The benefits of play and boredom
I was recently asked to help my daughter with a school project. She needed to interview someone about their childhood and organized sports. So that is what I’m writing about today. I grew up on the playground, on the Boston & Maine rail line, and not a bit in organized sports. The only organizing of sports were what my friends and I decided to play after school. I was more or less a decathlete when it came to sports and activities. I was good at whatever we decided to do but rarely ever the best. I just liked to play. Being a single sport athlete was something unheard of in my childhood. We played pick up games; pure and simple. In the fall it was football or frisbee or basketball. In the winter it was pond hockey or street hockey when it wasn’t cold enough for the pond to freeze. In the spring as the snow was melting and the mud was building we walked and balanced on the railroad tracks and threw rocks at empty bottles under the bridge rather than in a pitching cage.
We shoveled snowy driveways in the winter and raked countless bags of leaves in the fall. We were active kids and never experienced injuries that required orthopedic surgeons. Tommy John was a young pitcher, not a surgical procedure.
Today is a much different story for our youth. Too many kids are encouraged by coaches and families to participate in one sport throughout the entire year. There a few things worse you could offer your kids. Their bodies and developing brains need novelty, not highly repetitive actions. If you want to ensure burnout at an early age then keep taking your kids to soccer practice year round. Instead, be sure to allow them to simply play in an unorganized fashion. Let them be bored. Do not overload their schedule. Kids need to be kids, not young Tommy Johns. That is my rant for the day. Now go forth and do something novel.