on and offline. In these tough economic times, some parents are working two jobs, making it next to impossible to transport kids to practice every day. For some, the cost of outfitting several children in the necessary gear may be too great.
Still, many researchers insist that the focus on winning may still be the number one reason that kids drop out of organized sports. It has been long known that some young athletes will not do well in a sports environment where adults put too much emphasis on winning at too young an age. Even our most elite athletes have demonstrated that not everyone develops at the same rate.
Perhaps the most remarkable example might be Michael Jordan though there are many others. Can anyone imagine a coach so blind that he would actually cut Jordan, the greatest basketball player to ever grace the court?
Soon those much anticipated words “play ball” will be spoken in children’s baseball games near you. We won’t know if there is a future professional player or more importantly a future area coach on the field. What we do know is that sometimes adults can ruin or greatly diminish the game for young and impressionable players.
Please remember, when you are at sporting events that it is there game, there time, there chance to make the catch, to chest bump fellow players and to enjoy playing baseball. Don’t be that crazy, selfishly ignorant person who yells, screams and makes the game as much about them as the players.
It is not about you, out of control adult, it is about them, let them play.
At least some players are in the process of trying to decide if they will quit or play. Don’t be one of the reasons they decide to quit. Instead, be one of the reasons they decide to play.
Give the players, coaches and umpires the respect that they have earned through the many hours of practice in preparation to be in the game.
Remember, all kids count.
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