How things have changed

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By R. Alan Richardson

sports editor

Let me start by saying that this is not my way of pointing fingers or chastising those who might think I’m trying to tell you how to run your business in any way.  I simply want to point out the differences of growing up playing ball in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s compared to 40 or 50 years later.  Maybe some of the questions I raise in this article will get some of us to reminisce about the good old days and others to be thankful for a better age and day.  Who knows?  By the way, it’s only my humble and accurate opinion.

Growing up as a boy in the thriving metropolitan area of Rutledge, we only had three sports to even consider playing; football, basketball, and baseball.  In the fall we threw the pigskin around and had epic tackle events in Rutledge Park.  As winter’s colder temperatures rolled in we put away the football and turned our attention to the round ball.  After that it was baseball throughout the entire spring and summer.  It was a glorious time for little boys who stayed outside the majority of their time before the advent of ESPN, cable television, video games, the internet, and cell phones.  Other than working on the farm, there wasn’t anything else for the guys to enjoy.

Wrestling and soccer had not yet been invented in the South so it was usually the big three that everyone participated in.  I was all in.  My love for sports began at an early age playing baseball in the yard and games of football in the snow.  Once I was introduced to basketball in Rutledge, I found another sport that I was enamored to.

At the time there were no AAU teams, travel ball, individualized instruction, personal trainers, tournaments to participate in, hitting coaches, pitching coaches, or anything of the sort.  We simply played year round in the sport that was in season.  I never got burned out playing one sport because there were multiple seasons and sports to participate in.  My question is, “Is it more important for kids to participate in everything they can compete in, or is it more important to specialize in one sport year-round?”

Let’s take a closer look at it.  Parents sometimes spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year sending their kids to cheerleading, gymnastics, baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, and other camps.  How many of them actually get to play college athletics?  Morgan had one of those special years where we had two cheerleaders, four basketball players, one baseball player, two soccer players, three football players, a wrestler, and maybe others that went on to the next level.  If you consider the number of athletes that participated this year, that’s a pretty small percentage.  So why do parents do what they do?  I don’t know.  Everyone, including myself, would have loved to have had kids that were talented enough to get a scholarship and play on, but that’s simply not the case.  Let’s be honest here.

I want to applaud all the parents out there who support their children, volunteer to coach their youth teams, and try to give them the best coaching and training they can get.  I wonder sometimes in today’s sports environment whether we are pushing them too much, living our youth again through them, or just not letting them be kids like we were.  The answer to that question is something that I will never be able to answer.

There are parents out there that I know personally who have sacrificed everything they can to help their kids reach their goals and dreams.  I hope that this is not just the parents’ dream, but also the child’s dream.

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