Forget Organized Sports, Let’s Have Some Disorganized Ones
Posted Nov 03 2009 10:00pm
One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to walk down to the Marina Green in San Francisco and watch little kids play soccer. Most of the kids are only around 6 or 7 years old but all of them are immaculately turned out in matching shirts (often with their name on the back) shorts and socks.
But while their kits are perfectly coordinated their legs and bodies definitely are not. The kids all run around together in a pack, flailing away at the ball. They have no sense of position or form or style – which is exactly how it should be at that age – their sole purpose is to kick the ball in the general direction of their opponent’s goal. Or sometimes just to kick the ball without really caring which way it goes.
There is something utterly beguiling about watching these kids run around like this. Their parents on the sidelines are gently urging them on without trying to be too pushy or say anything that might hurt an opposing player’s feelings. The referees run around trying to instruct the players on the rules and what they should be doing, as they try to keep the game flowing.
My favorite part is watching a kid who suddenly finds himself with the ball but is facing the wrong way; he or she has no ability to just pull the ball back with their foot and move the other way, instead they have to stop the ball, then run around to the other side so that they are facing the right direction, and then go from there.
It’s hilarious. And terribly sweet.
My only problem is that between the kits and parents and referees and medals afterwards for showing up it’s all a bit too organized. Quite frankly, I think kids that age should be more engaged in disorganized than organized sports.
They should be turned loose on an unmarked field, with a ball and their own imaginations. Forget the rules, life and its rules will come soon enough, let them just run around and make it up as they go along.
Let them figure out their own rules and learn negotiating skills. Let them pick their own teams and learn valuable lessons about balance and diplomacy – and for the less skilled, that life isn’t always fair or easy and doesn’t give you a medal just for showing up.
Disorganized sports isn’t as clean and pretty and well equipped as organized sports. But for the kids it allows them to develop their own imagination, to create their own rules, to learn much more valuable lessons than the offside rule. It allows them to run around and have fun and figure out if they really like soccer or are just doing it because their mum or dad drove them there and bought them the outfit.
So many of the kids you see on a Saturday are there because their parents want them to be. And I can understand that. It’s very cute to see your little Tabitha or Sebastian running around, in a perfectly matched outfit, running around and being active – and lord knows we should do everything we can to encourage every kid to be active – but when that level of organization gets in the way of the kids creating something far more interesting in a disorganized fashion then we are missing out on something much more important. We’re stopping kids creating their own world.