SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Joys of a (True) Rec League

My son played intramural soccer for years in our local organization, only to bow out when the emphasis on "academy" and travel teams cannibalized the rec league and created an emotional caste system for kids (that is, some began to think that playing did not matter if they weren't on a travel team).      He moved onto other sports -- flag football, tackle football and fall lacrosse -- until this summer, when he suggested to us that he wanted to play co-ed recreational soccer for 13-18 year olds.

This matched his newfound passion for being a fan of international soccer.  He's a rabid Arsenal fan, knows the rosters of the Premiership teams well, knows strategy and tactics and, well, just wanted to get in on the fun.  Neighborhood kids have played in this league have raved about it.  If I am not mistaken, I believe that one neighborhood boy has met his future wife while playing in the league.  It's a great social mixer -- kids don't have to get coiffured, dressed up, spend money on clothes and food or go to a dance -- they just have to show up and play.

The ages range from thirteen to eighteen, basically eighth to twelfth graders, and there is a mix of boys and girls, bigger and older kids and younger kids.  They practice twice a week, and today, in their first game, my son got to play left back, center mid and goalie.  He contributed to a clean sheet, made a few good passes, and looked okay out there -- especially for someone who has not played in four years.  More important than that, the spirit of the whole enterprise was terrific.  The kids played competitively and tried hard, but there was no pushing, no hard slide tackles, no yelling at officials, just some good running and passing, a few good corner kicks, and a few good saves.

It was fun to watch.  There were no parents out there hoping that a travel coach would see them, that a kid would show some unknown brilliance that would get them a shot at a travel team, none of that stuff that can permeate rec leagues and travel programs and turn them away from an ideal into a toxic wasteland polluted with the bad habits of adults and children.  Instead, this was about community, it was about kids, it was about good weather, and it was a celebration of making sure that kids got a good run in, that they got exercise, that they mixed with kids they didn't know and had some good, old-fashioned fun.

We talk about obesity, we talk about diabetes, we talk about sedentary lives, about kids playing "first-person shooter" games and about being on social media too much.  What a better way to promote great habits to get kids out there with enthusiastic coaches, a single official, a soccer ball and a great attitude.  It's a great way to promote good habits.  If we had more of these leagues and kids and parents bringing these attitudes, we'd have a happier, healthier country.

When the right habits are promoted and the right attitudes are brought, it doesn't matter who won or who lost, just how the game was played and that it was played.

1 Comments:

Anonymous http://www.fithealthylady.com said...

Playing sports for fun and exercise rather than winning should be emphasized. Too often kids quit being active after they "outgrow" their sport because they were never active for the sake of fitness- their fitness was never the goal. That is the irony of sports in general and partly why former great athletes are just as out of shape as everyone else. You made a good point in your article. I'm Frankie of http://www.fithealthylady.com

8:42 AM  

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