Saturday, October 16, 2010

Let Go of That Hand

By popular demand, or at least one person sort of implied I should, I have another sports topic. It has sports, but perhaps it is not so much a commentary on sports as on another of the problems with our society today. Nothing quite as annoying as when a cashier asks you if you have anything planned for the weekend (yes, it happened to me again today!!!!), but still a problem if you ask me.

I know what you're saying, "C'mon, Showers get on with it, what is your shirt all in a knot about now?" It's simple. Holding Hands Soccer. Yeah, that's right, soccer played while holding hands. I don't think it's officially known as Holding Hands Soccer, but it is definitely an outrage.

I accompanied a friend recently to his son's first soccer practice of the year. When we arrived the age group below my friend's son was on the field. These children were four and five year olds. They were having a little scrimmage, but much to my consternation the players were holding the hands of their parents. The parents would run along with the kid and the kid would play the game. A couple of problems here might immediately come to mind. What if your parent is slow afoot? You're at a serious disadvantage in this game compared to the players with perhaps younger, fleeter parents. "Damn it Dad, get the lead out, I'm trying to score a goal here." Secondly, what if one of the parents is a little too competitive and starts dragging his kid along behind him as he races down the field to get to the ball? The kid's all covered in mud and grass and bouncing along like a rag doll hanging off his pop's arm. Yet these obvious problems are not what I am here to take issue with.

The problem is, what the heck are kids doing holding their parents' hands while playing the game? It was explained to me that this was to teach them positioning and other fine elements of the game. C'mon. If the kids need someone holding their hands to play the game then they are clearly too young to be playing the game. At least at an "organized" level. Take your kid out and kick the ball around with him, sure, but don't drag him around by the hand to play a "real" game. Besides the beauty of little kids soccer even at the six and seven year old age group is the preferred strategy they use, which I like to call the beehive formation.

What are kids that young playing organized sports for anyway? It's because if they don't offer soccer to little kids then maybe one of the other sports offers a program for little kids and then they become hockey or rugby players instead. Soccer has to compete to keep the athletes coming to them because as I've already complained about in an earlier post, this has become the age of sports specialization (see today's Vancouver Sun for more on that) and once kids get into a sport it takes over their sporting lives and they don't get to try other things. If you don't get them first then you might not get them at all. Someone needs to step in and tell these sports to back off and let the kids reach a sensible age before slapping a uniform on them. That same someone needs to tell parents to give their head a shake and not sign up for Holding Hands Soccer.

And if you are one of those parents then let go of that hand and go kick the ball around with your kid. Then when you're done teach them how to hold a hockey stick and hit a baseball. Sure they might not make the pros in any one sport but they'll be really good in high school gym class while everyone else can only do one thing. Unless of course their parents show up to hold their hands.


  1. Well done colleague, xelA.

  2. As the father of the kid in the Hold Hands Soccer class, I want you to know we quit. After two lessons. Yes, I'd rather teach him to be a quitter than to have to go through me holding his hand. I don't know the first thing about that ridiculous sport.

  3. Just a second, your kid was in the class after the Hold Hands Soccer class. I watched your kids class and there was no holding of the hands. At least not on that day. Your fine young man is probably old enough to be playing soccer. Why he'd want to do it is another question. What with all the silly rules that I've ridiculed in this space on a previous occasion.

  4. what the hell? soccer holding hands? creepy. good blog post, Jack.

    It reminds me of a vague, undefined annoyance I have towards Sportball. Maybe for little tiny wee kids who are at the "beehive soccer" level of development, but this Sportball business is marketed to older kids up to 12.

    I am all for not destroying a kid's self esteem by making sports super-competitive at a young age, but shouldn't some competition at an age-appropriate level be good for building confidence? Especially a team sport like soccer where one weak link on a team can only do a limited amount of damage...

    I am interested to hear what you think about this Sportball business.


  5. Sportball? What the heck is that? Time to Google it. Please stand by.

  6. Okay, I have gone to the Sportball website and think I have a partial understanding of what they are all about. It looks a lot like what a good elementary P.E. class might look like (except they have more adults per kid - but that's a story for another day).

    They say it is a non-competitive program, but those are just buzz words. Nowhere on the website or the promotional video does it explain what non-competitive means. In fact it isn't really a focus of the promotional material.

    I agree with Sue that some competition is good and that kids enjoy that. So I really think it depends on what they mean by non-competitive. If it means that they play games but never keep score then I'd say that's a little too uncompetitive. Kids need to learn how to compete and handle winning and losing. Keeping score can be fun too. People try harder and focus more on team success than individual success.

    However, non-competitive might just mean that when they play games it is the same as when adults get together for pick-up games. They keep score and try to win, but there is no league, no standings, and the next week's game the teams are different. If that's non-competitive then I'm fine with that.

    Having said that, I do think being part of a team that works together to get better, learns how to correct weaknesses together and learns to win or lose together is also a good thing. Just not really such a good thing for kids less than about 7 or so, although I hesitate to put a number on it because that will be different depending on the kid.

    Anyone out there know what Sportball means by non-competitive?

  7. My kid's "coach" told the parents that if they see their kid not getting it in the "game" to go out there and hold their hands, showing them where to be. I pay him to do that. What do I know from soccer? So we are outta there.