Let the kids be kids, at least for a while

Robin Short
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Junior's not yet able to knot his skates or cleats, but already I'm learning minor sports is big business.

Couple hundred bucks here. Few 50s there. All this, and he still prefers Sponge Bob to Sportscentre.

Not that I'm griping ... too much, at least. Ice time, court time and equipment don't come cheap anymore. No, what eats into the wallet, if one so chooses, are the countless clinics, camps and schools offered to youngsters barely big enough to boot an Adidas ball.

I'm a rookie at this minor sports stuff, apparently the only apprentice around the rinks and turf.

For the youngsters today - certainly not all, but definitely more than some - are wee veterans of their craft, students of year-round play ... indoor soccer in the winter, skating amidst the August sun.

Nothing wrong with it, I suppose, if it turns one's crank, but I'm rather confused at the frequency of sports thrust on the little ones so early.

Oh sure, parents will maintain it's what the child wants, but don't some kids want candy for breakfast, too?

No, I'm convinced it's more about what the parent desires, not now, but down the road when Sonny's prepared and poised for a college and pro career.

But I suppose given this era of sports elitism, kids risk getting left behind in terms of athletic development if they aren't keeping up with the Billys and Johnnys.

It is for that reason I could be convinced to send Junior off to soccer practice once or twice a week, or enroll the little guy for five or six days of power skating prior to the start of another winter of hockey.

At the risk of being dubbed an old fart, I don't quite recall playing as much as a youngster, and there sure were stars of the game in my time.

Come to think of it, maybe we did play as much, though it certainly wasn't organized. Novel idea as it is, our games were just that - games.

We didn't shoot 21s or play Horse or bang knockouts to improve our skills.

We did so because it was fun. And while we didn't know it at the time, we were bettering ourselves in the meantime.

Maybe this elitism is all part of progress. Maybe I'm the stubborn old mule refusing to relent to evolution.

Or maybe I'm just skeptical of our place in hockey history five or 10 years from now, when a half-dozen Newfoundlanders go in the first round of the NHL draft.

It seems to me to admire and praise the talents and exploits of eight- and nine-year-olds may be a bit premature. Music, girls (or boys), skateboarding and a multitude of other diversions await the budding star.

To the parents' horror, maybe the child won't like sports anymore.

I've long maintained not until the age of 13 or 14 can a youngster be judged without prejudice of his/her skill.

Until then, relax and enjoy the little league years, and remember ramming sports down a child's throat does not necessarily mould future Sidney Crosbys.

Rather, it might risk producing another Todd Marinovich.

Look him up.

Robin Short is The Telegram's Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Adidas, NHL

Geographic location: Johnnys

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