By Tim Chambers
It took two games over the weekend to remind me what youth athletics is all about. It’s about kids who go out and play the game because they love it.
Saturday was a scorcher. The heat was nearly unbearable inside of Citizens Bank Stadium. Fans braved it while chugging water and soft drinks throughout the game.
The kids on the field endured it despite a heat index that probably should have been monitored.
A tip of the cap goes to all the participants on that day. The Johnson County and Elizabethton Mighty Mites, Grasscutters and Junior Pee Wee teams deserve it.
These young men played their butts off with temperatures in the mid 90’s. Johnson County lost two heartbreakers in the Mighty Mites and Grasscutters games. The Junior Pee Wee team played better but dropped a close game as well.
But this column today is not about touchdowns scored, tackles made or final score. It’s about some parents who need to grow up and set some examples for their children.
The things I witnessed on the sidelines from parents coming out of the stands to talk with their children were alarming. I find it to be okay to check on your child, offer them a bottle of water and even a few words of encouragement on a hot and humid day like Saturday.
But a couple of things that I witnessed crossed the boundary.
No child should ever be forced to play football just because a parent wants them to play. Here’s the scene.
A parent was upset because their child had not played the allotted number of plays during the game. They even made it a point to let the opposing squad know. And while that might have been true, I happen to be working on my camera and taking some notes when the episode occurred.
The young man was approached three times by a member of the coaching staff and was told he was going into the game. Each time the player refused to put his helmet on and walked off because he didn’t want to enter the game.
Coaches don’t have time to beg kids to play. If a player refuses to enter the contest, then the coach has done his job by not putting him on the field.
A child could be seriously hurt if he is forced to enter a game against his will. Therefore he should be disqualified for that particular game at the point he refuses to enter.
Football is different than other sports. It’s not just a participation thing. It’s a contact event. Safety first even if a parent gets upset.
My final rant is the one that made me furious.
No child deserves to be embarrassed by a parent while the game is going on. But some things that I heard on the sidelines Saturday made me want to toss my camera bag with a brick in it at them.
Your six-year-old child is not lazy, slow or stupid. Some might have more football knowledge than others and few could be blessed with a little more athleticism.
Commend them for participating on the field and encourage them to work hard at getting better.
There is a reason your child gave up Saturday morning cartoons to go out and play the game of football. He could have been on a bicycle or at the pool and he could have been lying on the couch.
But instead he chose to play football. Parents need to step back and ask themselves why.
I never forced my children to play sports all the way through college nor will I ever force my grandchildren to play either. I want them to love the game and respect it. I want them to respect their coaches.
I cherish the times when they have asked me to play catch or hit them ground balls. I’ve enjoyed the times that we’ve shot baskets or tossed the football in the back yard.
I will never get tired of them putting their arms around me saying, “Thank you Daddy (or) Papaw.”
My greatest moment on Saturday was getting a hug from my six-year-old grandson at midfield after the game. He practically fell in my arms because he was totally exhausted. He smiled but didn’t say anything about how he did or mention the win.
“Is Sawyer ok?” he asked. One of his best friends and former classmates played on the opposite team.