Middle school sports – a tough road

“Oh, put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today;
Put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today …”

Today’s youth take it all in. Wherever they go, whatever they do, they understand what is happening in the world around them. Don’t think for a second they are oblivious.

And, for those of us who are parents to middle school-aged children, we have our work cut out for us.

We tell our children to be patient, kind and understanding. We tell them to do their best, never give up and shake off the negativity that comes over them like a dark cloud on a sunny day.

But what happens when what we tell them as parents isn’t what is presented to them in school or in extra-curricular activities?

Do we intervene and pull teachers/coaches aside, expressing our concerns in private? Do we demand that our children be “put on a team” because it’s “unfair” that he/she tried their best for two years in a row, but in the end, didn’t make the cut? Do we tell our children to speak up for themselves knowing they may not want to hear the truth?

Being a parent of a student athlete is tough.

We encourage our children to “go out for the team” and cringe if they are cut, knowing we will have to put a band-aid on their emotions. But, what if they aren’t cut, but instead make the team to only “suit up” and never play?

Which is worse?

At the middle school level, it’s the experience of being on a team that is the life lesson. No one cares how many wins or loses a team had – because no one is being scouted or recruited by colleges or pro-sports teams.

My dad coached basketball for 25 years. He allowed every player “play time.” And, when his team was ahead, instead of running up the score, he allowed for his “second string” to hit the court. It was his way of allowing them to show him what they had learned at practice.

It isn’t like that anymore.

Middle school students are still trying to figure out where they belong, but when coaches, who should otherwise be role models, cater to only a select few, what is that accomplishing?

Nothing. It accomplishes nothing except creating a mindset that that player is unworthy.

And those select few players will never forget that feeling. And parents are left picking up the pieces.





Middle school dances — awesome or lame?

The year was 1990. I was 12 years old – not even a “teenager” yet when I went to my first junior high dance.
It cost $2 to get into the “Skylark” – the dance club for teens in my hometown. Inside the double doors was a coat rack that led to a small eatery that offered single slices of pizza, candy and pop for an additional fee.
Four steps off of the eatery was the dance floor. To the left was a small stage where the disco-type lights were displayed for special effects. And all along the walls were red and blue plastic-covered booths – ideal for “necking.”
The DJ sat in an actual booth high above the dance floor enclosed in plexiglass.
During the dances, girls typically mingled with the girls – on either the dance floor or primping in the bathroom. And the boys, they basically stood around like wallflowers.
Except when a slow song would boom through the speakers – this is when the boys who were brave enough to ask a girl to slow dance would walk up to her and silently pray she would say, “yes” to his one request. This was also a prime time for girls to have their girlfriends ask a boy to “dance with her good friend.”
That’s how my first dance happened with a boy.
The song, “More than Words” by the band Extreme began playing and I had a friend of mine ask a boy to dance with me.
He said yes.
I began breaking out into a full-blown sweat. Was my hair OK? Did I put on enough “Taboo” perfume for him to notice? Where was my last piece of gum? Quick, give me a mint!
Anyways, we danced together for the 4-minute song and then as soon as the song ended, it was like the parting of the Red Sea – boom – we scattered and ran to our separate corners of the dance floor.
Flash-forward 24 years later … my oldest, now 11, attended his first middle school dance. I know he is only in the sixth grade, but by today’s standards, sixth grade is really the new seventh grade.
The week preceding the dance, I asked him at least 10 times if he had any desire to go to the dance. And every time, he responded with the same answer – “NO!”
So, it was only fitting that three hours before the dance, he decided to go.
But, not only did he want to go, he didn’t want his dad to take him and drop him off. I was working in the newsroom, so I was of no help. Besides, I don’t think he wanted me to be the one pulling up to the school in my “mom van.” That just screams, “UNCOOL!” Lucky for him, another mom was taking her son, plus a few other boys and had one spot left for him.
As I was leaving for work Friday, he was actually getting ready to take a shower … without being asked 100 times! He even wore a pair of jeans and a white-stripped polo shirt.

He wasn’t too chatty about the dance, but I did learn that he hung out with a group of “guys” and the first dance was the “Cha-Cha Shuffle” where you “slide to the left, now everybody clap your hands” which is a GREAT song … and kinda made me wish I was on the dance floor with him instead of sitting in a newsroom. However, I am pretty sure he didn’t feel the same way.