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It’s time to stay in the cave

It’s that time of the year.

School is back in session, the kids are in class and a familiar beast is sure to rear its ugly head. The parent beast is set to emerge from summer shelter and ravage the countryside.

Problems in the classroom?

Too early for the beast. When the time is right, though, the beast will stalk teachers and administrators demanding justice for little Timmy or Sue. Little Timmy and Sue will be guiltless, but they have yet to be picked on enough for the beast to charge.

Discipline problems?

Too early. The tried-and-true delinquents are hard at work in district buildings, as always, but there is little parental blowback when it comes to these veterans. It takes a couple months for the big guns to swing into action, when perfect children are unjustly accused of improper behavior.

No, the beast comes out of its den first in response to other school activities.

In particular, sports. And the beastly nastiness continues in one form or another until year’s end.

It’s no wonder extreme and often deranged parental reactions are directed toward kids’ sporting activities: Our society puts a premium on games, on entertainment. Our culture worships athletes blessed with extraordinary bodies, but often wanting in well-developed minds and character, and rewards many of them with obscene amounts of money and acclaim. Every parent worth his or her salt is in jeopardy of identifying their own worth with the performance of their children. It is no wonder that a natural parental tendency — to live through one’s children — is heightened by a pervasive, poisonous cultural fact. In many cases, a child stands in stead of the parent, the youngster’s accomplishments filling a void in the parent’s life. This is true, to a somewhat lesser extent, with parental responses to academic activity. It certainly holds true in that other grossly exaggerated school-kid arena —theater and music.

But, it reaches its ugly peak when it comes to sports.

For too many parents, when success is not steady and emphatic in a community so obviously blessed with a huge number of incredibly talented young athletes, there must be a problem.

So, the beast slithers forth to root out the problem and ensure that the stars shine.

Usually, the beast first attacks the coach. Next, it is the other athletes. Finally, it is administrators and the school board.

When our local high school sports program suffers a down year (or when a team experiences more defeats than victories) the beast lumbers from the cave, looking to assign blame, looking for heads to crush.

After all, it can’t be the gifted kids aren’t as talented as their foes, can it?

Truth is, it can. And, truth is, the only value to kids’ sport is found in the answer to the question: “Are you enjoying yourself.” For the overwhelming majority of school-kid athletes, high school sport is the end of the road; it is not a gateway to glory in college or as a professional. Do the kids enjoy the company of their mates? Do the kids learn that the answer to adversity is hard work and that, sometimes, when that does not succeed, it is a reward in itself.

So, it’s that time of year. Give it a rest, sit back and enjoy the fact the kid or grandkid is healthy and strong, active and, hopefully, happy. Stay in the cave.

Karl Isberg

This story was posted on October 10, 2012.