A recurring complaint registered each year at the End Stool is adult involvement in youth sports.
The gist is that some adults take the fun out of the games for too many and too young a group of kids.
Youth baseball embarking on its 2012 season is on the current hot seat.
The Boys League was in existence in 1964 when I came to New London. In 1965, I took over a new team as several youngsters were entering the program at the 7- to 11-year-old group. The league had three divisions, divided according to age. We played 10 games, all within our league.
A tournament at the end concluded the season with the championship game under the lights at Hatten Stadium.
The rules were simple. Everybody got to play. Everybody got to bat.
The season ended about a month before school so families could vacation or kids could do other things. There is no off season now for many young athletes.
Some big time coaches, including basketball guru Rick Majerus, a Wisconsin native, criticize the trend of year round training and how it is affecting young athletes physically and emotionally.
“Young bodies need time to heal. They don’t have that time when they are playing ball 12 months a year,” Majerus said.
While some athletes suffer from burnout, we adults do a lot more damage to the psyche of kids. We play favorites with some gifted kids, who often have matured more quickly than their contemporaries.
The process called cutting is the most common complaint the End Stool gets.
How would you, as an adult, feel being cut – told you don’t measure up?
Dick Bennett did not believe in cutting anybody from the pre-varsity who showed the interest and fortitude to practice. Many of those kids grew up to be part of some very good teams. In fact, one of those New London kids, Dave Teshke, became a first team all-state selection in basketball.
Several mothers have told me about their kids sitting the bench in grade school football and basketball, or failing to make the traveling team in the New London Boy’s League.
The mothers were upset because they had a broken hearted child who just wants to play the game.
One mother was hyper critical about the coaching her daughter was getting. It was not about the skills but the conduct of the coach, the lack of practices and failure to make parents aware of schedule changes. This year she has nothing but praise for the coach taking over that team.
My peers who visit the End Stool relish reliving the good memories in their lives. These memories are often about the fun playing games when they were young.
Absent from these memories are organized sports coached by adults. We played all the team games – baseball, football and basketball.
In my hometown, Amherst Junction, baseball was the passion in the 1950s and 10 or 12 of us would gather daily and spend several hours playing work up with pitcher’s hands being out.
Our field was located in a triangle bounded by U.S. 10 and State 161. There was no back stop and no outfield fences. Boards or cardboard was used for home plate and bases. Sometimes a line in sand marked home and the pitcher’s mound.
We had one or two bats and one baseball.
We operated on less than a shoestring but the fun we had was priceless. Everybody got to play and bat. Most everybody got to pitch.
My childhood friend Leon Steinke was king of swat as he could hit better and farther than any of us.
The lineup most often included my brother John, Carl, Gary and Pat Docka, Carl Sroda, Jim Migas, Jack Koziczkowski , Tom Sroda, Chuck Hanes and sometimes the slightly older group of the Printz twins, Robert and Richard; Don Kropidlowski and Joe Koz.
We played every day. Sometimes a daylight and twilight double header.
There were no teams and no scores.
In winter we sneaked into a shed at Hanes Feed Mill to play basketball. It was dusty and dark but at least it was dry.
Once in awhile we would get on our bicycles for a game against our counterparts in Nelsonville who spent their days much the same as we did – having fun playing a kids game.