Youth Sports Have Gone Mad!

A recent disturbance has recently been felt in the Skipahsphere.  My daughter loves playing softball almost as much as I love an ice cold Diet Dr. Pepper.  The past three years of watching her play softball has always given me a big old “puffy” heart to see her hit an oversized ball and run like she just stole a television from Best Buy.  Softball recently fired back up this year, and well let’s just say it’s not quite the same.  

I’m a veteran myself of Little League baseball, I wasn’t blessed with any kind of special skills other than the ability to completely “imperfect” the art of a foot first slide.  If you are new to youth baseball, most leagues are basically a two year age gap.  The younger kids aren’t quite as good as the second year kids, but shine when they are in the dominant age group their second year.  My daughter definitely fits this category, only one small problem has happened since the days I was praying to the rain god to hold off his anger at the world when it was my game day.  Namely, it goes by a parent’s worse nightmare, travel ball!

Freaking nine and ten year old girls are now part of the holy cluster of travel ball?  Parents are cool with this and some even openly encourage it?  Not this parent!  Not since the Treaty of Versailles has such a landmark agreement been reached between two hostile parties.  Last week the Anderson County Little League Complex suddenly turned into a modern day Appomattox Courthouse, no wait that was a surrender, it was more like the Korean War Armistice between my ex-wife and I.  Also, this will conclude Skipah’s history lesson of the day.  Honorable mention to every peace agreement Israel has ever agree to only to be double crossed on.

We both came to the conclusion that softball is no longer the thing for her.  It is going to conflict with her new love she has taken a shine to.  Look out Robin Hood and William Tell, there is a new player in town.  For reasons I’m still trying to fathom she has found a love for archery.  Am I disappointed she isn’t going to become the next Jennie Finch?  The answer to that is a big fat no!  If she wanted to be a world champion rock painter, she has dad’s full support.  I’m not “that” parent trying to relive youth sports glory through my child.  I did score four touchdowns for Polk High School in the city championship game one time though, oh wait that was Al Bundy.  Hold that thought, it’s time for Skipah to rant!

Seems to be getting the hang of it.

Travel ball in all youth sports is just wrong!  I can only focus on the baseball/softball sector of this money grab so sit back while I, wait for it big word of the day coming, pontificate!  Have you ever met a parent that loves travel ball?  I haven’t, but I know plenty of parents with children that they willing let participate in this major time suck.  The only people benefiting from travel ball are hayseed town restaurants and hotels.  What is the purpose of travel ball?  So you can be a part of the “in” crowd at your local mommy wine tasting club or the local Elks Club pissing match.

Here is how it worked in my day, you played Little League, if you were any good you made the all-star team.  That All-Star team played in a tournament with other teams in and around your district.  Win and advance, and you keep advancing through various stages until there is a crescendo at that age group’s World Series.  Yes, most of us know about Williamsport, PA and the Little League World Series, but that is for the 12 year olds.  After your Little League career was finished, you played high school baseball/softball and if you were good enough maybe you got to play collegiately.

These days, a child spends all summer traveling all over his/her local state or adjoining states to play a weekend tournament.  Enjoy your summer before you go back to school?  Are you kidding me?  There is a tourney in Terre Haute, Indiana this weekend.  The Brownsburg Bullies are playing in it and if we can beat them, we get a trophy and a pat on the back.  Nevermind you didn’t get to hang out with your cousin who is in town for the summer, and you missed your best friend’s birthday party that you were invited to.  Recently this has morphed into fall baseball, youth baseball has now become a damn job!

Skipah, you must be drunk, yeah I’m drunk on stupidity.  Major League Baseball has recently began to freak out because there aren’t as many African-Americans playing baseball.  You think the spiraling costs of travel ball could be behind it?  I can only imagine an inner-city kid that could hit a ball a country mile must feel that he isn’t able to participate at the highest level of his age group because his parents can’t afford some sleek new uniform or the cost of spending a weekend in Peoria, Illinois!  Bring back normal Little League, you paid a registration fee and bought a glove and cleats!  Major League Baseball and others spend a zillion dollars a year on why African-Americans aren’t participating in youth baseball, pay me a fraction of those fees and I can tell you why!  Not every parent can afford to spend all summer eating continental breakfasts at hotels all over the fruited plain.

Let’s dissect this even further!  Arm injuries to every aspiring pitcher that makes it to the big leagues must be a coincidence.  A Hall of Fame pitcher says otherwise, but what does he know?  Tommy John was a pretty successful major league pitcher, he is also synonymous with the procedure known as ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction.  I terribly doubt he hoped every kid with a rocket arm had to have a UCL performed on them before they were old enough to buy a beer.  You can thank the wannabe Sparky Anderson’s, over exuberant parents, and biology for your kid blowing out his arm before he’s even become a man.  Furthermore, kids throwing curve balls should be outlawed in youth sports until you are at least old enough to vote.  Your 12-year-old boy can throw a curveball, that’s awesome, at age 20 he can’t write his name because he is in rehab after arm surgery?  You just became parent of the year.    

O.K. rant is over, sorry it went so long.  I’m sure that might have ruffled a few feathers, but it needs to be said.  Now if my daughter wants to keep playing softball, trust me she can play all she wants.  I would never let her participate in travel ball or at best it would be limited.  So if she has a new found love in archery and wants to potentially qualify for the Olympics (her goal), this dad will support in any way he can.  Cleats are being replaced with quivers, and who knows maybe the long sought after myth of co-parenting can be achieved.  I doubt it, but at least for one instance we agreed on something.  Besides boys are going to be entering the picture in a few short years, if she is an expert marksman with her new Genesis bow by then, I won’t have to be in the market for the latest shotgun from Smith and Wesson!

About it for now, I’m off to get ready for the next big episode in the Skipahsphere!  Can you say Kentucky Derby is this weekend?  Time to put on my handicapper hat, and go check that pedigree again on Thunder Snow!

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  1. I empathize, man. I raised a pair of kids who dual-sported basketball and swimming until freshman year. The girls hoops parents were abominable, the 3-day weekend tourneys miserable for me, a coach, and pure torture for my wife, who was either alone all the time or sulking amidst the backstabbing shedevil basketball moms. Swimming is better, but every meet is a trip and you hang around for three days in a sweltering natatorium (don’t call it a “pool hall,” nobody thinks that’s funny) to watch one’s kids compete for 8 or maybe 9 minutes, if you’re lucky and your kid has some distance events. Sprinter parents get 4 minutes a day with their kids in a pool. At least swim parents aren’t petty–no politics on swim rosters, because the stop watch doesn’t lie. Now that I”ve got an NCAA swimmer, it’s so much better. No bonding with the other parents. We’re all sick of pretending we’re there for anything but our kids–no awkward group meals at feedbag restaurants.

    Archery sounds nice. Shoot up some straw bales in a meadow. Ahhhhh.

    And Peoria? No thanks. I stopped near there for lunch a couple of decades ago, saw a bunch of folks eating what looked like battered cauliflower. Nope. Cow brains. I got my grilled cheese to go and never looked back. Goddam farmers.

  2. These sports should teach lifelong leisure habits, not be the hopeful vehicle for elusive college sports scholarships. Good luck and I hope she digs archery!

  3. My godmother did the travelling with her two daughters and volleyball; I cannot fathom how many thousands of dollars that took with league fees, gas, hotels, gear, and so on. And did either girl continue the sport in college? Nope.
    I also grew up doing the typical school sports, where you played the other schools in your area, and in the summer you played a few other community teams. I didn’t even LIKE to play, I just did it because my parents expected me to.
    Now I cringe the day my daughter asks to do all the travel games and stuff; she doesn’t even like sports, but she just hates being left out. So like you, I want to be super-supportive, but I want to find an avenue that allows her to explore and ENJOY sports without feeling like it’s some sort of do-or-die/you don’t REALLY care unless you’re ALL IN kind of situation. These kids are still wiping their snot on desks, for crying out loud. They don’t need that pressure.

    • She told me this weekend she doesn’t really like softball anymore because everyone takes it too seriously.

    • I’m sorry, but when I read this comment the first time my withered, foul-mouthed mind read “god-damn mom” instead of godmother, because I’m damaged. Reading it the right way really changed the tone. Hope you think that’s as funny as I do.

  4. Ugh – don’t even get me started, although I will admit we did do the competitive soccer thing with our Princess for three years. She gave up a lot during that time. She’s a dancer, which is year-round, and a sideline cheerleader at her high school (also year-round), but she’s also not 8 anymore, she’s 15. Good luck with the archery!

  5. Awesome post. I completely agree, and I could rant on this forever.
    How to put your child in sports circa 2000:
    1. Find a league
    2. Pay a fee
    3. Buy gear
    4. Go to games
    How to put your child in sports circa 2017:
    Donate your time, money, sanity, and child to said sport.

    Seriously, I’ve had two sets of kids. This is how it is!

    It angers me because nothing, not anything, should demand so much of entire families. Families need time to play and eat and snuggle and travel and whatever. World can’t be revolving around one child and one activity. Huh uh.
    I want my kids to be well-rounded, to explore their interests.

  6. I’m down with the bow and arrow, would love to learn that myself. Way to be a supportive dad no matter the circumstances! 🙂

  7. Archery is the new softball! I had a friend who has children in this full-on “travel” mode during the summer and it sounds exhausting for everyone involved. Trying to carve out a summer vacation while juggling between going from one place to another…and no one is really sure why. My little league baseball experience was just as you described. We had a local league. Those of us who did well got to play in all-star competitions where a fortunate team would eventually get to Williamsport. But it was all quite “self-contained” and certainly didn’t require going all over the country!

  8. I had no idea softball had morphed into that. I’m glad you wrote about it, because you wouldn’t read about it in the newspapers!

  9. I was raised in West Texas where sports was a way of life, more because there was nothing better to do. The 300-500 initial investment (not including supplies, or whatever you call sports necessities) was far too much for my family to handle in a sport where I had zero future. It stunk feeling left out, but at the same time I pitied the kids for not being allowed a childhood. Their weekends, evenings, and holidays were spent practicing, traveling, tournamenting… So while the rest of the world enjoyed sleep overs, family movie nights, and mallratting; these kids were stressed attempting to balance their studies and their game. There was no childhood to their youth.

    Growing up we just stuck to the very affordable little dribblers at our Boys and Girls Club, and I loved my dance class…very low key, no competition, just a once a year recital. I’ve noticed though the trend of severe disciplined sports and life consuming travel teams spreading, to the point there are no other options. I blame shows like Dance Moms and Toddler and Tiaras…At present I’m really struggling to get my daughter in a dance or gymnastics program I think she will enjoy. She is such a beautiful free spirit and I don’t want to squash that by turning her passion into a cut throat experience. Why can’t I just find a tap class for a 3 year old that doesn’t boast of its strict discipline and competitions?! They are toddlers?!!!! It’s dance class not flippin boot camp.

    Archery sounds amazing, btw!

  10. Glad to see archery is “cool” again. Just wait until there’s Travel Archery!

  11. Was on a travel Khory leage softball team for one year in between sixth and seventh grade. I paid for it, one of my friend’s parents drove us both around to our games. We ended up winning the tri-state championship! (Mind you I didn’t wear glasses yet, so I couldn’t hit or catch worth a shit!) But I was part of THE TEAM!

    Never played after that year. Preferred when I got to sit on the bench, because I couldn’t see the ball coming anyway!

  12. Good for her! That’s great! My boys have been on an archery for two years now. It’s great. But, don’t be fooled. Lots of tournaments, twice a week practice, volunteering to work tournaments and fund raisers, and it’s a looonnnggg season. Be prepared for increased miles on your car and a bleacher-numbed ass. She’ll enjoy it though. 😃

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