Friday, September 12, 2008

Pucks, Parents, and Palin

My sister-in-law, my sister, and Sarah Palin have something in common---though you wouldn’t think so.  Yesterday’s NYT piece about hockey families and the high school hockey culture in Alaska (  brought back my own memories of nights and weekends in Northbrook, San Ramon, Middlebury, and elsewhere, where my brother, and my niece and nephews skated and played their hearts out.  Take a look at the Times piece for a slice of middle/upper middle class America, which nurtured me.

I wasn’t an athlete as a youngster, but my younger brother was.  He was a star, and not just in hockey.  Plus, he turned out to be right about the positive role that organized team sports can play in the lives of young people.  Being accountable to a group of your peers, to show up when you need to show up, healthy and drugs-and-beer free, to play hard but play fair, and learn how to win and lose gracefully.   Worked wonders for the kids in my family!  (more hockey and baseball games for Uncle Bob to fly to…. !)

The Times piece reminds us that all is not fun and games in youth sports.  Luckily in our family, the parents always had a very healthy perspective on the balance between sport, academic, and family responsibilities.  But many parents aren’t like them.  Lately, I’ve been dipping into Tom Farrey’s Game On—a collection of essays and experiences about the darker side of organized youth athletics.  My takeaway so far is that the downside of youth sport in America  is that we extol the virtues of competition and winning at the expense of development of skills, character, and a sense of fun.  It’s become such a deadly serious affair in so many rinks, fields, and parks across this country.  

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