Thursday, June 11, 2009

Travel Sports - Boomers Gone Bad

By William Hazelgrove

Used to be you just played baseball or soccer of football. There was Little League and Pony League and the Majors but after that you played for a school. If you are a parent then you know what has come to fill in the gap for the passionate sport parent who doesn't get enough time with their child. The Travel Sports. Question. What cost about two thousand dollars, sucks up half the year, and puts you in the same league with every man who did not get his fill of high school or college sports or worse yet believed he was overlooked as a possible major league contender?These overgrown athletes can find succor in the twisted halls of Travel Sports.

I love spending time with my kids and I coached for seven years, but the fun, the joy of a child playing sports was sucked right out when we entered the realm of Travel Baseball. Suddenly there was no joy in Mudville. Win or lose the games had become deadly serious. Parents agonized over defeats and critiqued the wins. Coaches screamed and hollered over calls and boys of twelve were reduced to tears after coaches benched them for an error or a loss where the boys shamed themselves. Its all so overblown and out of line that we have to wonder who started this madness of sham professional athletics for boys and girls.

The boomers. Only the boomers could generate the kind of entitlement that would translate to grown men wearing custom made uniforms and traveling thousands of miles to have twelve years old play a game I used to play in the streets. Oh I know...times change. Yes Yes Yes...everyone plays travel now. So what. It still is absurd. And here is the worst thing--that kind of major league competition does not produce games where kids can learn. It produces neurotic parents juiced on winning at any cost and children who learn less about the game and more about parents funneling every bit of sublimated stress into a game that should be on par with playing catch in the backyard.

But we live in a time when everything is overblown. So it is not surprising that kids sports are the latest casualty of the generation that produced helicopter parents and the self satisfying mantra of hope I die before I get old and then became the most over the top obnoxious old people on the planet. So to everyone who is fuming I know nothing of the joys of organized travel sports and the excellence that can come from intense competition and the bonding that occurs when groups of parents and their children travel thousands of miles together to arrive at some field in some distant city--I say,as my father told me long ago when I lost in Little League--it is only a game. Lighten up guys.

William Hazelgrove's highly praised first three novels Ripples,(Pantonne) LJ highly recommended, ALA Editors Choice, Tobacco Sticks, (Bantam, Best Novels of the Nineties Doris Lesher, Starred Review PW, LJ highly recommended) and Mica Highways, (Bantam,) covered the scope of a coming of age, a courtroom drama set in Virginia in the forties, and a mystery set in the South. William Hazelgrove is the Hemingway writer in residence for the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park. He has written reviews and features for USA TODAY and been the subject of stories in the NY Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and NPR'S All Things Considered..

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1 comment:

William Hazelgrove said...

Hello I have a Book coming out in September. The Pitcher. It is the story of a Mexican American kid and an old broken down World Series Pitcher who agrees to coach him to make the highschool team. I touch on the themes in my original article you posted here. I will send on a copy if you have an interest in reviewing.