Frank Workman on Sports: How soon is too soon?

Friday, December 6, 2019

Photo courtesy US Youth Soccer

By Frank Workman

Down here in the San Diego area, I spent my Saturday mornings this fall watching my granddaughter play soccer for a team with the delightful name Glitter Sparkles. By my count, they played .500 ball.

When their season ended, the league’s coaches were asked to nominate their two best players from their own teams to be included in an all-star game that was played last weekend. My granddaughter was chosen to play in it.

Right before the games started, an impromptu meeting was held for the parents/guardians to hear of that night’s format. But before we were told that there were four teams, and that each team would play two 30-minute games, we heard from the event’s organizer, the league’s Director, who, we learned, is also the varsity soccer coach for the local high school the league feeds into.

What came next was part genius, part demonic.

First he congratulated us on the girls’ success in being recognized as all-stars.

Then he let it be known that in two weeks he would be starting a winter soccer camp for those kids whose parents wanted to see their skills rise to ‘the next level’ (for a fee, no doubt).

Turned out this entire ‘all-star’ event was a thinly disguised commercial to recruit kids to join the ranks of year-around Select soccer, so they can begin to hone their skills for when they’re able to play for his high school team.

The All Stars soccer team
Photo by Frank Workman

And by the way……my granddaughter is four years old.

Maybe this is how local greats Michelle Akers (Shorecrest) and Lori Henry (Shorewood) started on their paths to winning the Women’s World Cup for USA, but four years old seems way too young to be emphasizing one sport over the vast cornucopia of other games a child can try out.

I’m a big advocate of kids playing sports.

Sports has been called ‘life’s non-traditional classroom’.

A whole lot of good comes from it.

Lasting memories are created, lifelong friends are made (for both the players and their parents), and many valuable lessons are learned by playing.

Kids learn teamwork, unselfishness, and dedication. They compete with, and against, people who have different traits, qualities, and values than they have. They learn how to win and lose with grace, dignity, and humility. They learn to push their physical limits beyond what they imagined possible. In the process they acquire self-esteem and gain confidence in themselves. There are almost as many benefits to be had as there are people who derive them.

By all means, let your kids play sports. That’s ‘sports’, plural. Expose them to a variety of games, see which ones they enjoy and/or have an aptitude for.

It’s their life, not yours, and they should have a say in the matter of which sport they’re going to settle down and specialize in.

And that means they need to be old enough to take ownership of whatever decision it is they make.

Maybe wait until they’re at least in kindergarten.


thelastdj December 7, 2019 at 12:58 PM  

Well said, Frank 'the man'. Your lifelong love of many sports pours through when/how you express it. Your grandkids are in good hands.

Gordon December 9, 2019 at 12:52 PM  

Frank, totally agree. Specialization is demonic! Especially at that age, but imo all the way through middle school and maybe into high school. Also, Michelle Akers, who was a classmate at Shorecrest, did multiple sports all the way through until she was in college (we even tried to get her to be the placekicker for the football team but she drew the line). I'd imagine she would share your opinions, although as they's a different world now.

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