ANDY THOMAS: I Agree: Youthful Competition Has Become Way Too Intense
Carl Ramey's Sept. 2 Pilot column interrupted my intent to put my thoughts about health care (or the lack thereof) in this space.
I certainly agree with Ramey's complaint about training young golfers to compete without any enjoyment of the game.
And the parents -- ohmigosh. Their behavior in hovering over their offspring in golf tournaments is sometimes despicable. Scuttlebutt around the Kid's Golf at Pinehurst recalls situations where a parent actually kicked his child in the rear after a missed putt, while another grabbed his daughter's wrist so hard while trying to give her a tip that it brought tears.
Parents sometime induce unnecessary fears into their young athletes when they act as coaches. Kids basically want to do what their parents say and don't want to risk insubordination. They need approval and usually work hard to achieve it.
These kids are not having fun. Smiles and laughter are rare. The fields are so filled with really good golfers that each player tries to be better than he really is. One of local retired golf coach Bill Johnson's many adages is, "The higher your expectation, the higher your score." True for young and older, in many instances.
Such parental pressure made Tiger Woods what he is today: a true champion, but one with a pouty attitude and fierce pursuit of winning. His charisma will never match the likes of Arnie, Jack, Fuzzy and other professionals who are more humane and fan-friendly than Mr. Woods.
He is the role model of most golfing youngsters, unfortunately, because of his lack of amiability. His trademark fist-pump has become standard operating procedure for most pros and hackers alike who make a great shot. Makes me ill. Should get penalized for it. Just like the Icky Shuffle. No good.
Parents take passionate and active roles in their progenies' sports pursuits because they enjoy the vicarious experience -- some for more mercenary incentives. I believe this does not end in the athletic arena, as many parents foster their kids' desire for dancing, singing, acting and playing a musical instrument.
Where I disagree with Ramey is his suggested solution to "leave national and international competition to kids who are old enough." This idea would eliminate the Little League World Series, which has now become a classic and is a favorite of many. And it is very successful and worthwhile.
The real solution to the Kids Golf program is to restrict parents or relatives from being caddies and/or walking coaches for their own children. Put them in the gallery and let the kid do what he or she does naturally -- without fear of parental "guidance."
My sports career was nourished by my peers and friends, not by my parents. Our family was not athletically prone, and I don't remember them ever coming to any of my football, baseball or hockey games, notwithstanding my becoming an all-conference quarterback and hockey all-star.
Mom washed my gear every week, and that was the extent of her support. (She did learn how to shoot, as my granddad taught her to handle a rifle and shotgun.) Dad worked lots of evenings but learned to love sports in his later years.
The only other athlete in our family was Great-Uncle Wayne, who still holds the Colorado high school record for a scoring drop-kick. Forty-two yards, I believe.
Golf and other athletic contests teach valuable lessons in life. Let the coaches be the teachers here, while the parents support them on the sidelines. Kids should learn "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" first hand, without any parental harassment.
Andy Thomas lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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