The Dirty Truth About Elementary School Sports

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Parenting children is a difficult job. Throw children’s sports into the equation and the word "impossible" comes to mind. Impossible if your child is not the next Mia Hamm or you aren’t “in” with the right people.

The first year that your child is in sports, it is all about focusing on your child. I mean, it’s kindergarten. Does it really matter if the blooming dandelions are better to look at then the soccer ball coming right towards him/her?? When your child is more concerned about the friend or the flower that happens to be within a 50-foot radius of her/him – that is your first clue that this might not be the sport for your child.

By 2nd or 3rd grade, when you your child has chosen the sport they would like to play, now you get to play with the parents and deal with the politics of the “sport”. It’s all about the politics – no matter what anyone tells you. And the politics in elementary school sports make the run for President of the US look like a walk in the park.  We are talking nasty, backstabbing politics.

The past two days have been eye-opening in terms of the Wide World of Sports at the elementary school level. My firsthand experience was with the basketball team in my town. There was one team made up of 14 hand-picked players that were the best athletes in the school that also happened to play another sport together. Last year they added a couple of new girls on the team and ended up with two too many kids. This meant they had to get rid of two players – the two girls that were picked (allegedly, it was out of a hat) to be traded from the team also happened to be outside of the clique.  How do the coaches (or their wives) do this to 10-year-old girls??  Maybe this is why some children have low self-esteem?

As a side note, I asked the “commissioner” of basketball how the teams were put together, and the first year, he told me he had no idea and it was pure chance. Believe it or not, he said this with a straight face. Thankfully, he wasn’t selling any bridges, or he may have asked me to buy one. The second year, he finally confessed that that was the way it worked – he needed a coach, and the coach said he would only do it if he could pick the players. Nice. Politics.

Can you say competitive?? The NFL has nothing on football at the elementary level. I saw an old friend at a football game who also happened to coach the opposing team – that beat us something awful. When he saw me, he said, “I didn’t put the two together when I saw your son on the tapes.” Me, being completely naive, just smiled. When I went home, I called the football coach and asked him what he was talking about. He realized that was why the boys on the other team were yelling the plays before they happened – the coaches from the other team taped our boys at a game and had their team memorize our plays. My son is 6. They don’t pass the ball – they have running plays. Did the coach really need to teach the boys our three plays??I hope their coach is proud – he taught the boys on his team that it’s all about winning. At any price.  Go team.

I have learned a lot through my young children playing sports.  My lessons learned:

  • On the first day of school, learn who the key parents players are
  • Learn who has known each other since nursery school or are neighbors, and run the other way (there is no getting in with that group)
  • Make sure your child plays with the “right” kids
  • Make sure you become friends with the parents who might coach the sports
  • Prepare your children by getting them a private trainer
  • Buy your children protective gear in case they get caught in the crossfire of the parents

Next up is how to play nice with the PTA moms.  Heavy armor is a plus.