South City Confessions: Parents shouldn’t force their kids to play sports

Know when to say “it’s okay to not play”

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He was serious this time.

I walked up to the playground and the first words out of Vinny’s mouth on a hot and dry Monday afternoon were, “daddy, I don’t want to play tee-ball anymore.”

I didn’t argue. For two weeks, my son had slowly but surely lost interest in playing the sport. Six years old isn’t an age where a boy or girl should be forced to play a sport in order to satisfy some childlike urge from their parents or in order to feel like they belong. Vinny wasn’t having fun, so he was done.

As a matter of fact, I can’t fucking stand parents who force their kids to play sports at any age. There’s nothing worse than the dad with a very tight Under Armour t-shirt on screaming on their kid to keep their glove on the dirt or for a nine-year-old to perfect a pitching motion. I’ve seen all of it and felt like walking up to the parent and jamming the aluminum bat up their ass. For fucks sake, pick your battles and don’t be the overly oppressive parent. It doesn’t matter which sport, all the overbearing parents look the same.I don’t care if Vinny was given an arm of thunder of a bat of furious power, I wouldn’t force him to play. For three straight practices, he had reservations about playing and sometimes sat out while others played. It was a temper tantrum just to get him to the field, and frankly, it’s simply not worth it.

Vinny was trying to play for possibly a few reasons, and here’s what they may be:

1) Satisfy me. He knows I love baseball and wants to please his dad. He likes watching the Cardinals and is a big fan of Harrison Bader. He even said at one point that he has to play the sport because he watches it.

2) He wanted to play with his friends. Plenty of his friends from school were playing on the team and Vinny probably wanted to hang with them a little while longer.

3) The kid has enough energy to power an ice cream factory and needed to extinguish it somewhere.

Maybe it was something else, but since I know my son fairly well, I bet it was one of those three or a combination.

It didn’t help that I wasn’t a good assistant coach. Look, if you don’t know me by now, let me inform you of a well-known fact: I lack patience. Basically, I don’t have a lot of time or energy to spend on teaching other kids-who probably don’t want to play-how to learn the basics of a complex game. Just because I love baseball doesn’t mean I should teach it. When my team would play against other teams, I saw real coaches who had their heart in it. I was like Vinny, distant and trying to get through an hour of drills.

I HATE half-assing anything, so I gave it all I could and tried to help the kids that actually wanted to listen. Most of them wanted to spacewalk around the outfield or engage their friend in a bat-lightsaber battle. Most of the time, I couldn’t stop them. How do you get kindergarten kids to listen to you? Teachers earn those paychecks, ladies and gents.

Every experience teaches you something and this was what I got: parents shouldn’t force their kids to play sports. It’s ugly and never works out well in the end. Well, unless your the father of Serena and Venus Williams.

Every parent should pick their battles and forcing them onto a field of play after a day of school isn’t one of them to fight. Let them choose their own path whenever they can. When you are a kid, a lot is asked of you. Baths, eating, sleeping, and homework all sound like jail time to a kid, so don’t add something else to that list.

There’s nothing greater than a kid doing his or her own thing and loving it. Also, why install such a high demand for a sport at a young age? That’s what makes a kid hate the sport and the parent. Like I said, it never works out.

Later in life, they’ll remember the ease you showed in raising them right and not forcing them to do something. They will love you for it. I promise.

Vinny and I both learned something this spring. Tee-ball and coaching aren’t for everyone.

Playing sports isn’t for everyone. Every parent should know that.

Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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