As followers of this feature know, I'm an assistant youth sports coach. This year my son is 13 and he is now playing in the North Star League, which involves in-house programs from a number of the surrounding communities in the northern suburbs. We have our roster and had our initial team meeting last night. I'm excited about coaching this team, because we have a number of kids that we've coached before on the squad. Ben has a number of friends on the team and that makes it a lot more fun for him. Ben's team has the inspiring name of "Shoreview Burgundy," because they will be wearing burgundy colored uniforms, more of less the same color that the Phillies used to wear in the Mike Schmidt era. In past years, Ben has worn facsimile uniforms of pro teams (he's been a Met, an Angel, a Giant, a Phillie and a Brewer twice), but now he's representing Shoreview Area Youth Baseball. I'll have to come up with a nickname for the team for the purposes of this blog and suggestions are welcome.
Youth sports are in a tough position right now. The traveling programs require a tremendous commitment from the kids and their families and the costs involved have become ridiculously expensive. I'd wager that a family with a kid in a traveling baseball program can assume that they will spend 5-6 days a week on baseball and that the total outlay for fees, equipment, travel and related costs could easily be $2000/year when it's all said and done. Basketball has similar challenges and hockey and football are even worse. While there's no question that the overall performance level of kids is far superior now because of the intensive training they receive, I've long suspected that there's not a hell of a lot of joy involved in the process. The kids we coach in the in-house program compete hard and often do wonderful things on the field, but no more than a small handful of them will be able to make even their high school teams. That's not such a bad thing, though -- there's a lot of life to be lived and kids need to have balance and options in their lives. And while I suppose there are lessons to be learned by scrambling to get to a game several times a week and touring fast food locations in Brainerd and New Ulm, they aren't necessarily lessons that my son needs to learn.