By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction
I have written previously on the multi-sport culture and tried to balance both sides of the argument. I have always believed that in the right hands, team sports and dedication to training can help build character. I will, until I take my dying breath, believe that the lessons that can be learned from the sporting arena can help people deal with all life has to throw at them.
As firmly as I hold all the above to be true I also hold on to the belief that we increasingly place our players in ridiculous and immoral situations. Ones in which there is no winner, no one gets to feel good, and no social or moral development takes place.
At the center of this moral decline and at the focal point of the issues is the well meaning parent who has to have their child be the star on as many teams as possible. I grew up in a working class part of England and vividly remember the first time I asked for a pair of cleats, because I had made the soccer team. The fight between my Mom and Dad that I listened to from behind the bedroom door centered on how could they afford to spend seventy five pounds ( $125) on a pair of cleats for me, and not buy things for my three brothers. Perhaps the emotions of that discussion fused my ideas of what a TEAM means, and how I should take it very seriously. I think that all the discussions held with my dad after that time, centered around how seriously I should take the responsibility of being on a team, that he expected me at all times to do my best, to always practice, to be first at training and last to leave.
I do not believe I had a choice, being on a team, a team I had a try-out for and made would always be the holy grail for me, with all the sacrifices my family made, how could I ever believe differently?
I know that times have changed. I know that I now call America my home and am incredibly proud to be an American citizen. I also know that we have it wrong.
When being on a team means nothing more than this is where mom and dad drive me to, and how I spend my time, we have it wrong! How can being on a team mean anything? How can we expect our kids to take life lessons from sport when all we do promotes the opposite! At the start of the season, I have been amazed by how many players are missing league or cup games due to play off games in other sports. I wish I could hear the explanations in the cars and kitchens when the parents tell their kids which coach or team they are letting down. How do they justify it, how can it make sense? How can the team concept and all it holds; consistent effort, never giving in, never letting your teammates down, be held on high one moment, to be disregarded the next. How can we expect this generation of kids to get it right when so many parent actions scream loudly IT DOES NOT MATTER!
I see a moral decline and I read the newspapers with headlines full of stories of bullying, cheating in tests, fights at sporting events, parents attacking officials, and a generation that all to often seem void of a moral code. As firmly as I believe in all the great things that a true commitment to a team and sport can promote, I also believe in the damage that can be caused when the team concept is eroded and means nothing.
Coaches I talk with, all share the same concerns and all have "I cannot believe what this parent did story." Often the stories have the same themes, "missing games due to other sports", "demanding playing time after missing practice", "leaving for another team in the middle of the season", " this is where you have to play me". All the stories have the same major plot ..."the decline of the concept of team."
I think that my dad might of had it right.