Tale Of Two Teams…

In the 1st grade, I played for 2 baseball teams. One team, the Oaks, was structured. We had a coach, uniforms, space at the municipal park, good equipment, officiating, monthly dues, a specific pecking order of players, and parental pressure. Our competition was assigned to us. On my first day with the Oaks, I didn’t know most of the players.

My other team didn’t even have a name. We had no schedule, we had to find, or create our own space to play, had rag-tag equipment, and a loose pecking order of players which rotated – depending on who might be available to play.  Though we occasionally had new players join us, the concept of the team was born because we all knew each other, liked baseball, and wanted to play.  Of competition, we had to seek out our own – similar groups of like-minded, anxious boys, fighting off the ailment of boredom. Leadership manifest Darwinian style.

Though I played hard for both teams, and many of life’s lessons were learned with each one, I more enjoyed, and feel I got more out of playing for my loosely structured friends team. I feel this way, because it wasn’t a construct – we weren’t placed within it.  We owned it.

There was creative fulfillment in assembling equipment, finding a field, seeking out competition, and scheduling our games.  Length of game, flexible rules, tools of the game, game times, and who played which position, solidified organically.

There was though, one conflict inherent with playing for two teams at once – that there were times when I had to choose which team I was going to play for, on those Saturdays when each team was an option. Since mom and dad paid the bill for the Oaks, my requirement to play for them superseded my desire to play with my friends.  Fortunately, no direct competition ever existed between my league team, and my friends team.

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Scanning the headlines today, I see myself once again as a player on two teams. The first team, the Planet Earth. The other team, Team Human Beings.  I have a deep appreciation for, and profound responsibilities on behalf of each team.  As I reflect on the baseball of my youth this morning, I’m conflicted over who I should be playing for.  This time, mom and dad don’t get to make the decision for me.

On this day, my team of Human Beings, with its new coach, has chosen direct competition – to play against my friends team — Team Planet Earth.  Since I have appreciation for, and responsibility toward each team, my temptation is to forfeit – and I think of Shakespeare…

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice…”

Or was it Neil Peart…?  No matter.

I am partial to the human animal, since I happen to be one, I have an inherent tendency toward that allegiance.  Sitting here though, contemplating – recognizing the Earth’s history as being far greater – far more significant than that of man, I choose that team — Team Earth.  I can only hope that 300,000,000 people will stand beside me, and switch teams.  That, or get out and vote in the coming elections to help Team Human Being elect a new coach, and a new managerial staff…  Jhciacb

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Idea Handlers…

First Hopes

I doubt there are many new parents who hope their children will grow up to be out shape and unintelligent.  So to avoid obesity and stupidity, we immediately place our children into structure.  From their earliest days we expose our children to school and to sports – keep ‘em off the streets kinda stuff.  School is required by law.  Sport is required by the law of  perceived status.  So it begins; formation by institutionalization.  It’s hard to argue against structure.  I mean, everything we have as a society we owe to structure, I guess… 

I often say that worst unintended consequence of advancement is… a lack of advancement.  And though keeping our children embedded in structure is a good idea, some good ideas often clash with other good ideas, choking out better ideas still.  As a species, I’m not so sure we’re very good handlers of good ideas. 

When Structure Gives Way To Structure: Back Seat Homework

A weary child sits in the back seat of an SUV while mom navigates the fast food drive through.  The child is sweaty but cooling off.  He is perhaps 7 or 15 years old, or any age in-between.  Dressed in his team uniform, having just left the game or the practice that took place right after school, his mom orders their dinner into the microphone at the base of the menu display. 

Only partially exhausted, they head now to the next game or practice of this two-sport athlete.  The child stares at a schoolbook on one knee, perhaps taking notes on a spiral notebook balanced on the other knee.  This is the room where homework is done – the back seat of the car.  Beside him is the other uniform, the one he will change into for the next game or practice he will be attending.  He fuels his body with a #6 value meal while mom continues driving and texting.

What Gets Lost In The Balancing Act

He may be playing for the love of the games.  He may be playing because his parents would rather see him in sports than in front of the TV.  One of these sports may be the child’s future – his ticket into college or scholarship money.  Regardless of whose choice it is or why, I’ll suggest that many children will only tell their parents what they think they want to hear about all of this.  And many parents will only tell their children what they should believe about all of this.  I’ll suggest though, that there is probably not as much fruitful discourse as there should be about all of this. 

Leadership, listening, learning, and respect; these all important virtues learned from the structure of youth sports.  I believe in youth sports.  I have played them and I have coached them.  I have also spent a great deal of time listening to prep athletes and their views on all of this, as I help them become better at their sports.  As well, I have listened to a lot of their parent’s views on all of this as I help them become more fit adults.  When I attempt to correlate some of these conversations, between parent view and athlete view, they don’t always jive.

Make no mistake I have seen some teenagers handle this multi-sport lifestyle with grace and academic success, as well as success in their sport.  But from my view, it’s not usually this way.  Many who live this life are weary, socially awkward, and conflicted with their parents about how their lives should be lived.

And It’s Not Just Sports

I used youth sports here because it’s something I’m close to by way of how I earn my living.  But this kind of overload is widespread.  It is clubs too; music, drama, and other activities – any avenues which offer the structure that the parents may not be willing to create, implement, or foster themselves.  I mean, we all know that without an overload of structure, our children become junkies and thieves, yes…?

What Gets Missed

“I can’t remember the last time I ate a home cooked meal.”

Those words were spoken to me last year by an athlete I do strength and conditioning work with.  She continued that when she did eat at home, meals always came from a can or box, and that she felt the drive-through food was usually better tasting and healthier.

As parents we emphasize college and we emphasize activity – and it’s important that we do, especially when we view the children of parents who don’t emphasize these.  I am wondering more and more though, as good ideas clash with other good ideas, canceling out other ideas still, when will we begin to emphasize home cooked meals, homework done at a desk, time to play and be social, as well as time to veg…?  The beast of structure has been let out, he’s hungry, and he feeds on families.  As a species, I’m just not sure we are good idea handlers.  Some food for thought…  Be well.   

Please check back in two weeks for more thoughts on the philosophy behind the fitness.  Oh, and there is this from Slightly Stoopid.  Enjoy…