Once upon a time, America was the land of the free and the home of the brave. But that is not true anymore. We are no longer free, and we are no longer brave.
Today, millions of Americans are slaves and cowards — slaves to youth sports, and too cowardly to say to a six-year-old girl, “No, Brittany, I’m not driving you to your 17th soccer practice this week. You’re just going to have to skip a day and stay home, OK?”
Kids start youth sports at such a young age nowadays. I drove by a soccer game last week and I swear the kids were still in diapers. When the ball was at the far end of the field, I think I saw the goalie’s mom run out and breast-feed him.
Youth sports are now the leading cause of poor health in the United States, far surpassing the effects of tobacco, alcohol, and fatty foods. Of course, I’m talking about the parents. Youth sports actually can be healthy for the kids participating, since every minute spent at those 17 practices each week is a minute not spent playing video games and inhaling jumbo-sized bags of cheese doodles.
But for the parents of little Brittany and Brian, Jennifer and Jason, youth sports have become an all-consuming, relentless, exhausting nightmare.
I know a young man who used to be energetic, funny, and full of life. Then his two sons began playing youth hockey. Now this guy, after just a few years, is often mistaken for someone’s grandfather. His hair turned gray and there are perpetual dark circles under his eyes.
This man’s life has become a horror movie. He now does only two things: go to work, and be involved in youth sports. Back in 2013 he was forced to give up sleeping entirely. Last winter I once heard him mumble, “If I can just make it through the hockey season, then I’ll be able to go to bed. If I can hang on until mid-April, I’ll finally be able to take a nap.”
But then to his dismay, he discovered the very last day of the youth hockey season turned out to be the very FIRST day of the youth lacrosse season. Recently, I heard him mumble, “If I can just make it until the year 2026, when my youngest son graduates high school, then I’ll be able to go to bed.”
Some youth sports parents are lucky. They get to sleep for an hour or two each night. The reason my Hockey Dad friend cannot sleep at all is because he’s not only a youth sports parent, he is also a youth sports volunteer coach. Like all youth sports parents, he is required by law to be in attendance for every practice, game, and tournament; and to put in more hours behind the wheel shuttling the kids back and forth than a New York City cabbie. But as a volunteer coach, he has the added duties of planning the schedule of games and practices, organizing pizza parties, taking inventory of the uniforms and equipment, and responding to the threatening phone calls from outraged parents who can’t understand why their little Davey is not getting more playing time.
I think we’d all be a lot better off if parents cut back on the organized youth sports and sent their kids out in the back yard to play impromptu games with the neighborhood kids. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I just heard that a new, even younger, league is starting up: the Fetus Soccer League. This way the kids will have a little experience under their belts when they join the Diaper Soccer League at age 1.