Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

For love of the game

The September issue of U.S. Catholic magazine has an interview with Clark Power, founder of Play Like a Champion Today, which is described as “a national initiative that has provided education to tens of thousands of coaches, parents, and athletes. The goal of the program is to create a positive youth sports environment for all children, even as we see an increase in bullying, the desire to win at all costs, and rage from parents.” The article connects two subjects that we do not always see mentioned in the same breath, i.e., sports and justice. He writes, in part:
. . . adult coaches in youth sports culture exercise a fair amount of control over children’s play. When you play pickup games, you choose your own teams: “You’re the first baseman, I’m the pitcher, you’re the shortstop, you play left field.” These days, adults are choosing teams. Adults scout kids. They stack teams. They set the lineups. They control the strategy.

I was observing that in many ways the adults were taking children’s heads out of the game. Adults were playing against adults. From a developmental psychology perspective, that made no sense. Once adults control the game, what’s happening can no longer be called “play.” It becomes more like work. The kids are performing to please a person who has control over what they are able to do.

But psychologists think that as a child you need situations that you can control. We play games like baseball, but we also play made-up games, variations of tag and hide-and-go-seek, where we create the rules. Psychologists think that’s really, really good.

When adults set the rules, the focus is no longer on how children will benefit from play. Instead, adults seem to be asking, “How much more elaborate can this get?” because in a sense they are now playing with other adults.


. . . From a purely moral standpoint, as a matter of justice, every child has an equal right to play. That’s not dependent on whether you’re a good athlete or a bad athlete, whether you’re deaf or partially blind. Every child has a right to play and a right to play sports in our country.

There is no reason for some children to be sitting on the bench watching other children play. That, I think, is immoral. I think it’s a matter of justice. It’s not a matter of being nice to kids. It’s a simple matter of justice.
I may never look at youth sports the same way again. You can read the rest of this article here.

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