Something is wrong when activities are just not fun

Children just need time and space

It was the only empty lot on a long street of bungalows. Before the town brought in water and sewer lines, there was an abandoned well on the property and because of legal hassles, the lot remained unsold and undeveloped. 

The baseball games started about nine in the morning and continued right through until dark. 

There were short breaks for lunch and supper and then they continued with many changes of personnel and rules but with the unchanging hullabaloo of small kids playing baseball. The scores reached into the hundreds. 

The kids dragged themselves home at dusk, smelling of dust, hair spiky, stumbled through quick showers and collapse into bed, asleep in seconds.  

Tomorrow would be a rematch. 

Decades earlier, a Canadian urban winter scene, kids playing ball hockey on an icy street bordered by triplexes. Occasionally the game is interrupted by cries of, “car” or even “horse.” In those days milk, bread and coal were delivered by horse drawn wagon. 

The ball could be anything from a bald tennis ball to a rolled up worn sock tied into a lumpy mass. The street light was centre ice and the goal posts were, well, I already mentioned the horses. 

When the street light came on, the game was over. 

The kids would go in for supper, hands and feet frozen, noses running, ravenously hungry. Afterwards, a sleepy session of homework and into bed, exhausted but triumphant. Until tomorrow’s game. 

What triggered these memories  was a news report I heard this morning stating that 70 per cent of kids abandoned organized sports by age thirteen. Most complained that it wasn’t any fun. 

I’m not about to launch into a “in my day” rant but there is clearly something wrong these days. 

When a kid wants to play hockey he has to join a league, buy expensive equipment (thus depriving many kids of the opportunity to play), drive to an indoor rink for a 5:30 a.m. game, cheered or jeered on by sleepy, cranky parents. 

This is fun? 

The same organizational  format applies to baseball, soccer, basketball, etc. Pay a fee to join a league, buy the required uniform, be governed by adults sometimes shouting at each other. Games scheduled at all sorts of inconvenient times disrupting dinner, family time, studies. 

This is fun?

Yes, I know there are precious few outdoor rinks on the south coast and that suggests to me the parents so keen to have the kids play hockey, themselves came from colder parts of this country. Maybe some thought should be given to adopting sports in keeping with our environment. 

Just a suggestion. 

I  know how rightly concerned parents are to protect  their kids from pedophiles seemingly lurking everywhere and I wonder if we did not have the same scum in my day. 

Logically, I have to think we had them too so why were the awful incidents seemingly so rare? 

The only reason I can think of is that we were always in fairly large numbers, at the rink, at the park, the same tactic that browsing animals on the veldt adopt to deter their predators, safety in numbers. 

I salute the dedicated parents who act as coaches, referees and organizers of kids sports, but suggest again that something is wrong when so many of the beneficiaries of all this effort drop out because it’s not fun. 

There is a disconnect. 

Maybe kids in their early formative years just need time and space  to sort themselves out in their own chaotic way. I don’t have a glib answer, it’s a puzzle.

— Harvey Dorval is a regular News columnist. He lives in Parksville.


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