Some games are better when adults aren't there

March 22, 1998|By Susan Reimer

MY SON announced that he would not be home right away because he had a hockey game after school, and I said, "OK." And that is the extent of my role in this activity.

My son and his middle-school friends have discovered intramural sports and, from what I can surmise, the sports seasons have recently changed. The boys were playing some version of indoor soccer but are now playing some version of floor hockey.

They could be playing these sports with a rag ball or the severed head of an enemy for all I have been told. My relative ignorance and superfluous role are by design, I think.

I am guessing that my son and his middle-school friends like intramural sports because no parents are required.

The only information my fellow mothers and I receive is the occasional announcement that the boys will be home late from school -- necessary only to prevent one of those tristate police searches mothers such as I would launch by 4 p.m.

But I am no fool. I have managed to piece together some important facts about this mysterious intramural sports business.

First of all, I can tell you there are no applications, no permission slips, no physicals, no fees and no uniforms. I know this because I have not signed anything, washed anything or written any checks.

There are no tryouts, no rating days, no cut-down days and no player drafts. The kids apparently create their own teams by deciding with whom they want to play. I know this is true because I have heard the names of teammates I have never had to pick up or drop off from any other activity.

There are no coaches, no commissioners, no referees.

There are no schedules to hang on the refrigerator. There are no rain dates, no carpools.

There are no practices to interrupt what used to be called the dinner hour. There are no games to interrupt what used to be called the weekend.

There are apparently playoffs and a championship game, but there are no trophies, no team pictures, no postseason pizza party, no awards ceremony, no results in the newspaper.

No all-metro teams, no all-county teams, no all-state teams to be selected for or to be left off.

There are no highly sought-after coaches. There is no A division and no B division. There are no bench-warmers or scrubs. There are only starters.

There are no soccer moms or Little League dads or stage mothers.

There are no orange slices at halftime and no post-game treats and no trips through the drive-through window at McDonald's on the way home.

There are no cameras. No lawn chairs, no grown-ups yelling, "Run, run!" or "Open your eyes, ref!"

There are no earnest conversations with coaches about a child's playing time or whether he should be starting or playing in goal or pitching or catching or batting fourth.

There are no chants of "Eight, six, four, two. We enjoyed playing you." There is no post-game hand-slapping with the team that just kicked your butt.

From what I can tell, there are no grown-ups.

I am not sure there is even one adult in the gym, although I hear rumors that the physical education teacher is somewhere in the building while the games are being played.

There are certainly no parents.

And the kids love it.

My son has never missed a game -- as far as I know -- and it isn't because some adult had a long talk with him about "commitment" and "being there for your team."

And when he lost in the first round of the makeshift playoffs, he was upset for about as long as it took to microwave a snack.

"The knife hurts going in," he said, by way of explanation. "But once you are dead, who cares?"

Who cares indeed?

We care. Parents care. It is the parents who sign kids up for every activity in progress and then complain for the rest of the season about the inconvenience of it all.

It is the parents who worry about how well their children play and how fast they are progressing. The kids might never notice these things.

It is the parents who yell, "Run! Run!" from the sidelines, and it is the parents who complain about the coaching and the officiating and the driving and the expense.

Grown-ups are what is wrong with kids' sports.

The grown-ups who are working or who don't have a car or the money are the reason some kids never get a chance to play sports.

The grown-ups who talk too much are the reason the kids who do play sports are sometimes so miserable.

Which leaves me wondering why every school gym isn't open every day after school for intramural sports.

Then all the grown-ups would be required to do is say, "OK," when the kids say they will be home late because they have a game after school.

Pub Date: 4/16/98

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