Let’s forget about the sucky economy and who can or can’t afford to buy a new luxury car this year; the unsightly women foregoing their nail jobs and highlights, or the companies dropping the corporate deer lease. This crisis is finally hitting home when kids can’t play Little League baseball.
I imagine this news story reflects a reality that is affecting all childrens’ sports programs, after school activities, camping, fishing and scouting programs. Not to mention the ripple down effect on the stores that sell athletic goods, uniforms, and equipment, or the motels and restaurants that fill up for out-of-town league play or field trips.
This issue is close to my heart because both my boys have played Little League baseball for years. I love the family-friendly, quality league we play with, McAllister Park Little League. This from someone who was not particularly into competitive sports. I’ve totally come around now that I see how important it is for children to be exposed to the good side of sports and sportsmanship, and strong, encouraging, adult role models. A coach isn’t just teaching you how to hit a ball or swing a bat; he or she is teaching you what it means to be a responsible adult.
Yesterday was the opening day of the spring season and my husband and I shuttled my 7 year old to practice then spent the rest of the evening watching my 9 year old’s game. We chatted with friends under blue skies that faded to deep twilight; a beautiful Spring evening that had the smell of fresh grass and raked sand. Bats flitted against the lights, deer came out to feed in the new grass at the edge of the fields and Killdeer wheeled low over the outfield and called to their mates. And every now and then the ‘chink’ of ball and metal bat and the excited calls and hoots of proud parents.
I see the positive effects of team sports and family involvement at least four days a week and I’m really angry and disappointed that so many kids are going to be deprived of this experience. I hate to see our kids paying the price for the grown ups’ mismanagement of the economy, but there are so many culprits it’s hard to know who to be mad at. How do you explain to your child they can’t be in Girl Scouts or play soccer because the failing banks and stock market have affected your take home pay and you can’t afford it? That life has changed from one school year to the next and the money for family activities just isn’t there anymore?
I can relate to these parents. Playing ball this year was a conscious choice but not an easy one. The recession has cut into our income like everyone else, even though we’re fortunate to be in an area that has a low cost of living and a good job base. We’ve had to make so many cuts and compromises I’m feeling pretty shocked by the whole thing (not to mention sinfully selfish, materialistic and put out with the change in my economic status). I can totally understand why parents in other sinking areas of the country are being forced to make these hard decisions. Our out-of-pocket expenses this season for registration fees, new uniforms, cleats, and batting practice hit $475 for two kids. That’s three weeks of groceries, two electric bills, four months of DSL/phone service or half a mortgage payment.
So next time you worry about overweight kids who don’t exercise enough or support school budgets that gut physical education programs, and curse the kids who are out tagging fences and burning stuff, remember there was an alternative. In the long run it’s a lot more expensive for all of us to house and feed that kid in juvenile detention or state prison than it is to support sports programs and after school activities.