Thursday, 16 May 2013 00:00
Recently there has been a spate of reality shows, such as “Toddlers & Tiaras,” which people either are hopelessly addicted to or simply cannot watch because it makes them physically ill. Those in the latter category will typically say something about how the insanely competitive parents on the show are clearly forcing their children into the arena because they want to feel validated themselves.
Although child beauty pageants are more of a rare and specialized occurrence, especially on Long Island, youth sports leagues are unavoidable. And in a perfect world, kids would play the sport they are interested in, get plenty of healthy exercise, and be supported by caring parents who have reasonable expectations, wanting them to succeed. Although such situations do exist, usually when a child runs down the first baseline, there is a coach or parent yelling, as if the fate of the universe and their concept of self-worth hang in the balance.
Writer Jack Malley knows this, and therefore composed “Meet the Lunatics Who Run Your Kids’ Sports Leagues: A Coach Dad’s Take on the Wacky World of Youth Sports.” As the back cover plainly states: there are about 40 million kids playing some form of organized sport in the U.S., and they certainly did not just spring up out of the ground and make the decision on their own. Yet for all the great satire and profiles of coach/parent stereotypes, Malley also wants to enact some much-needed reform on this omnipresent local stage.
For instance, besides the obvious Delusional Coach Dad whose image graces both the cover of this book and countless movies, there is a PC President on the other side of things who wants everybody to have a trophy, phase out score-keeping entirely, and lectures other parents on how to raise their kids. It raises the question of who represents the more troubling trend: the psychotic coach, who most people agree needs to calm down, or the overly calm president, who slowly drains the game of any purpose because he misguidedly pursues the greater good.
As Malley points out, this can be a difficult balancing act. Even the youngest kids will notice when parents barely show up at any game, put little effort into their child’s team and then only out of a detached sense of duty. Also, not practicing any basics with their child before they sign him up, so that he can barely kick a ball, can be just as cruel as grooming their child to be the insufferable jock that every other kid has to pass the basketball to to win.
For the casual reader who may already understand all of these potential parental pitfalls, Malley goes one step further, by employing his years of experience in the coaching game to impart interesting information on the behind-the-scenes world of drafting schemes, ever-shifting rules behind travel team selection, and more.
Malley, a Massapequa native, attended St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School, where he played baseball, basketball and lacrosse. His three children have gone on to play those sports and soccer and softball too. Personally, he believes that the focus for youth sports should be on development, not winning. Sports can be really fun for a child, and his book righteously skewers all who threaten the experience.
“Meet the Lunatics” is available now on Amazon and at www.meetthelunatics.com, and features illustrations by comic book artist Dan Berger, known for his work on the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series.