Why We Need Youth Sports Back
- by: Hank Berkowitz
- October 27, 2020
With the cool weather, longer nights and changing leaves here in late October, my car seems to be on autopilot to the nearest soccer field. For the better part of 15 years, I’ve always had at least one kids on the soccer pitch—or more accurately “between the pipes.” But here we are, on the cusp of Halloween, when the state playoffs should be underway, and most of the teams are in quarantine, lockdown or some other form of self-imposed purgatory, waiting to see if the season will resume.
Something’s just been off this autumn.
My wife claims she doesn’t miss all the stress of watching our sons (both goalkeepers) sweat out another tight 1-0 or 0-0 game destined to be decided on penalty kicks or a last-minute breakdown by one our defenders. But I do. You’d think we’d be used to it after all of those games watching them on the pitcher’s mound, but being a goalkeeper’s parent is a different kind of stress. I’m sure you have clients in the same situation minding the nets for their soccer, lacrosse or hockey teams.
Nothing to slow down time this fall
I actually started to embrace the stress of being a goalkeeper’s parent as an antidote to our otherwise hyper-caffeinated, fast-paced lives. To a goalkeeper’s parent, the clock seems to move in super-slow motion, each agonizing second on the clock ticking at a snail’s pace. Your stomach’s in knots each time the opposing team mounts a charge into the final third of the field—and why aren’t any of the other players paying attention!
I really miss the adrenaline rush. It’s like if you forget to shower, brush your teeth or put the coffee pot on in the morning. You can survive the day, but you’re just sort of out of it and never up to full speed.
Mostly, I feel bad for all the kids (and the parents), especially those finishing their high school and college careers under the cloud of the pandemic. They won’t get to experience the improbable comebacks, the agonizing defeats, the grueling practices, the day to day ups and down of the league standings, the teamwork, the camaraderie and the pride of representing you school and town against your bitter arch rivals. They won’t get the thrill of wearing a team jersey to school, being dismissed early for the long-drive upstate to play a distant team from a town you’ve never heard of, to (hopefully) start a Cinderella run through the state tournament bracket.
It’s even harder to see all the pros and elite college football players on TV playing through the pandemic–and having a great time.
I know the pros (and Power 5 football players) are being very well compensated for their efforts. But if you’ve watched any of the emotional roller-coaster World Series games this year or all the NFL games that have gone down to the wire, the players are in it for more than just the money. With Tampa down to its last strike, little-used outfielder, Brett Phillips, delivered a bizarre walk-off base hit that allowed the Rays to steal Game 4 from the heavily favored Dodgers and even the Series at two games apiece. Watching the tearful Dodgers in the dugout and the giddy Rays airplane-gliding and making snow angels in the outfield grass, you’d think you were watching the final game of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.
Too bad the real 12-year-old athletes are still on the sidelines.
As a parent and former youth sports coach, I worry about the long-term impact that the dearth of youth sports will have on our kids. Numerous studies confirm a strong correlation between regular exercise and mental health. “Both male and female high school athletes are less likely to smoke cigarettes and suffer from loneliness and low self-esteem, when compared to non-athlete peers, according to research used for the Healthy Sport Index (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2018). Further, the report argued that getting people active could save the global economy nearly $68 billion annually in medical costs and productivity. The U.S. alone could save up to $28 billion. And individuals could find $2,500 or more in their pocket if they move for 30 minutes five times per week (The Lancet Physical Activity Series).
Mostly I worry about how the kids are supposed to have fun. They have the rest of their lives to worry about healthcare crises, political bickering and punishing economic conditions. The pros and elite college athletes get to play sports and have fun. Why can’t our kids?
What’s your take? I’d love to hear from you.
#youthsports, #youthsportsmissing, #mentalhealthkids, #teensports