Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Opportunity knocks...like an irate John McEnroe beating down your door

Today, I’m dusting off the ol’ Open Letter To…Tuesday. (Mostly because, hey, I actually thought of one.)


Open Letter to Pop Warner Football, Buddy Werner Ski Team (yeah, that’s confusing), Oregon Youth Soccer Association, Little League Baseball, YMCA Youth Basketball, Boy Scouts of America, Awana, (and for the hell of it, let’s throw Thursday Skate Night in there too):

You're killing me. All of you. Because Richard Simmons on meth couldn't do all these things all at once, let alone your average kid. And I should know, because I've made my average kids try. And I've given up, but still, when I have to throw the basketball sign-up sheet into the recycle bin because it directly conflicts with ski team, my heart breaks a little.

Because I’m a joiner, ok? I join things. It’s what I do. The minute someone says, ‘Who’d like to sign up for--’ my hand goes up. And five minutes after that, I’m chairing some committee for it. And so you’ll be shocked to hear that I encourage my kids join things, too. I purposely live in a place with many opportunities, but you know what? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. When every single coach of every sport is telling my elementary-aged kids that they have to ‘specialize’ or that it may be ‘too late’ to switch from soccer to football at the ripe age of 10, my heart breaks a little bit more.

The soccer coach doesn’t want them skiing in the 'off-season', because they could sustain an injury. So they make sure there is no off-season. That sport now goes July-November and then from February-May. And baseball? Forget baseball! That’s spring soccer season plus flag football! And what about the underprivileged upper middle-class ski kids? Who’s championing their cause? /sarcasm You can’t race on the mountain at 10 am on Saturday and be back for the basketball game at 2. Just...trust me.

Where I grew up, we didn‘t believe in multiple opportunities. We believed in one opportunity, because there was only one sport offered per season. And that was only if you could clear enough snow from the playing field and there was a budget that year for balls. And if you didn’t like it, you could stay home and watch cartoons or something, because there was Nothing. Else. Going. And there were no cuts. Not at age 10, anyway. If you had a pair of sneakers (or even if you didn’t) and you could find a ride to the game, you were in. And there were no traveling squads. And your coach was whoever’s mom once played a season in high school or whoever’s dad was currently laid off. And your parents would have laughed until they cried if your coach requested $100 per kid for Nike uniform kits. You wore t-shirts with the logo of the local pizza place on them and you liked it.

Here…now? Opportunity is a tricky little devil whose true identity is Make a Choice. And she’s got an ugly step-sister named Limitation who‘s got a sour look on her face that‘s going to freeze that way.

Because kids aren’t meant to be limited. They’re not meant to be labeled the 'football player' or the 'soccer player' or the 'skier' at age whatever. Their parents aren’t supposed to be steering them toward the 'less saturated' sports at age 5 so that at age 18, they’ll have a better chance at a college scholarship (yes, people do that here). They’re not supposed to be changing from one jersey to the next in the back of the car because they left their football game early but are still five minutes late to hockey. Or soccer. Or riding club. Or whatever opportunity we‘ve subjected ourselves to most recently.

So this afternoon, guess what karate instructor? I'll be letting my kids ditch class so they can play a pick-up game of two-hand touch in the back yard.

Nikes optional.

If you have your own Open Letter you're itching to write, snag the button above and attach it to your own post! Then come back and sign the linky. We'll be here all week.

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