This I Believe

Joe - Westerville, Ohio
Entered on November 11, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: children, freedom
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I believe we should allow children to be children. I have been a coach for twenty-two years. In that time I have seen and heard parents do crazy things: from threatening coaches due to a child’s lack of playing time, to berating a child for a poor performance. Parents look at their children as a lottery ticket. From the time they are old enough to swing a baseball bat, or put on a football helmet, these children become the means of free education or the next multimillion-dollar sports contract. These parents view their children as a retirement plan, and anyone that disturbs that plan will face their wrath.

When I was younger, I spent nearly every waking moment playing outside with my friends. There were five of us: David, Willie, Mike, Billy, and myself. We rode our

bikes all round the neighborhood, played pick-up games such as basketball, football, and

baseball in a nearby church parking lot, only stopping when the streetlights came on.

Even then we were sometimes allowed to go back outside in the dark to play an exhausting game of street tag.

There were no coaches, no referees, and no parents watching over us. When we had a problem, we had to work it out on our own. This could be as simple as switching teams if the score got out of hand, to not letting Willie and I on the same team, since we were the fastest runners of the group. During one game of football, David and Mike got into a fistfight. I broke it up the only way I knew how, by shoving Mike to the ground. The game ended, and we each went home angry. Less than two hours later, David and I apologized to Mike. We then formed an agreement that Mike and David could no longer guard each other. I believe having this kind of freedom gave each of us a greater sense of being individuals, while at the same time learning on our own the value of working with others. During those times when we did have disagreements, we were forced to come up with solutions to insure the same problem never arouse again, whether it be creating a

new rule, or agreeing to divide the teams fairly.

I have learned through coaching, that if I let the members of my team have fun on their own terms, occasionally, they will reward me with a higher level of commitment and effort. Parents need to stop living vicariously through their children. Now as I watch my grandson, I am amazed with the way his mind works. He constantly reminds me how remarkable children are. His imagination never ceases to astound me. I want him to have the freedom to play games in a field, or ride his bike in his neighborhood. I want him to make up his own games with his friends, with their own rules, and create their own solutions. Let children have fun, let them learn on their own. Let children be children.

This is my belief.