Saturday, April 10, 2010

Where Have You Gone Chuck Connors?

I saw a notice the other day for spring soccer. Don't ask me why but that really gets me riled up. All sports these days are poaching on each other's seasons. Whatever happened to staying put in your part of the calendar?

When I was a kid I played soccer in the winter and baseball in the summer. Other kids played hockey and lacrosse. Judging by the photo albums there was even more opportunity to be a multi-sport participant in my Dad's days. In his teenage years there are pictures of him on soccer, hockey, football, and lacrosse teams and I know he played rugby as well. Nowadays by the age of 12, sports are trying to get the kids to specialize. Spring soccer? Yuck. Hockey teams that play tournaments all summer? Stupid. I say let the kids play! Let them experience the variety and spice of sport.

If you think I'm overreacting then you probably haven't been near kid's sports in awhile. Keener parents are out there starting up "travel" teams in lots of different sports. These are like all-star teams that essentially barnstorm and look for tournaments to play in. No more just a bunch of kids from the neighbourhood playing kids from another neighbourhood.

I was reading recently in the 2007 edition of "The Best in American Sports Writing" that it has reached craziness south of the border. I'm not sure if the Canadian hockey community is taking it to this level, but here's what's happening in basketball and baseball circles in the U.S.

In basketball there are summer leagues and the teams are in some cases sponsored by the sneaker companies and the companies cover the expenses for the players and provide them with gear. Players as young as 12 are recruited to be on these teams in hopes that if they become the next Michael Jordan they will continue to wear the brand of shoes that sponsored them in their youth. There is a magazine in the United States that rates the top grade five basketball players in the country. Yeah that's right, grade five or as they like to say fifth grade.

In baseball there are travel teams that start at the age of eight. One team located in Florida won the national championship as 9, 10, and 11 year olds. The next year as 12 year olds they had a kid on the team who lived in Indiana and flew to wherever the team was playing their tournaments. There was another 12 year old kid who lived in Las Vegas, but spent the season playing for a variety of teams that recruited him to play with them in tournaments. He hoped on an airplane and played for teams from California, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Nevada in one season. The Indiana kid not only plays on the Florida team, but one in Indiana and averaged 120 games a year from the age of 8 to 12.

Ahhhh, to be a kid. Chuck Connors must be turning over in his grave.


  1. Trivia: First NBA player to break a backboard while dunking? Chuck Connors.

  2. That's what I've always been told, but Wikipedia claims he broke it by clanging one off the front rim. If that's the case then we know when he first became known as the "rifleman".

  3. Jack, Jack, Jack, playing a sport all year you like is bad? You know I play soccer all year, and very much doubt my mid 50's body could ever get started again if there was a 4-6 month break! As for the kid thing. Well let's face it many parents are living their lives through their kids activities, sad as it is, it is true. 15 years ago my son played soccer all year, as well as football, basketball,volleyball, golf,and even that boring game baseball when they were in season. He also found time to become a much better fisherman than his Dad. You need to rant about the parents, not the kids, the parents are enabling this silly stuff!As for Chuck Connors, "Have gun will travel". I actually always prefered the "Virginian" Cheers, xelA

  4. Perhaps I wasn't perfectly clear, but I am talking about kids sports and the adults that run them. I blame the adults and feel bad for the kids who don't get a well rounded sporting experience.

    Once you've had a chance to try lots of sports and you're an adult with free will then fill your boots with whatever sport you want. As you know, I'm partial to mini-golf.

  5. Jack, in what is a troubling development, I find myself once more in complete agreement. This obsessiveness has reached ridiculous proportions, all in the delusional belief that it gives the child a better chance of getting ahead in his/her given area of specialty. Thing is, the best players are often play several sports when they're growing up (or at least they used to!) Athletes like Gretzky, Nash, and LeBron James all played several sports in their youth, and I suspect that it did/has done them a lotta good in the sport they finally chose to specialize in.

  6. Not only that but Frank Mahovlich was a figure skater.

  7. I work with a woman who just spent the entire weekend attending a "how to" conference. The topic was not how to decorate your house, how to invest in stocks, how to plan for your future, but rather how to advance your 12 yr child in the world of hockey. She often will drive 6+ hours each way on any given weekend to attend regular hockey games (not tournaments). The kids play hockey 11 months per year and are told that scouts are at every game evaluating their performance. She was proud to share with us that her new goal is now to prepare her 12 yr old son to start travelling on his own with the team and be ready to move away to whatever team will sign him at age 16.

    I'm with you Jack, let kids be kids. Let them play once in a while rather than have them compete and perform all the time.

    Just my 2 cents.

  8. I was the registrar of Lakehill Soccer for a while and, in a conversation with a Lower Island Soccer Association executive, I was told point blank that "soccer will remove baseball from the spring timeslot. Soccer's time has come. Baseball is dead." I was speechless, so I said nothing.

    I think this is very sad. I played all sorts of sports as a kid and value that range of experience.

    That all being said, as you know, Julia is on a "travel" fastball team. While I do like your neighbourhood kids playing neighbourhood kids idea, it became pretty obvious that for her to play on the neighbourhood C team would probably have seen her leave the sport out of boredom. So, here we are...

    Good post. I totally agree with the sentiment.


  9. Wait a second... Paul, you played all sorts of sports as a kid? What the hell happened? Did you just forget everything?