Parenting: The New Competitive Sport???


Competitive-sport3Just when I worry that I’ll run out of things to write about here, something inevitably lands in my lap. When I tuned into a national news program earlier this week I was appalled to see a segment about the misplaced priorities of some parents. The segment concerned putting children into sports training sessions for up to two hours a day. These are not future Olympians we’re talking about, they’re the kids who should be playing tag or Red Rover down the street. Whatever happened to kids being allowed to be kids?

Instead, many parents (one of whom muses that he might be an “intimidator” rather than a “motivator” — gee, d’ya think!!?) hire trainers who once devoted their efforts to professional athletes. Seeing a lucrative market opportunity these trainers now apply their grueling techniques to kids nine years old and up. It’s reminiscent of the old East block athletic training mills which once manufactured athletes.

Looking for a silver lining where infertility is concerned I’m glad I don’t have to run into these parents at PTA meetings.  Yep, it’s times like this when I think maybe it’s good that I couldn’t have kids. Clearly I wasn’t cut out to be a parent in today’s society because I don’t have the win-at-all cost mentality, and I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate to intimidate your child into winning. Because if they don’t, God forbid, they might not get into Harvard and their life will be over at 17.

See also  A Place I Never Thought We'd Be

P.S. Mr. PJ (who has long been successful at athletics because he simply enjoys sports) adds that he’s glad he was among the last generation of “free range” kids.


17 Responses

  1. Farah

    November 1, 2007 11:19 pm

    Kind of funny that you wrote about this. We live right next door to the tennis courts in our complex. This instructor barks out awful commands to these same 4 kids EVERYDAY for 3 hours. I have no idea how long they are in practice for ..but i know they must start before 3 pm and do not stop until 6:30-7pm M-F, Saturday and Sundays its 9-12 …. E and I have talked about this as great lengths being that we get to witness it everyday out or back door and windows

  2. niobe

    November 2, 2007 12:43 am

    “Free-range kids” is a wonderful turn of phrase. There are a lot of psycho-mommies and, especially when it comes to sports, psycho-daddies.

    My theory is that it’s indicative of the generalized anxiety of the middle class these days. The costs of a middle-class-with-kids lifestyle — daycare, college, housing — have skyrocketed. Parents will therefore go to any lengths to try to protect and maximize their “investment” in their kids.

  3. Lori

    November 2, 2007 1:19 am

    And it’s too bad that people are too freaked to just let their kids play outside. I remember the days of free-ranging around the neighborhood, but those times seem as quaint now as a Norman Rockwell painting.

  4. Bea

    November 2, 2007 1:43 am

    I think Niobe hit it on the head. Hopefully there will still be free-range kids out there in the future. It was great fun, and very educational.


  5. Somewhat Ordinary

    November 2, 2007 12:41 pm

    I love the term “free-range kids!” I use to do PR for our local Parks and Recreation and I saw the competitiveness of these parents and it made me sick. We had workshops for parents on sportsmanship and balance. Despite that I had 2 co-workers that had their sons in every sport imaginable and they had no down time to just be kids. The parents would complain when their kids weren’t excelling or had lost interest in a sport. It was really frustrating to see. How can they excel at one when they are in so many?

    Our neighborhood is out in the country and I still see lots of my neighbors kids just being allowed to be kids. I think we’re lucky that our kids can still go outside and explore their surroundings without being scheduled every minute of the day. I’m sure they will participate in activities, but I hope they appreciate the community we’re raising them in enough to enjoy their “free-range” time!

  6. loribeth

    November 2, 2007 12:56 pm

    Another one who loves the term “free range kids” & who is thankful she had the opportunity to be one. Sometimes I don’t feel I would have had what it takes to be a parent in today’s society either. I always thought good old-fashioned parenting was supposed to be exhausting enough, never mind the all-encompassing hovering & monitoring every detail of your kids’ lives that goes on today. I do think this tends to be more of an urban thing, though — as Somewhat Ordinary says, kids who live in smaller towns or rural communities still seem to have some freedom to be kids. Thank God!!

  7. motherofnone

    November 2, 2007 2:32 pm

    I think what’s sad is that these parents are projecting all their unfulfilled wishes on their children. They didn’t get to be a pitcher for the Red Sox, so now they want that for their son, etc. I like this post because it reminds me that often I get so fixated on the struggle to get pregnant I forget that that “victory” would be just the beginning, with many years of hard decisions and rough days to follow. Good parents are very admirable people. Look at all they must deal with, in addition to keeping their own stuff together.

  8. Ellen K

    November 2, 2007 2:53 pm

    I fully agree with you. Parenting and childhood today are very different from when I was a kid; many books and news stories have made me think that not parenting may be no great loss. I am also glad to have been a free-range child.

    Unfortunately my nephews are some of the kids with a special trainer. They may live in a small town, but it’s a bedroom community and the pressure is on the parents and kids to always be in an organized sport or class. In contrast, I live in an inner-city neighborhood where many of the residents cannot afford or don’t have the flexible schedules to have their children involved in extracurriculars. After-school pick-up games of soccer, basketball, and baseball are still standard in my neighborhood. In my observation, hyperparenting has more to do with socioeconomics than geography.

    D.’s sister and her husband spend all their free time juggling the soccer “careers” (my word, not theirs) of their boys, ages 10 and 7. At any given time, they are on at least two teams, with soccer 5-7 days/week including Sunday mornings. Lately they have been working with the coach of the local semi-pro team. They really are excellent players, and I love both boys to pieces, but I am worried for their ACLs as well as their future happiness if their parents (mostly their dad) keep up this soccer obsession and scholarship talk. The rest of the family thinks it is ridiculous.

  9. Kami

    November 2, 2007 7:10 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more. It is one of the things that scares me about being a parent. I want our kid(s) to be happy and well balanced. I also want to continue to have a life as my own person, as a friend and as a wife – not just a chauffeur/trainer/agent for our kid(s). The trick will be finding a balance and ignoring the peer pressure I guess.

    I was also a free-range kid. We would disappear all day long and come back for meals and dusk. Those were the days. I love the term too and will be using it in the future.

  10. iota

    November 2, 2007 11:45 pm

    I think it’s a shame when parents decide the sport at which their kids are going to excel, rather than letting the kid try a few, and then in years to come, decide which (if any) they want to pursue. What happened to good old-fashioned fun?

  11. Aurelia

    November 3, 2007 1:02 am

    I’m not one of these parents at all, although my kids are enrolled in some activities done at school with their friends.

    There is actually a kind of backlash movement in response to this. Because there are a LOT of people who can’t stand it, parents included.

  12. SaraS-P

    November 3, 2007 3:52 am

    I encounter these parents as neighbors, students, and friends. Sadly, they actual brag to me about how hard they push their kids to be “winners.”

    And no one “plays” anymore. It is seen as either a waste of time or dangerous. I am glad I have worked with an occupational therapist who was known for lecturing on the cognitive and coordination benefits of letting kids play actively (i.e., not a video game) everyday.

  13. Ellen

    November 6, 2007 3:04 pm

    Who knew there was such a wide support network out there for infertile women? I finally have a baby after 3 really tough years, including one horrendous year with a clinic, a devastating miscarriage, and too many drugs to count… I will NEVER forget what it was like. I know your feeling of being an outcast and wondering if it would ever be more bearable. I’ll be putting up a post about the national infertility week. Thanks for making me aware of that. I’ll be praying for you in your journey.

Comments are closed.