What’s with all these youth town leagues and travel squads and all-star teams and blah blah blah? Whatever happened to kids playing in the park for Heaven’s sake? This really gets me steamed. Back in my day, all we needed was a stick and a ball to be happy. Hell, we didn’t even need a ball. Just a stick.
And you know what? There was never a grown-up to be found in my neighborhood—on or off the field now that I think of it—but we still had fun anyway.
Call me old school, but I say it’s time to get back to the basics. So here are my rules for keeping your sanity during endless seasons of youth sports. Common sense is timeless, to quote Hans-Georg Gadamer (or maybe it was Roger Clemens… whatever).
1. BRING THE FREAK’N ORANGES
When my Jimmy is out there running his cleats off trying to beat Concord (do those kids ever lose?), he’d like an orange or two at the break. So if you sign up to bring them, bring them. How hard is that? No trash bag needed though. It’s always nice to leave a reminder or two behind for those gracious victors.
2. JUST ONE SPORT, PRINCESS
Make the kid focus on one sport, and that’s it. Who the hell wants to travel to swim meets and field hockey games and cheerleading practice? Waste of time. So I only have a tennis racquet in the house for my daughter. She hates tennis, but hey, that’s her decision right? I don’t want to get in the way.
3. NO CHEERING FOR THE OTHER SIDE
I don’t care if they’re better sports than Brian Scalabrine, never, ever cheer for the other team. No exceptions. When their kid goes down, no polite clapping to show support. Do what I do: Yell out, “How much time is left, ref?” or, if you’re winning big, “What’s the score again?” Keep your head in the game.
4. DON’T FOLLOW SO CLOSE ALREADY
So you’re driving four towns over on Route 128 and you’re first in the going-to-the-game caravan behind the coach. It’s OK to stay back a couple feet, really. It’s not like you’re in a line of tanks on the road to Somalia or some place like that place. Christ, back off and leave room for the Holy Ghost at least.
5. KEEP SCORE
None of this “everybody gets a trophy” and “let’s not keep score” baloney. Do I get a promotion every time I deserve one? No. Do I get a raise at the end of the year like I should? No. Do I get the right respect for having stayed 20 years on the job? No. Am I bitter?
Here’s my point: When your 7-year-old-and-under boys travel soccer team beats the bejeezus out of “Team X” (Concord) for the first and probably only time before you’re dead and buried, shout out that score loud and clear! You’ll want the world to know, believe me.
Buzzy Hayes has been a fixture on the local sports scene for more than 30 years. Personal achievements include a game-high 8 points vs. North Cambridge Catholic in 1973 and being the final roster cut on the 0-11 Boston College football team (he was not a student at the time.) Married with four or five children, he is currently assistant to the assistant manager at Modell's in Newton, Mass.