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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Hurt feelings are hurting sports

john-valentine-flickr-via-cc-by-nc-nd-2-0
Youth athletes play soccer. Many leagues award participants trophies for playing a game. JOHN VALENTINE/FLICKR VIA CC BY NC ND 2.0

NBA players high five after missed foul shots. NFL players complain that football isn’t fun anymore. Everyone’s a winner in youth soccer. Dodgeball is exclusionary and encourages aggression. Slowly but surely a level of pity has trickled into sports at every level.

Everyone’s a winner at T-ball because someone might get their feelings hurt if they’re called a loser. The team gets pizza after the game no matter how badly they play because it’s about “having fun.” Coaches can’t make players do pushups or run during practice because it might teach a player an actual life lesson: There are consequences for messing things up.

There is an unnecessary belief that teams need to make sure no one ever feels inadequate, and it is hurting sports. We’ve become obsessed with child worship and it is perfectly displayed in the domain of sports. The problem with this is that it ultimately hurts what the goal of sports is, to win. 

The first few generations of children who grew up during the self-esteem era are adults and are out there playing pro sports now. During a tough stretch earlier in the season, Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. complained about football in an interview with the ESPN saying, “I’m not having fun anymore.” It’s hard to empathize with a millionaire athlete complaining about how little fun his job is. If things are so bad playing football, maybe you should stop shooting yourself in the foot and doing dumb things during games. Maybe you shouldn’t stare down a referee when you disagree with a call being made.  

Several weeks ago Louis Isabella, a hockey coach of an elite peewee hockey club in Quebec, was suspended from his job for disciplining his team after a game. He instructed his players to do hundreds of pushups after a tough loss. Of course the coach knew his 11-12 year old players wouldn’t be able to complete the task. It was about sending a message to his players that losing would not be tolerated.

 The AAA Peewee hockey league forbids physical discipline of any kind of its players that may make the players uncomfortable.  It’s this line of thinking that is poisoning sports. The hockey league’s reply featured the line “it’s 2016.” Just because it’s 2016 doesn’t mean we don’t need to toughen our kids up. They shouldn’t be allowed to get off scot-free for a loss.

I wish we had rules like this when I played sports. I would have had to run much fewer suicides and do several hundred less up-downs in my life. I wouldn’t have had to run three laps around the perimeter of a baseball field with baseball bats over my head as discipline for talking back when I shouldn’t have.

There needs to be some level of accountability when it comes to kids. Yes, a hundred plus pushups in full gear after a game is probably a tad bit excessive. I may be coming at this from an old school mentality. Maybe that isn’t what sports are for anymore.

Maybe sports are just supposed to be another social activity to drag kids to that doesn’t really matter and they don’t really care about anyway.

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