Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For the Love of the GAME?...

I am about to go on a rant here...just so you know.  I just spent a week of stress, and some tears trying to get Emie signed up for a club volleyball team.  For those of you who don't know, club teams are like high school teams on steroids.  If there is a sport--there is a club team now to go with that sport.  When I was growing up, club teams were nowhere to be found (or at least they weren't in the little town we were in).  We played Little League, or community organized teams, or went to camps in the summer to get better at our favorite sports, but that was just about it.  Now, club teams are EVERYWHERE, even small towns, and for every sport.  They are a huge, money-making operation, where parents are paying the big bucks so that their children will have the edge when it comes to playing high school and hopefully collegiate athletics.  When Emie tried out for the freshman volleyball team two years ago, we had never heard of club volleyball.  I had signed her up for a few camps here and there, and she had tried out for junior high sports, but didn't make the team, since little did I know, those little junior high players had parents who were way ahead of me, and had signed their little darlings up for club volleyball when they were 11 and 12 years old!  (Besides the fact there were over 50 girls trying out, and 12 made the team). We were both surprised when she made the Freshman team, but she improved throughout the year, and became a good little volleyball player.  The season ended, and that's when everyone asked, "Is she going to do club?".  I was a little wary, since we had never committed to doing a sport year round.  I always played different sports in different seasons, and didn't want her to get burned out.  Plus, she had decided to try out for the school softball team, and club volleyball would be at the same time.  Then we found out the price.  $1,200 for one season (4 months) of club volleyball.  Todd just about died when he heard this number!  This isn't even the most expensive club out there--some charge $2,500+ and travel all around to different states to compete in tournaments virtually every weekend.  These tournaments are meant to draw collegiate scouts, and that's how they sell you on paying the big bucks, since your sweet darling will be scouted in the off season, and be able to get her foot in the door for collegiate scholarships and sports.  Sounds great huh?

Well, here are the facts.  Even with year round club sports, your son or daughter has less than a 5% chance (some sports are a little higher--hockey is 6 or 7% because less people play) of playing sports for a college or university. The chance that they will go pro is less than 1% in most cases.  So, unless your child is extremely talented, even with club sports, the chance they will have to play in college is pretty nil when you consider how many others are out there playing club sports right along with you, buying into the hype.  So when you think about the fact that in the valley there are over 100 organizations for club volleyball alone, and that each have at least 40 or 50--some have up to 200 athletes, it makes it pretty obvious that your child is just a member of the throngs of athletes getting caught up in the tangled web of club sports. 

Emie did do club last year, since I felt it was the best way to ensure that she would make the JV team.  The varsity coach, after all, is the one running the club!  (Do you think it is a coincidence that people who play for him in club make his team?)  And though it was stressful, expensive, and inconvenient, we managed to make it to each practice, and tournament, with the help of her friend on their team.  She made the JV team, and went from someone who sat the bench most of her freshman year, to someone who started on the JV team.  We were so proud of her for improving so much, and best of all, she enjoyed it and had a lot of fun.  How much of her improvement, I wonder, came from her being in club sports though?  Did improvement come from playing year round, or did it come because she was bigger, stronger, faster, and more coordinated (as tends to happen as you grow...).  I never played club sports, yet, I improved at every sport, every year.  Is this a coincidence?  There were also girls on her team that played club, and didn't improve at all over last year.  Is that a coincidence, or does it mean they didn't work hard enough in the off season?  Or is it simply that some people are more naturally talented than others, and those girls excel and improve year after year, as others stagnate? 

Fast forward, past the season, to this last week.  We went and tried out for the club team that she played for last year.  They have a two hour process, where they give each girl a number.  The coaches stand on the side of the court with clipboards and take notes as the girls do drills.  Each girl had to pick the position they tried out for--nevermind that some have better all around skills--if you were a libero--you try out as a libero, and all they look at is your passing skills.  She didn't even serve the entire tryout, or hit or set.  They proceed at the end of the two hours to divide the girls up into teams.  In the end, Emie ends up on the same team, with the same coach as she had last year.  She is one of only two Sophomores on the team, while they pulled up freshman that never even played this year onto the other team.  I ended up pulling her from the team, since it wasn't going to be a competitive team, and she needs to be at least playing at a varsity level if she's going to make the team next year. Then, we spent the last week going to tryouts for 4 different club teams, only to find out that the best clubs already had rosters filled (they all try out the same day, to prevent people from switching clubs--nice huh?).  After a nightmare week, I finally called a club that Emie's friend plays for, and found her a position on their 17 team that I think will be a good fit for her.  That being said, she will probably be at a disadvantage politically in tryouts because I pulled her from the varsity coaches club team.

After all of this--I have been left with a sour taste in my mouth for sports in general.  Both of my girls played Little League softball every year since they were 5 years old, but what do I find when they get to high school sports?  If your child didn't play club--the coach won't even look at them.  Club softball is a whole other animal!  It is year round, $250 per month, with only a break for the high school season for 3 months.  When you sign the contract, you sign it for 9 months.  This is insanity for anyone--but especially for someone with a large family!  How would I juggle 2 club sports, with two of my children at the same time, and still take care of the other 4 (plus their sports or dance classes).  Not to mention the disadvantage that poor families are put in when they can't possibly afford club sports, although no doubt there are poor parents with gifted athletes who just need developing.  Don't get me wrong--I LOVE sports!  I always have.  But seriously?  Why the push for year round sports?  Why are we participating in this insanity?  As a society, we seem to be taking everything to the extreme, and this atmosphere we have in sports I feel is no exception.  We want our kids to be the biggest, fastest, best athlete, and by gosh we will pay whatever we have to to get them there, even if we have to devote every weekend, every holiday, every Sunday to tournaments so that they can improve.  It's crazy.  Is it really for the love of our kids?  Is it for the love of the game?  Or is it for a parents ego, so they can pat themselves on the back that their kids are way ahead of the others because of all the advantages they have paid for? Whatever it is, I miss the old days, you know, when we played sports for fun.  I miss them a lot.

1 comment:

Michele said...

Extremely well said Tami -- I love love your writing!!! So glad my youngest two are Seniors!

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