A few years ago my parents came for a visit. My mother had terminal lung cancer but she was keeping it a secret. I was host for the week, and it was hard to come up with ideas to keep my parents entertained because they had limited mobility. I asked my mother if she wanted to watch me play tennis.
Before you hear my mother’s answer, you need some background.
I played tennis on my high school team. It was a tiny school (40 people in my class), so getting on a sports team was easy. Still, neither of my parents ever watched me play tennis. Not once.
Time passes, and tennis becomes my primary athletic hobby as an adult. So much so that I built a tennis court in my house. (It’s the room at the end of the hallway.). My social life was centered around tennis. Tennis was a big deal in my life. I thought my mother would want to see me play at least once before she died. So I asked.
This was her response: “Why would I watch you play tennis? I want to play.”
The next hour of my life was comical and painful. Both parents hobbled out on the tennis court and sometimes swung rackets in the general direction of a ball. To be kind, let’s just say things would have gone the same way whether or not their rackets had strings. My 83-year-old father literally stood in the middle of the court, using a cane, with his arthritic neck so jacked-up that he couldn’t even look in the direction of the oncoming ball. He would just hear something bounce near him and swat the racket toward the noise.
In the end, my parents “played” tennis instead of simply watching. And for some odd reason they seemed to enjoy the experience.
This brings me to my topic of slave parents. Today it would be considered a parental crime to miss a kid’s sporting or school event. The thinking, as I understand it, is that the feelings of children are important whereas the health and happiness of adults is far less important. So you WATCH your kids playing a sport while you sit there getting fat and unhealthy. Does that arrangement make sense?
In my town, entire families are yanked around by school sports. Kids are treated like celebrity athletes with their parents serving as chauffeurs, chefs, and personal assistants. There are tournaments out of town, practices, games and banquets. Being a parent of a student athlete is a full-time job. Is it worth it?
Being a student athlete has many character-building benefits and it is good for health. But student athletics has evolved into a weird cult activity that no longer seems connected to the point of it all. It feels like an obligation and a social expectation.
One could imagine a better system that allows kids to get all of the benefits of sports while letting the parents enjoy a healthy lifestyle at the same time. My mother had such a system. When I played my high school tennis, she did whatever she needed to do as mom, and that was plenty. She usually had a job too.
Like any kid, I wanted my parents to watch me play my sport. But it would have been selfish to ask them to sit in the hot sun for hours while I enjoyed myself and they did not. The problem was my expectations, not the actions of my parents. What right did I have to expect them to sit around while I had fun and improved my fitness?
In my opinion, school sports are a crime on families. If you have a kid involved in a sport, your life is being managed by strangers and social expectations. That is no way to live. The system of school sports is deeply broken.
How would you fix the system while keeping the benefits of sports?
——— In Other News ——–
Brainiacs at MIT have developed a cooler to keep food cold without electricity. All it needs is water and sun. This could be huge for developing countries where food storage is nearly impossible.