Penn State Scandal Highlights Why I Don't Let My Son Play Team Sports
I understand team sports has many character building benefits. But the recent disgusting allegations of sexual abuse spilling out of the Penn State football department these past few weeks, illustrate my very real concerns about team sports in this country and why I currently don't allow my 7-year-old son to play in them.
I get that everyone needs to learn to be a part of a team. But in my house, our family is Team #1 and learning to be a part of that Team Allers is priority number one for everyone. And by everyone, I mean me. There is no team more important than your family unit--that is my guiding principle.
What really bothers me is that some parents fail to recognize that sports is a system. And you can never trust a system to teach your children values, because the values of any system are created to support that system. Even if a cover up is what's best for that system.
In many team environments the guiding principle is that the benefit of the team usurps all. You play in pain and risk further injury for the team. You might even be asked to cheat or lie for the team. You may be expected to forgo family time for the team. And you may be asked to overlook something, including violating someone's sense of self, personal value system or even the law, all for the team.
Then there's the coach worship that often ensues in these sports. In some sports circles, the coaches become mythological figures to be revered and protected like an Olympic deity. Even when another's, or more disgustingly, when a child's legal rights have been violated. Did you see the outrage over the firing of head coach Joe Paterno? Did you see the weeping and the flowers outside of his door, with little concern for the alleged victims he reportedly did little to protect?
It's a sad commentary to our value system as a country. And how sports are glorified in this country above all else. Even above sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, sexual predators use sports as a way to hide their inappropriate behavior behind so-called "rough-housing" or "locker room antics", even as Sandusky claimed in a recent interview. Worse, many of these men use charitable organizations that supposedly aim to help inner-city, less fortunate or otherwise vulnerable youth as a ruse to find their next victims. They pick on these victims because their lower socioeconomic status versus the powerful coach and his promise of connections, college scholarships and other opportunities these kids couldn't otherwise access, is the perfect power dynamic to buy their silence.
When I have selectively allowed my son to play in team sports, I look for male and female coaches, a reasonable coach rotation and I avoid old-boy networks. I talk to other parents, including those I've learned have removed their child from the program to find out why.
I keep my family active: we bike, we play tennis and basketball and my daughter is in dance school. Giving them healthy exercise and building their character is my job for now. Most importantly, I don't get caught up in America's dangerous sports is everything philosophy. I'm caught up in the family system.
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