Many lessons learned from youth sports

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - VOICES - Con­tact Barry Courter at bcourter@times­freep­ress.com or 423-757-6354.

A co- worker said to me the other day that he was coach­ing his sons’ youth league all- star teams. I had to dou­ble-check my cal­en­dar to make sure it wasn’t com­ing up on July Fourth week­end. Nope, just the mid­dle of May when he’d said it.

I’ve al­ways tried to avoid be­ing the guy that screams “You kids get off my lawn,” but yikes, when did they hold the “reg­u­lar” sea­son? Over the Christ­mas hol­i­day?

So much has changed since my kids, who are in their mid­dle 20s, played sports, and to be hon­est, I don’t miss a lot of it. It was fun hav­ing some­thing to look for­ward to, and even more fun watch­ing them com­pete, have fun and do well, but the adults, and I was prob­a­bly one of them at times, have sure messed things up.

My son was for­tu­nate enough to play base­ball at Dupont-River­mont grow­ing up and, for most of it, the league played un­der Dixie Youth rules. It was about the kids hav­ing fun, and guys like league pres­i­dent Don­nie David­son made sure of it. It truly was a won­der­ful time.

I will for­ever re­mem­ber my son’s team full of 5-yearolds fight­ing over a ball hit to cen­ter field (se­ri­ously, all 12 kids formed a scrum try­ing to get the ball while the bat­ter raced around the bases) and watch­ing Coach Bobby Stokes roll his head back in laugh­ter. That was the right at­ti­tude, and while I didn’t al­ways live by it as a coach my­self, I tried to never for­get it.

At age 12, ev­ery­thing changed and sud­denly it was all about travel ball and col­lege schol­ar­ships. I’m not sure any­one ac­tu­ally said the words, “Your child has to play travel soccer or base­ball to get a col­lege schol­ar­ship,” but that’s what ev­ery­one sud­denly be­lieved.

We jumped on the band­wagon for the next 10 years. Most of it was a lot of fun, be­cause with a few ex­cep­tions, the kids man­aged to land on good teams with com­pet­i­tive play­ers, good coaches and fun par­ents to be around.

Nei­ther got that mag­i­cal ath­letic schol­ar­ship. Not to im­ply at all that such of­fers ex­isted, but at some point in their high- school ca­reers t hey de­cided to pur­sue other things in life. Such as a life that didn’t in­volve ball­fields, ho­tels and chain restau­rants.

The thing I most ap­pre­ci­ate about all that travel, as well as money and time spent on sports, was that they both learned to han­dle their own busi­ness. They learned to speak to the coach di­rectly if they had a prob­lem. They learned to pack their own equip­ment bags and they learned to ba­si­cally deal with it. That made it all worth it.

Barry Courter

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