Category Archives: Children

Norway’s Answer To Youth Sports

I recently watched a show on HBO that explored Norway’s approach to youth sports. It was eyeopening. Anyone who has participated or been associated with youth sports in this country during the past thirty or so years will tell you, if they’re being objective, that the model is out of control. We train, pressure and attempt to develop eight year olds as if they’re pro athletes, so it should surprise no one that a study performed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports found that 70% of American children quit sports by the age of thirteen. One of the main reasons given for dropping out is that sports in no longer fun.

Enter Norway.

They basically take the approach that the United States is using, and do the opposite. Back in 1987, Norway adopted a statement called Children’s Rights In Sports. It governs how kids participate in athletics and all national sports federations are obligated to abide by the rules. The basic premise centers on making sports available for all kids with the goal of having fun. Instead of the pressure for kids to participate in one sport year round at an early age, like we do in the United States, Norway wants kids to play sports because its fun and they enjoy it.
By the way, 93 percent of children grow up playing organized sports in Norway, where there are no economic barriers, travel teams aren’t formed until teenage years and adults don’t begin separating weak from strong until children have grown into their bodies and interests. Leagues don’t keep scores until the age of 13, there are no national championships for teams younger than 13 and no regionals until 11. Once a child reaches thirteen, has begun to grow into their bodies and expressed specific interests, Norway’s sports federation make top coaches available to athletes skilled in those sports, but until then, it’s only about participation and letting kids be kids and have fun. Their belief is that it’s impossible to say at 8 or 10 who is going to be talented in school or sport. All children develop, physically and athletically, at very different ages.

What a concept!! Letting a child have fun, living their lives and playing sports for the pure enjoyment of it.

One would think that a system like this would come up short compared to our system of national championships for seven year olds, parents hiring coaches for nine year olds and families traveling across the country for tournaments. But Norwegian athletes get just as much physical exercise without having to play the same sports day after day, year after year, while they’re young. Their development is all encompassing and they are able to enjoy friendships and family without the stresses and commitments we see in this country.

Their goal is not to develop the best college or professional athlete, but the best well rounded person.

Oh, and if anyone thinks this approach doesn’t breed success, take a look at the last Winter Olympics in 2018. With a population of only 5.3 million people, Norway took home 39 medals, more than any country in the history of the Winter Games. And yes, they also have the best female soccer player in the world.

Is it any wonder that Norway always ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world?

Youth sports in this country is a 16 billion dollar industry bankrolled by parents who just don’t understand the long term impact on their children.

In a country where money speaks first, parents dictate direction and children have become a secondary priority, there is little chance that we will ever see the type of youth sports revolution Norway adopted.

And once again, children lose.

 

 

Scattering Love

                   It’s not what you gather but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you’ve lived.
Helen Walton

I was thinking about my childhood the other day and trying to remember how far back my memories went. I settled on somewhere between four and five years old but there were only a handful that were clear to me. That bothered me, especially when I took what was then and applied it to now.

Making memories with the people you love or care about is one of life’s greatest gifts. Some of the times we’ve laughed most were with our children and grandchildren, especially during their early years, when everything is on the table, learning is a daily adventure, innocent words  are a sound byte and your sense of wonder sometimes equals theirs. Those are memories that we’ll keep with us forever. Unfortunately, it’s all one-sided. Because in those early years it’s not anything they’ll remember. Influenced, yes. But all the things that were said or laughed about until there were tears in our eyes will not be a definitive memory for them.

That shouldn’t bother me because it’s just another cycle of life, but it does. I remember things that we did with our children and now our grandchildren that were special moments, and though we can relay the stories, it’s not the same as being there in our mutual minds. I sit and have conversations now with our grandchildren, play games, tell stories, laugh at the silliest things, hold them if they cry and sit back and wonder if they’ll remember any of it.

I’ve always understood this but I suppose as I’ve gotten older, Helen Walton’s quote has taken on a different meaning. You want those you love to remember every last laugh and cuddle and hand holding because you know that time of innocence, like life, is so short. Eight or nine comes too quick and soon they’re moving on. Parents will always be more invested in the lives of their children/grandchildren than the other way around. That’s just the way it is. It’s not a matter of loving or caring, it’s just the emotional investment that begins long before they open their eyes and never goes away.

So selfishly you want them to remember it all. Every amazing moment. Big and small. Hoping that you’ve scattered enough love and joy into their lives that one day they may laugh at something silly for no reason at all. You may not know it or even be there. But if it brought them happiness, then maybe something in their two year old lives stuck, and you’ve scattered enough.

And maybe, just maybe, the shade of a memory will not only be yours.

 

Reality Check

When you’re dancing with your three-year old granddaughter and she suddenly stops, looks at you with a serious, concerned look on her face and says, “I think you should sit down now grandpa.”

 

I think she wanted the stage all for herself. At least that’s what I told myself. The fact that I might be embarrassing her didn’t enter my mind. I didn’t ask. Didn’t want to know the answer. You know, the whole ignorance and bliss thing. I chose that route.

 

Carter

It was the end of the school day and the second grade class I was a substitute for that day was packed up and waiting to be called for their individual buses. Some were talking, some were playing games and some were showing off a bit, as second graders sometimes do.

When I looked over at Carter, he had a piece of construction paper out and was drawing what looked to be a card. Curious, I walked over and asked him what he was making. He told me it was a card for his mom. I asked him if it was for a special occasion, her birthday or something else but he just shook his head, smiled a little and said, “I just want to make her a card, but I don’t know what to write.”

I kneeled down next to him and asked him what he wanted to say. He looked at me and said, “I want to thank her for what she does for me.” I told him that was nice of him and maybe he can think of two or three things to write that stand out the most. He turned away from me, stared out the window and said, “She does everything for me. I don’t know how to write that.”

Before I could answer him or suggest some words, his bus was called and he had to leave. As I was driving home behind a school bus, I was wondering how his card would turn out and what he might write. Then the school bus stopped and I saw Carter step off, run over to a young woman, wrap his arms around her waist and press his head against her.

Maybe he finished the card that night, maybe the next day. Maybe he found the words he needed or maybe he’s still working on it. I’m not sure. But I smiled when I saw him hug his mom, not because he wanted to write that card or how his words made me feel. I smiled because…

Carter was home.

 

A Princess And Her Prince

A few weeks ago we were blessed to welcome our sixth grandchild, Taylor, into our family. She recently turned a month old and, like her sister at the same age, enjoyed a little photo shoot with her favorite pillow rest, Bailey.

Her birth reminded me of one of my favorite poems by the French poet, Yves Bonnefoy. I thought I’d share part of it with you…

The All, The Nothing

Its the last snow of the season,
The spring snow-the most skilled
At mending the rips in the dead wood
Before it’s brought inside and burnt.

It’s the first snow of your life,
Since yesterday there were only dots
Of color, brief pleasures, fears, chagrins-
Without substance for lack of words.

And I can see joy overtaking the fear
In your eyes which amazement opened
In one great, bright leap; this cry, this laughter
That I love, and that I ponder….

May the big snow be for you, the all, the nothing,
Child trying out your first uncertain steps in the grass,
Your eyes still full of the origin,
Hands grabbing at nothing but the light.

May the gleaming branches be the words
You’ll have to listen to, not understanding
The meaning of their silhouette against the sky-
Otherwise you’d only name them at the price of losing.

May these two values, one sparkling, be enough for you,
Of the hill glimpsed through the opening between the trees,
Bee of life, when in your dreams of the world,
The world itself grows quiet.

And may the water that wells up in the shadow
Show you that joy can survive in dream,
Even when a breeze from who knows where
Is already scattering almond blossoms-and yet the other snow.

Enjoy a blessed life, Taylor