Saturday, July 16, 2005

Competition v. COMPETITION

um... hello? Is this thing on? Like Endra, I feel a little weird guest blogging. It's one thing to comment- it's another thing to do a post. Especially since, like Andy said, he and I don't exactly see eye to eye on a lot of stuff. Maybe a bit more than he stated in his introduction of his guest bloggers, but not much.

One thing I think we can probably agree on is children. I mean, we were all kids at one time, right? And Andy and I both have kids... and we all probably get just a little upset when adults do mean things to kids.

If you dig through the archives at my blog, you'll find out that last fall I was the "team mom" for my children's football team. One of my boys played, and one was the equipment manager. And... we had some problems last season with some of the parents and coaches. So... while I'm not an expert on organized sports and kids, I did play one on Saturday mornings last fall.

I loved being the team mom- honest. I love football, and love being in the middle of everything. And I know how fortunate my boys were that they had (with one or two exceptions) decent, good men as coaches. Men who wanted to win, but who cared more for the players (on both teams). They were tough, they were strict, but their players gave everything they had because they knew their coaches (with one or two exceptions) believed in them. (How did they get on such an awesome team? No special treatment, really. I wanted to talk to a coach before signing them up, because I wasn't sure if I should put them in flag or tackle. The only beginning tackle coach I could find on the league web site was Coach Joe, and I asked my questions. He told me that the best thing for me would be to put his name on it, and he'd make sure my boys were as safe as he could possibly make them. The rest is history.)

And then there are coaches like this, coaches who care more about winning than about what they're teaching the kids they coach.
A T-ball coach seeking to keep a player with a mental disability off the field allegedly asked another player to hurt the boy, state police said Friday.

...During pre-game warmups, Mark Reed Downs Jr. offered one of his players $25 to hit the 8-year-old boy in the head with a baseball, according to a police news release.

After speaking with Downs, the second player hit the victim near his left ear and in the groin area, leaving him unable to play in that night's game, state police said.

...Downs, 27, of Dunbar, was charged Friday with criminal solicitation to commit aggravated assault, corruption of minors and reckless endangerment. He is free on bond and faces a preliminary hearing on July 28.
This story makes me sick on so many levels. My first concern is how he ended up coaching in the first place. I doubt this is the first time his ego was on display for all to see. Parents had to notice his "win win win" attitude.

This moron, with one act (well, probably more than that, but only one that made the news) he taught his players so many worth-while things. Important things like "it's all about winning" and "it's okay to hurt others to get ahead" and "hurting people is ok if an adult tells you to (and you get paid for it)" and "people with handicaps are lesser people who deserve our ridicule and scorn". Did I miss anything? Those kids will remember this. Will they take away from this that Coach Downs was wrong and mean? Or will they think that Coach Downs was a great guy who was just trying to help the team.

I'll admit it. I'm not a very competitive person, really (unless I'm playing Trivial Pursuit). I love sports, and I gave my all when I played whatever sport I was playing at the time. But I always remembered one important thing... IT IS JUST A GAME. Nothing more. Nothing less. I was happy when we won, sad when we lost. But, in the end, it's just a game.

I'm in favor of kids playing organized sports, don't get me wrong. It teaches team work, discipline, the importance of physical fitness, the value of practice, and, yes, that there are winners and losers. That's just a part of life, something that they'll be confronted with their entire lives. Kids need to learn these things, preferably from caring people in a safe environment. Not from narcissistic jerks who are more worried about their reputation as a coach than about the children they're coaching.