Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Soccer as Birth Control

As an example of how crazy we have become, I will start with communications. When I played soccer as a youth, I am quite certain that my parents probably saw one flyer at the beginning of the year, outlining the practice schedule. There was probably a one page flyer handed out at the first or second practice that outlined the game schedule for the entire season, and that was that. With two pieces of paper, everyone knew where they needed to be and when.

When it was time for soccer practice, I was told to get on my bike and go to soccer practice. Why on Earth would my parents have driven me there, let alone stayed for the entire practice to watch? That was what the coach was for. When practice was over, the coach told us to go home. Simple.

Fast-forward to today. As I write this, I am sitting in a lawn chair watching Son Number Two's soccer practice. The miracle of modern tablet computers makes this possible, but does not answer the question of, "Why am I here?"

When did a child's sports practice become so important to us that we feel the need to have it take up an hour-plus of the parent's time also? I don't have the exact answer for that, but I do know it happened sometime in between when I was a kid and when I had kids of my own.

There has been an obvious shift in how safe we feel the world is, because parents today don't let their kids travel across town by themselves as readily as our parents did. As a result, we are raising a generation of kids who get lost a block from their own houses, but that's a separate subject. The safety issue explains why the parents drive their kids to practice, but not necessarily why they stay to watch. I guess a lot of it has to do with excessive trips. Once I'm here, I might as well just hang around until it's over. The occasional parent runs a quick errand, but for the most part, they just pull up a lawn chair and worry about their child dehydrating, or marvel at why two grown men can’t get nine five-years-olds to stand still in a straight line even if their lives depended on it.

Now, back to the communication issue. In stark contrast to the two paper flyers that handled the logistics for an entire soccer season of my youth, today's soccer leagues run on e-mails. A lot of e-mails. Based on my experiences so far, to run a youth soccer team these days requires approximately three e-mails per day be sent to each parent, starting two months before the first practice and never missing a day throughout the whole season.
There are vital logistical issues to address on an almost hourly basis, such as team banner design and procurement, uniform sizes, proper cleat specifications for the particular league, the heat index, the air quality index, proper child hydration techniques, acceptable soccer ball sizes, fluctuating practice schedules, fluctuating practice locations, raffle ticket distribution and sales, team sponsor procurement, team parent selection, game day halftime snack coordination, team sponsor patronage, game day-post game treat coordination, game day halftime snack and post-game treat food allergy considerations, coach and team parent fingerprinting and FBI background check verification, elementary school extracurricular activity scheduling conflicts, end-of-year party location and party theme, individual end-of-year trophy selection and procurement, game day sideline bench procurement or manufacture, game day sideline bench assembly duty schedule, opening day ceremonies schedule, sideline shade tent ownership queries, game day sideline shade tent assembly duties, coach and team parent end-of-season gift coordination, proper shinguard selection and management, picture and video collection for end-of-season media DVD, game day jersey color, etcetera, etcetera.

I have no good reason for why the amount of perceived soccer team management logistical hurdles has increased exponentially since my youth. Is it because now that we all have e-mail at our fingertips every minute of the day, we can finally take care of EVERYTHING that NEEDS to happen? Would all of these issues have been addressed in earnest if our parents hadn’t been severely hampered by a lack of technology?
Somehow, I doubt it.

Like I said, I don’t know why soccer has become so complex, but I am convinced that its newfound complexity is having a major impact on our society. Specifically regarding how many children we have. I truly believe as new families are growing, and young parents are considering adding a new bundle of joy to the lineup, the logistics of having those kids eventually play soccer has more of a role in the decision making process than almost anything else in the mix today.

"Honey, I realize that we always wanted a girl, but with two boys already in soccer, how can we even think about a third child? We don't even have enough time to keep up with the practices and e-mails with the two kids we already have."
See you soon,
Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen
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